Last weekend Jake and I enjoyed our first trip to NAPA! It was wonderful in so many ways- we had beautiful weather, drank great wine and ate delicious food. Overall it was a relaxing and glutinous weekend! If you’ve been to Napa, or just looked at a map of all the wineries… you can see it’s a bit overwhelming- there are so many vineyards to choose from. It can also get pricey! Most wineries now charge a tasting fee to sample their wines and while you can try between 3-5 different varieties at each tasting, multiply that by 10 vineyards and you can spend a lot (and get really drunk)! So I wanted to share my favorite wineries, a few ways to save on tastings and my overall review of the Napa Valley in this addition of Ski Boots in Wine Country! Cheers!Tip #1: Download the free app Winery Finder on your smart phone- its amazing. The app list all the vineyards in Napa Valley offering 2-for-1 tastings, special deals on tours and discounts on wine purchased at the vineyard. It also maps out how far each vineyard is from your current location so you can easily hit up the closest tasting without bouncing all over town! Also check out this website Napa Valley on a Budget I found it to be a helpful resource. Grgich Hills Estates– Is one of the more well known vineyards in Napa thanks much in part to the ‘Paris Tasting of 1976‘ (aka their Chardonnay won Best Wine in the World in a blind taste test against some of the best French wines- this blind taste test also included other vineyards in Napa which put California wines on the map.) We tasted 5 of their newly released wines (all of which were delicious!) in the main cellar/tasting room. Grgich is a classic to visit, the grounds are beautiful, the wine is fantastic and they offer a 2-for-1 tasting deal!
Tip #2: Start Early! Ok, I know you might not be interested in drinking wine for breakfast (I am!) but its your best option if you want to beat the crowds- especially during peak season. Before 12pm you can walk in almost anywhere- after that both the wineries and the St. Helena Hwy get busy. Frog’s Leap– One of my favorite vineyards we visited! We tasted 4 wines only sold and released at the vineyard. We had a beautiful table on their porch and our wine flights were accompanied with a cheese plate to share. Unlike many of the other vineyards we went to, Frog’s Leap has tasting glasses for each wine (most only give one glass) which allows you to sip and compare each wine at your own pace. I would have loved to do a tour at this vineyard if we had the time- definitely an A+ must visit! Make sure to go in the morning or make a reservation if you’d like to go in the afternoon- they are very busy! Duckhorn Vineyards– Tied for first place for favorite vineyard visited, Duckhorn was a wonderful experience! We chose to do their tour and tasting. We tasted 5 wines all paired with different cheeses after touring the grounds and cellars. They had just pulled in their first harvest of the season and we got to see the pallets of grapes come in. They have a beautiful deck so request to be seated outside and they offer a 2-for-1 deal on tastings! Mumm Napa– Who doesn’t love ‘Champagne’ sparkling wine? Mumm is just down the road from Frog’s Leap with a beautiful patio and inside porch. They have 4 different tasting menu’s each with 3 different sparkling wines. We each tried a different menu allowing us to try 6 different wines- definitely the way to go! They offer 2-for-1 tastings, tours and a free tour at 10am with the winery app! A definite must! Tip #3: Make dinner reservations ahead of time… WAY ahead of time. For popular restaurants 5pm and 9pm are the only available times you’ll find within 4 weeks of your visit- otherwise go for lunch or sit at the bar- many restaurants offer similar menus for lunch and are far less busy at that time. Ad Hoc– For all the Thomas Keller fans out there, Ad Hoc is amazing. I thought for sure this was a restaurant that would rest on his famous name and serve mediocre food- I was so wrong. This was easily one of the best meals I have had in years- and for a pretty reasonable price (well compared to the $225pp prefix menu at French Laundry…its a steal. I’ll continue to dream about the French Laundry dining experience, forever.) But seriously, amazing food- don’t miss out! Gott’s Roadside– For a truly delicious and affordable Napa experience check out Gott’s Roadside. Classic diner style food and decor jazzed up by a great wine and beer selection (and milkshakes too!) I’m going to fly back just for their shoestring sweat potato fries! Gott’s go burgers like you’ve never tasted, so work up an appetite. There is usually a line (that’s how you know its good!) but its totally worth the wait!
It’s impossible to capture all the goodness Napa has to offer in one post- this only scratches the surface of what we did and the wines we tasted. There is so much to see and do and try its hard to have a bad experience. St. Helena was my favorite town and where we spent most of our time- it’s very picturesque. Check out Model Bakery on Main St. in St Helena for great coffee and breakfast. We actually only drove through the actual town of Napa on our way to and from the airport. St. Helena, Rutherford and Yountville are where its at in the Napa valley! Cheers and happy travels!
