Drink ALL the Wine!

California Wine Country Trip – Day 2 – July 22, 2016

Stupid time change. I woke up early (5ish Napa time), and couldn’t fall back asleep. But, I’m no quitter, so I just kept trying. I even reset my alarm from 7 to 8. Of course, I finally started to fall back asleep around 7:30 or 7:45. Once that 8am alarm sounded (the harp on my iPhone), I hit snooze a few times. On the plus side – my cold symptoms are mostly cleared up. I can breathe again. Still coughing up the occasional phlegm ball, but perhaps it was all just airplane induced. It happens. It’s a thing. Anyway, we eventually made it down the hall for the hotel breakfast buffet (included in our stay). It was surprisingly good. I had scrambled eggs (they had scallions in them), seasoned potatoes, and ET’s fingers (sausages). Sure, it was a bit salty, and far more than I’m used to eating in the morning, but it was a great base for a day of wine tasting.

After breakfast, we headed over to Cakebread Cellars, upon recommendation of my friend, Jean.

Love this sign outside by the vines, greeting guests at Cakebread Cellars.
Love this sign outside by the vines, welcoming guests at Cakebread Cellars.

We were greeted with a taste of one of their Chardonnays. Now, I’m not a big Chardonnay fan (I enjoy buttery popcorn, not buttery wine), but this was delicious! It was then that I knew my opinions and tastes concerning wine were about to change, but I really had no idea how much.  

Nancy, our hostess, led us in introductions for our group (two couples from FL – one was a newlywed couple who had just eloped), two from IL, one from Jersey, and one from San Francisco. Next, we got a brief tour (we couldn’t see the actual production area because they were in the midst of having new tanks delivered and one might fall on us, and that would be bad, mmmm-kay?), got to taste some Sauvignon Blanc grapes right off the vine (soooo good – the juice literally dripped as we popped the grapes loose), and got a bit of an education. For one thing, the grapes that got more sun were sweeter than those which were shaded. The shaded grapes were more acidic and tart. My kind of grape!

Then, Nancy told us some of the history of the Cakebread family. Jack Cakebread was a photographer who studied with THE Ansel Adams. The man shot with a Hasselblad, for heaven’s sake! He was taking photos for a book on wine and met the Sturdivants, who owned a lovely vineyard. He thought the property was great, and said that if they were ever in the market to sell, they should give him a call. Shortly after that, they called (apparently, he planted a seed in their heads), and Cakebread Cellars was born (the same year I was – well, technically, the year after, but I tell you, this wine was made for me!).

After that, we went to the culinary center (the Sturdivant’s former home) and had a fabulous wine and food pairing experience.

The wine and food pairing at Cakebread set the bar pretty high for the rest of the trip. All of the produce was grown on the premises. On the left is a pair of artichoke leaves topped with prawns and aioli, which were paired with a 2014 Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley). To the right of that was a polenta crostini with creszenza cheese, fava beans, and preserved lemon, paired with the 2013 Chardonnay Reserve (Carneros, Napa Valley). Next was andouille sausage and spring garlic crusted salmon, paired with the 2013 Pino Noir, Apple Barn Vineyard (Anderson Valley). Finally, and this was my favorite, carmelized onion and pecan biscuits with blue cheese butter, paired with 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). I can't stand blue cheese, but ZOMG - this was amazeballs! BTW - they gave us all the recipes!!!!
The wine and food pairing at Cakebread set the bar pretty high for the rest of the trip. All of the produce was grown on the premises. On the left is a pair of artichoke leaves topped with prawns and aioli, which were paired with a 2014 Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley). To the right of that was a polenta crostini with creszenza cheese, fava beans, and preserved lemon, paired with the 2013 Chardonnay Reserve (Carneros, Napa Valley). Next was andouille sausage and spring garlic crusted salmon, paired with the 2013 Pino Noir, Apple Barn Vineyard (Anderson Valley). Finally, and this was my favorite, carmelized onion and pecan biscuits with blue cheese butter, paired with 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). I can’t stand blue cheese, but ZOMG – this was amazeballs! And yes, they gave us all the recipes!!!!

