stillhowlyn's travels 2010 travel blog


Neighborhood vineyards!

Along Wine HIghway 29!

Let's check this out!

Old Christian Brother's Winery building!

5-Bite appetizer (minus a couple) & wine flight of pinots, with one...

Liked the view..looking up thru umbrellas!

Fascinated by arch construct!

Shameless, blatant tourists!

Poetry on the vine!

Blues in Pioneer Park!

No "procedures" photographed!

One of my favorites

We've "arrived"!

The happy couple!

The healthy garden!

Looks like pomegranates!

Hanger steak with fried shallots!

And the Monkey Bread, w/candle!

The occasion was our "Sweet 16th" wedding anniversary and included 3 full days of total self indulgence in the beautiful Napa Valley Wine Country. Bear in mind that we married at the tender ages of 50 and 59 so the chances of celebrating our 50th, as many of our friends have recently, are slim to none! Therefore you might say that "carpe annus" would be an appropriate motto in our case.

Our choice of locations was affected considerably by the chronicles of friends. We found out that the Napa County Fairgrounds and RV park, located in the beautiful, quaint town of Calistoga, was an excellent place to "center" ourselves geographically at the northern tip of the world-class Napa Valley wine region as well as enjoy the natural hot mineral springs. In addition, due to our wallet-friendly Passport America membership, we could get 4 nights of RV parking for half price. This sealed the deal and allowed us a bit more freedom to indulge in spa activities and wining and dining delights!

Wednesday the 23rd had us out on the Wine Highway 29 heading south out of Calistoga. Our mission was more one of sight-seeing and photographing than wine tasting as most of the wineries now charge a hefty tasting fee. From internationally renown Chateau Montelena, winner of the 1976 Paris blind-tasting fame, and Sterling Vineyards where you arrive on a solar powered aerial tramway, to the spectacular new Castello di Amorosa, a re-creation of an Italian medieval castle, and many award-winning boutique wineries like Merryvale and St. Supery; it's all within a 30 minute drive.

By early afternoon, we're looking for a place to have lunch at about the same time as we passed the old Christian Brothers Winery which now houses the Culinary Institute and Greystone Restaurant. Howard drove on a couple hundred yards, then turned around and said "let's check it out"! Well, we saved all that money on NOT wine tasting!

We were seated on the deck overlooking the valley on a beautiful, warm & sunny day. The menu was varied and offered many of the chef's choices including the daily Green Plate special which features locally grown, caught or harvested ingredients. Our day's choice was stuffed squid which may sound yucky but very delicious! We added the 5-bite appetizer; sampled the Dukkah, an Egyptian spice blend in olive oil with homemade bread for dipping; selected the "Sideways (from the movie) Carneros" wine flight of pinots - 3 3-oz. glasses, to go with our various courses; which ended appropriately with coffee and the Sweet Finale, a sampling of bite-sized tasty desserts! After this, we're pretty much done for the day....

Our anniversary day, the 24th, was "spa" day and we chose the Golden Haven Resort which is nearby and also recommended by Karen in her journal. Mud baths are the "house special", which I pondered briefly and then decided on the massage and facial for $98. This also entitled us to spend the day enjoying their mineral pools and hot tubs. We stopped by the great Palisades Deli for a picnic lunch which we later enjoyed outside by the pools, alternating between lounging and reading and soaking. Later, after returning to the deli for a bottle of wine and more goodies, we enjoyed a great night of blues as part of the summer concert series in Pioneer Park.

The finale was grand indeed...Dinner at the highly touted *ad hoc* in Yountville, the more "affordable" restaurant in the Thomas Keller Group which also includes the nearby French Laundry with its prix fixe menu of $250 per person, and Per Se, the urban version in downtown Manhattan.

We checked out their website several weeks ago to arrange for reservations during our 4 day stay and the ONLY available seating was 5:30 pm on the 25th, with the evening's menu available online after 11 a.m. We seized the opportunity. Arriving just as the restaurant was opening we mingled with the large group that had gathered, all casually dressed, some with kids, and wondered around the luscious vegetable and herb gardens. One couple had flown in from Seattle, rented a car in San Francisco and drove in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic for this meal!

For $49 per person we had a fantastic 4-course meal which featured all locally grown greens and vegetables, a main course of mouth-watering, fork tender, hanger steak, followed by carmody cheese with yellow peaches, and Monkey bread with toasted pecans and vanilla ice cream for dessert....WOW! What an incredible celebration we have had!

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