Why do I always feel like I need a weekend to recover from my weekend? Busy weekends make for exhausting Mondays! We just took an amazing long weekend in Napa! It was so much fun and we drank so much wine… we took advantage of the fact that you can start wine tasting at 10am! I can’t wait to share some of my favorite wineries and pictures with you! A few of the wineries were pulling in their first grapes for harvest while we were there. Did you know the wineries pick all the grapes by hand? Hard work! I will have an exciting wine Wednesday for you this week! Check out some our amazing views in St Helena! This recipe for Caesar potato salad with sugar snap peas is one of my favorite ‘old school’ recipes from a June 2009 Bon Appetit It’s a classic! I am not a huge fan of heavy mayonnaise based potato salads in the summer (or ever) especially when its hot! This is a wonderful light option, with the crispy crunch from the sugar snap peas and radish its a fantastic side with steak, burgers, chicken- It will become your new BBQ staple! I also wanted an excuse to use my new mandolin- It makes slicing and cutting so simple! You can use a sharp knife or the side of a cheese grater to slice the radishes but a mandolin makes it a breeze! Caesar Potato Salad with Sugar Snap Peas
1 1/2 pounds unpeeled assorted fingerling potatoes or baby potatoes (such as white-skinned, red skinned and purple), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
8 ounces trimmed sugar snap peas
1 bunch radishes, trimmed, sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, pressed or finely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Steam potatoes on steamer rack set in large pot over boiling water until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add sugar snap peas and steam until peas are crisp-tender and potatoes are just fork tender, about 1 minute longer. Transfer vegetables to large bowl. Cool slightly. Add radishes and onion. (I usually steam the peas separately so I can run them under cold water after steaming. This stops the peas from over cooking and keeps them bright green and crisp- either method works!)
Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and garlic together in a small bowl. Whisk in Parmesan. Season with salt and lots of pepper.
Add dressing to potato mixture; toss to coat.
Season with more salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
I might have a slight obsession with beets. They are just so delicious! I’ve been making beet chips (with classic hummus – pictured below), beet salads (with arugula, goat cheese and balsamic glaze- below) and now one of my new favorites… Beet hummus dip. I’ve brought my daily beet intake to a new level with this dip. Its super simple, very flavorful and a refreshing change to the usual hummus or spinach dip. Sprinkle a little goat cheese on top for a creamy texture and awesome flavor – its a winner! Serve it up with pita chips, veggie sticks, rice crackers or spread it on your sandwich, the options are endless! (Warning- you will enjoy this beet hummus so much you’ll most likely eat the whole bowl of dip, which will cause you to pee pink- don’t worry its a totally natural sign of a beet lover.)
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salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon of salt and 10 turns of fresh pepper- add more or less to your liking)
1 small log of goat cheese (or large depending on your love of goat cheese!)
To roast beets, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash beets to remove any dirt, remove greens and stems from the beets so all the remains is the blub. To peel the beets prior to roasting use a vegetable peeler (or you can do this afterwards with your hands or paring knife- either way your hands will get pink unless you wear rubber gloves). Place beets on a large piece of foil and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Make a little foil packet by sealing the top and sides by rolling the foil over itself. Roast for 25-30min or until you can easily pierce the beets with a fork.
Combine beets, Tahini, chopped garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of your food processor (the Tahini gets stuck on the sides and bottom very easily). Add more lemon juice or a drizzle of olive oil until the dip reaches a desirable consistency (this is totally personal- add less liquid if you like your hummus thick and chunky or more liquid for it to be a bit thinner).
Scoop dip into a bowl, crumble desired amount of goat cheese on top and serve with favorite chips! Enjoy!
Where did the week go?! It’s Friday, It’s August and I feel like my summer has been in a vacuum! There have been so many fun things going on this summer including getting married, going to other friends weddings, concerts, camping, cooking… time flies when your enjoying life! Each time I go to the farmers market the produce gets a little more plump, ripe and delicious for new recipes! Yesterday was scorching hot and the last thing I wanted was a warm lunch. This quinoa salad is a perfect cold side for lunch, dinner or afternoon snack! The sweetness of the cranberries and corn balance the tartness of the feta and kale for the perfect mix of summer flavors. Enjoy the weekend!
In a medium saute pan, drizzle olive oil to coat the bottom (two turns around the pan)
Saute red onion and corn until the onion is translucent and tender. Add kale. cook until kale begins to wilt and turns bright green- about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside and allow it to cool.
In a large bowl, add cooked quinoa, kale, corn and onion saute, toasted almonds, and cranberries. Drizzle 1/4 cup of olive oil and juice of 1 lime over the ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Add Feta cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss once more and refrigerate for 1 hour or serve immediately. Enjoy!
(This is the color of the finished kale, corn and onion saute)