California · Dining · Uncategorized · United States · Wine

Food & Wine in Napa Valley…and a little Scenery

Mustard flowers were in bloom this spring in the Valley
Field of Mustard Flowers

The concierge at the Auberge du Soleil hotel set up restaurant and winery reservations for us during our 3 day stay in Napa Valley.  First, let’s take a peek at the wineries we visited.  Our first reservation was for a winery tour and private tasting at Stag’s Leap Winery & Cellars which is located on the Silverado Trail in the southern part of the Valley. Our wine tour took us into their wine caves and barrel room and then back to the winery for a tasting of one white and 4 reds along with some cheese pairings in a private room that overlooked the vineyards.  There were a few other couples on this tour and tasting with us as well.

In the caves at Stag’s Leap Winery
Barrel Room in Stag’s Leap Caves
The Stag’s Leap Greeter – it was pouring rain this day!

Stag’s Leap is named after a local legend of a stag that apparently jumped over the hills behind the winery and vineyards to escape hunters.  The winery owns its vineyards and focuses on red wines mostly but features some chardonnays, merlots and syrahs as well.  Like most wineries in Napa, cabernet sauvignon is the star of the show.  The wines were very well balanced and their cabernet was a big powerhouse wine that would definitely age well over the next several years.  They also came with quite a price tag so I decided not to order any wine here but we thoroughly enjoyed our tasting and the cheese pairings were fantastic.

Our private tasting room with view at Stag’s Leap
Cheese, please.
Me and mom enjoying our tasting

Our next winery reservation on Saturday was at Darioush Winery which is located just down the road from Stag’s Leap and is also on the Silverado Trail.  I had never heard of this winery before but they blew me away.  This was by far my favorite wine tasting we did in Napa during our stay.  Our incredibly kind and knowledgeable guide, Deric, started with a pour of Viognier outside in the garden where we could enjoy the incredible weather that day.

Mr. Darioush is from Iran so he built his winery as a copy of the palace in Persepolis

He then gave us a tour of the winery and moved us down into the caves underneath the winery and we had a tasting and cheese pairing in their private cellar room, which was beautiful.

Barrel Room in Darioush

Deric walked us through a chardonnay, a merlot blend, a syrah and two cabernets and thoroughly explained their wine making process and philosophy while we nibbled on cheese that was perfectly paired with our wine selections.  I could hardly believe it when I looked down at my watch and realized that we had been there almost two hours as the time just flew by!  Our companions there were a very sweet couple from Canada and two other couples from California.  I really learned so much during this experience and have a completely different perspective on Napa Valley wines, which I have often thought are overly oaked and manipulated.  I ended up buying a mixed case here of the Viognier and the Merlot, which is very unusual for me as I’m neither a big white drinker or merlot drinker, but these wines were luscious and smooth.  I wasn’t planning to spend much, if anything, on wines during this trip but I just couldn’t leave without something from here.

Mom in our private tasting room
Cheese and wine at Darioush

We also made a random stop at Sequoia Grove Winery on Highway 29 near the town of St. Helena.  They poured some very drinkable chardonnays and cabernets but nothing blew me away.  I did love the huge sequoia trees around the tasting room though.

Sequoia Grove Winery
Mom at Sequoia Grove Winery

The concierge also booked us at two restaurants for dinner, including Farmstead and Bistro Jeanty.  I ate at Farmstead the last time I visited Napa so I was happy to revisit this farm to table concept that focuses on hearty home cooking.  My mom and I enjoyed pimiento cheese deviled eggs, a brick cooked chicken for her, a brined & grilled pork chop with jalapeno grits and a side of mac-n-cheese for dinner at Farmstead.  There was a rather large, young and very drunk group next to us that was pretty annoying as they were doing shots of vodka, making vomit noises and generally acting like idiots.  They left not too long after we arrived as they were so loud and obnoxious that the manager finally asked them to leave.

Pork Chop at Farmstead
Evil Mac-n-Cheese at Farmstead

I don’t have many photos of Bistro Jeanty but it was a super cute little French bistro with a classic French menu (onion soup, escargots in garlic butter, steak frites, coq au vin, beef daube, etc…) located in the adorable town of Yountville.  The restaurant is small and cozy and was very popular so reservations are clearly a must here.  We sampled the pate, cream of tomato soup, coq au vin and beef daube stew, which were all well executed and delicious.  Service was attentive and prompt as well.

Interior of Bistro Jeanty
My mom’s tomato soup under a puff pastry

Another of our favorites was the casual Mustard’s Grill located on the main highway near Oakville.  We liked it so much that we came back twice.  Our first lunch we split the tuna tostadas with wasabi cream and their daily special which was a lamb burger.  The lamb burger was out of this world good – so juicy and perfectly cooked.  We both ate every bit of our half.  Our next visit we just had a big caesar salad with grilled chicken but I happen to think they make one of the best caesar salads – the dressing is the perfect mix of garlicky with a hint of anchovies.  This restaurant is also insanely packed 24/7 so make reservations unless you want to wait 1 to 2 hours for a seat.  They have very limited bar seating so don’t count on grabbing a spot there either.

Lamb Burger at Mustard’s Grill

As I think you can see, we ate and drank well this trip.  The weather was a bit hit and miss as it poured rain all day Friday but we didn’t let that slow us down.  Fortunately, Thursday and Saturday were stunning in terms of weather – sunny and about 68 degrees.  The mustard flowers were also in bloom so the scenery was drop dead gorgeous.  I can’t wait to make a return trip some day!

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