In our previous post about the ideal Napa Valley itinerary we covered a couple of good places to stay, getting to wine country, and a day one itinerary that should start any trip out on the right foot. The vineyards we suggested on day one are good at any time, but are low key and a great way to break in a trip. The food choices were also easy and low maintenance, but quite delicious.
Day two of a trip to Napa Valley should take advantage of some of the more formal tours and tastings, and also some of the more touristy things to do. You should also take a few moments to do a little shopping at some of the places you don't see in many other parts of the country. Just remember, you should absolutely call ahead for all tours and tastings to be sure they have availability and can make you a reservation.
The day should start early, especially if you are an east coaster and still several hours ahead. Mornings in the Napa Valley, especially during fall harvest, are crisp, cool, and beautiful. It's wonderful to start the day with a run or walk along one the side streets that front vineyard properties. I know the temptation to stay in bed all morning is a major one, but you will kick yourself if you don't take full advantage of all the area has to offer.
When you are back to your hotel, grab a light breakfast and get ready to head out for your first stop of the day. This is wine country and you're on vacation, it's okay to start drinking before noon. A beautiful first stop for a tour and tasting is also the first sparkling wine we're suggesting at Mumm Napa.
Mumm is yet another place we used to be wine club members. Everytime I mention being a wine club member somewhere, you can conjure up a mental image of us having a really good time, lots of wine being poured, and then Wendy saying "I LOVE it here, we should be club members."
Be sure to reserve a full tour along with your tasting. The tour is very informative and sheds some light on the process used to make sparkling wine sparkle. It also covers some of the myths associated with sparkling like "I always get a heachache when I drink champagne." (Turns out, you get a headache when you drink cheap champagne because the bubbles are injected CO2 instead of naturally forming CO2 from the yeast.)
You also get to wander through their breathtaking photo gallery and learn about things like the FYBs and where the various names of their wines, like their high end DVX, come from.
Once you are done with your tour, you'll head over to the Mumm Napa tasting terrace to enjoy some of the wine you just learned about.
You'll also get to appreciate views of some of their vines which are quite idyllically located overlooking the valley from the east side. It is really a breathtaking view and something we look forward to every time we go to Napa.
When you're done at Mumm it won't quite be lunch time, but close enough to start thinking about it. Head north towards St. Helena and you can bridge the gap between your first tasting and lunch with a stroll around the Main St. of St. Helena. Main St. features lots of shopping of almost any sort. Even the Ace Hardware has a huge collection of gourmet cooking utilities. Be sure to stop in the various olive oil, balsamic, and mustard shops along the way, as well as the chocolate shops. And don't leave without going into Wendy's favorite place, Fideaux, a very fun pet boutique store.
After you've completed your shopping fun, I'm sure you will be hungry and ready for lunch. Head south on the St. Helena Highway just to the edge of town to a place Wendy dreams of, Pizzeria Tra Vigne. A more informal eatery to its high class parent restaurant (Tra Vigne), this wonderful place has a large selection of excellent dining options. Wendy loves to get Nona's meatballs with spaghetti, and I'm a fan of anything vegetarian they have. You might recognize that you'r right across the street from Gott's Roadside if you followed our day one itinerary.
The best part of Pizzeria Tra Vigne is their outdoor seating area. Particularly enjoyable are the signs that instruct parents to control their children. No wonder Wendy loves this place.
When lunch concludes, you will be quite near a small grocer that Wendy learned about while watching Micheal Chiarello's show, Napa Style, several years ago. It's called the Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Comapny, and is located in a small while building just a few blocks from Tra Vigne. This place sells some great and unique items, and it's always worth stopping in.
Once you've had a look around the Olive Oil specialty store, you can head out to your next tour and tasting. Next on the docket, we recommend a place that we had the most educational, enjoyable, and fun tasting experience in all of our trips to vineyards. The place is called Spring Mountain and is located in the Spring Mountain appellation up the winding Spring Mountain Road.
Wendy and I made reservations on a whim and went on our last day our first trip out. We didn't know what to expect and I had actually suggested it based purely on the Victorian architecture of the house on the property. When we arrived we were buzzed in through the front gate and ended up in a situation we were initially intimidated by, but had our minds put at ease by the extremely friendly and knowledgeable staff.
The vineyard is a very small production place that is owned by an extremely rich wine hobbyist. The Victorian home that is the centerpiece of the vineyard was actually the home featured in the opening credit of the television show Falcon Crest. It features various period ornamentation, a pool, and views that make you say "I WANT TO LIVE HERE!"
The tour was so much fun. We got to walk through the cellar caves, watch the process of wine making, and even strolled through their vast collection of olive trees (they make their own olive oil too). But the most fun past of the whole event was the tasting. Unlike previous tastings, where a single glass is used between all pours, this was a more formal (but in a fun way) situation. We were each given five glasses, then our guide poured all fives wines at once. Since we were relatively new to wine tasting, he taught us the various aspects of the wine, what falsehoods have been propagated (be skeptical if someone says wine "has good legs"), and how each wine can actually impact the perceived taste of the others if you sip them or smell them in a particular order.
We finished the tasting with a little game where Wendy was asked to taste the wines in a random order and identify which was which. She was so close, identifying three of the five correctly. The final was a 50/50 shot between the regular release Cabernet and a library Cab, but she guess incorrectly and we didn't win the expensive bottle. So close!
Anyhow, we think you'll love this tasting and tour, just don't get intimidated at first like we did. Nothing ruins a tour faster than you worrying about what others think of you.
When you wrap up at Spring Mounting, head back down to St. Helena and then head north to Sterling. This tour is far more touristy and gimmicky than the others we've suggested thus far, but it is quite fun. Sterling has a gondola that takes you from the parking lot up to the winery. The tram ride is worth the price of the tasting, but if you look around online you can usually find coupons for a free or discounted tasting, so check into that.
The ride up to the winery takes several minutes and gives you an opportunity for some spectacular views of the valley. You can see for miles and the views just keep getting more beautiful.
Once you reach the winery, it is like you are on a perch above the rest of Napa Valley.
The tasting tour is a walking tour through the winery with tasting stations setup at various points. You get to experience the various other amazing views from the balcony, porch, and other locations.
We actually ended up buying a few bottles of one of their dessert wines we tried.
When you are finished up, the ride down is as much fun as the ride up, all with more amazing views.
Are you tired yet? You very well may be. Wendy and I like to head back to the hotel for a little while, change, take it easy, hang out, whatever else. There's often snacks, tastings, or other fun events in many of the hotels, so check into that to see what they have to offer.
When you are ready for dinner, we have another excellent suggestion for you. And if you can make it before it gets dark, even better. Located just north of Yountville on the St. Helena highway, Brix offers French inspired California cuisine. We've enjoyed this restaurant several times, and always look forward to going back. Beyond the food, the view across the gardens are breathtaking. If the weather is nice, you can request seating on their patio.
There you have it. That wraps up full day number two of your Napa Valley adventure. It's time to roll back to your hotel room happy, full, and looking forward to your next day of excess. If day one was a warmup, by the end of day two you should be ready and raring to go!
Have we outlined any of your favorite Napa Valley places in this post? Let us know what you think, especially people who've been before. Are we giving a decent approach to vacation thus far?
Return to Part 1
Continue On to Part 3