First Timers Navigating Through Napa

It was my first time visiting the Napa Valley area. 

I was tagging along on hubby's business trip and we added a few days to ourselves on the front end.  We spent Saturday traveling across the country and relaxing by the pool before heading out to a dinner in downtown Napa.  

Angele did not disappoint....dining al fresco with no bugs and the perfect temp was such a treat.  Built into an old mill, the outdoor space was amazing!

A glass of white for me and hubby got a vodka tonic with handmade tonic. 

 And the food....this theme seemed to run thru all the food we ate...a bright freshness was the way I described it.

Hubby of course thought it was crazy but by the 3rd day he agreed and the secret to this bright freshness was lemon zest.  It was in most of the food we ate.  

Fried hard boiled eggs...sounds weird but trust me when I say they were heaven!  They were topped with pickled onion,   minced mint and of course lemon zest.

And the fish with tomatoes from the farm and coated in pesto with of course lemon zest was also delicious.

Sunday we set out for a day of adventure traveling up the Napa Valley.  

The main drag has you passing one winery after the next with grape vines all symmetrically lined up along the road as far as the eye could see.  We drove through Yountville, and then into St. Helena where of course this foodie needed to stop at a bakery I read about online.  We strolled the sidewalks dotted with cute shops and old buildings. 

Then onto Calistoga where we found the Sterling Winery.  

When we asked our concierge to help us plot out the day I said I was much more focused on views than wine so he pointed out this winery.  We rode a tram to the top, sampled wines and toured the building and decks with amazing views.  By the time we reached this top deck the temperature was 96 degrees.  

Gosh it was hot so we didn't stay up here too long and we were happy to hop back into our aircontidtioned car and shove off for Healdsburg.  

I got so many tips from friends and followers on Instagram and we were so happy to have them. Heading to Healdsburg was one of them!

It took us north and west of Napa Valley but we thought what the heck....we had no where to be and the whole day and night to ourselves.  

One hour later winding through hills and farms and vineyards we landed in the town of Healdsburg.  

Another charming town with a center green and the town laid out around it.  When the top rated tavern was too crowded (and loud) we went next door to a pizza joint and sat at the of our more fav places to eat...and boy were we glad we did.  Not only did we eat melon salads and pizza topped with beets and creamy goat cheese we chatted with the cook and formulated a plan to keep driving and head to the coast.  Hubby is an ocean/water guy and when he found out we could be there in an hour (or so) his mind was made up.  Luckily he was drinking diet coke with his pizza!

Bodega Bay sits on the coast...technically its Sonoma County.  The views as we wound along the coast were beautiful.  Wide open hills littered with cattle and very dry land with batches of big, old trees.  And then the water peeks out from the hills and its just so beautiful!

The crazy thing about California is that the temps in the valley when we left Healdsburg were 103...

and when we arrived at Bodega Bay it was 74.  

What a day!  

Monday we decided to check out Sonoma County which some wine enthusiasts prefer over Napa region.  It definitely is a bit more low key and a smaller region but we really liked the vibe.  

Another recommendation from the concierge was Artesa, a winery with great views and touch off the beaten path so that went on our to-do list.  We drove there and were blown away by the whole thing.  Down a few quiet streets which appeared as if no one was around and vines galore we came the to the entrance.  

Up and around the drive took us to the top.  
Oh my, what a sight.

And the building itself was built into the side of the hill and appeared to look like a modern bunker.  It felt like a scene from a James Bond movie.  

A total modern vibe with water features, modern art sculptures and beautiful plantings...we would have been happy to have seen just that.  We actually joked that should have chairs out on the lawn to spend the day.

Once inside we realized it was noon and if we started drinking now we may not make it to dinner so we hopped back in the car and headed directly to the downtown area of Sonoma which much like the other towns had a town green in the middle and of the square. 

The town is steeped in history and had a number of historical sites and buildings you could walk by and view.  We ducked into the first food place we found and lucked out!  Hubby can attest that I am not me when I am hungry.  The Sunflower Cafe had a menu that made ordering a tough decision.   

We kept the walk short as the temps were rising again and near 90.  A small but charming ice cream shop caught my eye and yes I had just eaten lunch but I could't say no.  

Coffee donut vs. Pear... When the owner told me the pears for the pear ice cream came from her yard I was pretty much done!  I know pear ice-cream sounds kinda weird but let me tell you it was pure goodness. 

As a store owner I found her sign sweet.

Back to Artesia we went.

Once there we decided to up our game and go for the longer, more elaborate wine tasting inside the inner bar. 

Wow, did we learn SO much about wine and vineyards and wineries with our own private vinter.  We drank delicious wine and ordered a case of wine which is well above our pay grade but what the heck, hubby says "you can't take it with you".

As left Artesa to head back to the hotel, the departing view was almost better. 

Last day in Napa I was on my own while hubby attended a meeting and played golf.  I ventured back towards Sonoma to experience yet more food at The Boon Fly Cafe.  

What I didn't realize until I gave myself a self-guided tour was that it was part of a larger complex that housed the Carneros Resort and Spa.   

Next time I will stay here!  

After a yummy taco, egg, cauliflower breakfast (and 2 freshly made cinnamon sugar donuts) I dreamed about the changes I would make to my patio next summer and how I I could re-create these water trough planters...LOVE! 

But the highlight of the day was dinner.  

Hosted by hubby's client Liberty Mutual, the group dinner was held at Silver Oak Winery.  

This one could go on the list of "great views" no problem. 

Wine tasting in this beautiful space...the insurance folks probably wondered why I was taking pics of the furniture and pillows...then drinks on the outdoor patio over looking the vineyard....and then a most informative tour of the facility (honestly I think you could eat off their floors!) and then back just in time for the sunset.  

On our tour we leaned the the winery is owned by Walt Disney's daughter and her 7 children who are all currently involved in the family business and it showed listening to our tour guide speak of the wine and the space like it was his own baby.  Such pride in what they do and what they produce.

I think the reason it took us so long to get to Napa was that I always thought it would be a trip that required a week's time.  

But honestly, I think we did the bulk of it (the touring not the travel) in two days.  That part surprised me along with the amazing food and newly acquired knowledge of all that goes into a the making of a bottle of wine.  What didn't surprise me was the overall natural beauty of Napa and Sonoma Valleys and the chill and laid back vibe of the area.  

If you haven't been there yet its a definite bucket list item!


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