Napa and Calistoga
Even though my friend and I only spent 2 and a half days in wine country, we made the most of it. We spent Friday evening with my friend’s family in Redwood City (a big thanks to them!). Then we had brunch with them in downtown Redwood City at Alana’s Cafe (super cute and delicious!) the next morning before hitting the road in our rented Volkswagen Beetle. That car was not my first choice but I vetoed the yellow one they started to give me.
The drive from the Bay Area to Napa is a bit longer than from San Francisco, but still not bad. Redwood City is not quite the South Bay area but actually very close to the airport and a quick drive into San Francisco. My friend had not been to Napa or Sonoma before, so the drive out there was a good chance for her to see the scenery change from the house-covered hilltops of San Francisco to rolling hills dotted with cows and eventually, fields of grapevines.
We arrived at the marathon expo first to pick up our numbers, race information, shirts, etc, before heading over to Whole Foods in downtown Napa to pick up a special runner’s goody bag there. That bag had so many snacks in it - which was perfect - we both needed to keep up the snacking and water drinking between the few wine tastings we did and we needed the calories for the race the next day. After we picked up all of our info, we headed up towards Calistoga with plans to visit wineries very close to our hotel.
The first place we went was Lava Vine, it was a smaller tasting room with limited seating but the staff was warm and friendly. It was small, rustic, and cozy - I would visit again! The gentleman pouring our tastings also went off list and gave us extras. That seems to happen a lot especially after the race when we were wearing our medals. I really enjoyed the port at Lava Vine and the friendliness of the staff. My friend bought the dessert wine there and then we ate some of our snacks in the car while we drove a quarter of a mile or less to the next tasting room.
Brian Arden wines was our next stop. We went there because it was very close and because when we drove by, I loved the design of the building and I’m a sucker for all kinds of architecture. We ran in from the pouring rain to be greeted by a sweet Golden retriever in the tasting room. We petted her while we waited for a space to clear at the bar and then stepped right up. I really enjoyed the red blend here (BA red blend) and the Burton Ranch Zinfandel. I actually have two bottles of their wine arriving today! The staff there was very knowledgeable, friendly, and we took advantage of the restaurant recommendations that were given to us. We also enjoyed petting the sweet dogs who lived there. This tasting room was almost set up like a house, with a dining table to gather around, comfy chairs like you’d see in a living room, and a porch with comfortable rocking chairs. We chose to stand at the bar though because the woman pouring our wine was young and interesting and chatting with us about topics other than wine as we drank.
After Brian Arden we checked into our hotel and unpacked our stuff, rested a bit, and then headed to Sam’s Social Club. By this point in the day, late afternoon/early evening (still pouring rain) we were moving on to carb loading and thus ordered local beers (IPA for me) and split the bacon wrapped dates and a Margherita flatbread. All of it was so delicious. The staff was friendly and laid back here as well. It was so nice to catch up with my friend in real life (since we don’t live in the same city anymore and really only talk via gchat and text). That was our very late “lunch”, so that means we drove back to our hotel, rested and got our race clothes and gear ready, and then glammed it up a bit for a dinner a few hours later. By glammed it up, I hope you know I just meant “put on lipstick”, I am way too low maintenance for anything more than that.
Still pouring rain, we dashed out of our hotel to a French restaurant in the cute little downtown of Calistoga. Evangeline was just what we were looking for in a light dinner, dessert, and another drink before going to bed early. Evangeline was so cute; it was dark, sexy and had a nice ambiance. I would definitely love to go there or somewhere like that on a date! I can’t remember exactly what beer I ordered, but it was either Old Rasputin Stout or Lagunitas Little Sumptin’ - both good California beers. We ordered the charcuterie and cheese sampler and the Baumkuchen dessert to share and enjoyed the people watching, the conversation, the atmosphere, and the food. After cleaning our plates, we were sufficiently sated for the race the next day. We rolled out of the restaurant and walked/ran in the rain back to our hotel.