We were excited to be learning so much while having such a wonderful time. Nancy walked us through the different glass shapes and how they’re designed to showcase the various wines, plus, how to pay attention to the flavors of the wine before and after blending with the food (in our mouths, for those of you goofballs who are thinking of some other form of mixology). At the end, she asked each of us which wine we each favored. When I first saw the list of wines, I thought I’d prefer the Pinot Noir overall. But, I was surprised to find I was torn between the Chardonnay and the Cab.

Needless to say, we were so taken with the wine that we decided to join their wine club. I know, I know, we were warned not to join anywhere on the spot because we’ll get all carried away. But we loved EVERYTHING we tasted, and the commitment wasn’t crazy – if we wanted, we could cancel after just one shipment (yeah, not gonna happen). We also bought a bottle of Chardonnay (Cuttings Wharf) to take with us. Then, it was on to lunch.

On the way out, I needed one more photo of those delicious grapes.
On the way out, I needed one more photo of those delicious grapes.

We’d had such a big breakfast, plus the bites at the Cakebread pairing, so we didn’t want to eat a lot. We went to R+D Kitchen (another Jean recommendation) and split a rainbow roll and kale & cashew salad. That hit the spot – even Hubs liked the kale. Oh, plus a glass of Frog’s Leap Chardonnay for me (I always wanted to try it – because FROGGY , but never bought a bottle. Now, I just might!) for me and a red something-or-other for Hubs (I already forgot what it was). I was shocked he didn’t order a beer. But, as he said, “When in Rome…”

With happy tummies, we returned to our hotel for a brief rest, then we were off to the next tasting – Domaine Carneros. The château of Domaine Carneros is a landmark here, situated between Napa and Sonoma, it is inspired by the classic 18th century Château de la Marquetterie in Champagne, France, home of Champagne Tattinger (who owns Domaine Carneros). The view from the terrace is absolutely amazing. As for the wine tour and tasting… I hate to say it, but “Eh.” It was tasty, don’t get me wrong. But I think I’m just over bubbles after the Prosecco craze a few years ago. Plus, the whole place had a very corporate feel to it, as opposed to the cozy feeling of the family-run Cakebread. Although, learning about méthode champenoise (the same process used to make champagne in France) was pretty cool.

And, we did hang around on the terrace for one more glass and a cheese plate. Because, when in Rome…

We headed back to the hotel for a bit to chill out before dinner, taking our Kindles out to the hotel patio to read. I fell asleep. Day drinking takes practice, yo.

When I awoke, it was time to high tail it to dinner at The Girl and the Fig (our “fancy” anniversary dinner one day early). I put on my cherry dress from Lost + Found in NOLA, and we hailed an Uber.

Oh, I wish this photo had turned out better. But, what can you do when your photog is your waiter, on a busy night? One can't exactly hog his time until he gets the perfect shot.
Oh, I wish this photo had turned out better. But, what can you do when your photog is your waiter, on a busy night? One can’t exactly hog his time until he gets the perfect shot.

We arrived for our reservation and were seated on the patio. Dining al fresco without mosquitos and all the wine? Yes please! The patio was cute, with party lights and shelves of this and that along the fence. And near the restrooms, they had Ken and Barbie mounted on the respective walls outside the doors.

After having such elegant and perfectly designed tastings, we were definitely more thoughtful about the bottle of wine we ordered. I chose the Lightning Cease and Desist, a GSM. It went well with the whole meal – our starter of grilled pears with goat cheese and bacon, Hubs’ steak frites and my duck confit.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but be chuffed at all the compliments I got on the dress. I can’t wait to wear it again (and take a proper photo)!

Now, here’s where it gets wild and crazy. We could have hopped from bar to bar in downtown Sonoma (it was quite the happening place), but we’re old and we were tired, so we headed back to the hotel, where I wrote most of this, and then went to bed.

I know, right – what a waste of an Uber!

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