Napa Day 2

We yet again had more threat of rain in the morning only to be followed up by a wonderful day. Not sure why the weather people aren’t good at their jobs, but the silver lining is that we keep having great weather. Especially for running. Given her break from running the day before, Su was amenable to try and do the 3 mile loop that I had inadvertently missed. I’m not saying she didn’t stop a couple of times, but it was a very good effort for someone who (let’s be honest) hates to run.

Given the fullness of yesterday, our plan was to skip breakfast so that we would be even hungrier as the day went on. I really wondered if I was going to be able to have any wine at the first winery? Fear not, I rose to the challenge as we began drinking at Chimney Rock. The privilege of membership allowed us to try anything on the list (and even items not on the list) for the price of free. The host was a guy named Tom who was easy going and made decent conversation. We discovered that the 2003 Cab didn’t match up with the 2003 Cab that Chris had. Something about the way Chris stored that bottle (heat, light, vibration) did something to that bottle that made it awesome. I didn’t think the 2003 in the winery was as good. #1 on my list was the 2004 Elevage which we bought a case of a few years ago. Since we only have a vertical selection of Elevage left, we decided to pick up some more bottles. At the current price point, I can only say that I wish I had bought 2 cases back in the day. Anyway, 3 bottles of 2004 Elevage, 1 of the 2004 Cab Reserve, and 2 of the 2000 Cab Reserve is what we ordered along with the benefit of free shipping.

As a side note, we have seen the Vinturi decanter everywhere. Chimney Rock in particular had lots of decanting glassware which yet again reminded us that we don’t have a proper one. Anyway, we can always spend that money later on.

We were on our way to a winery called Laird (or Lard with an i in Su speak) but due to some mistakes from the navigator we ended up going to Alpha Omega instead. Laird was chosen as a new (probably inexpensive) winery so that we could take a break after Chimney Rock. Since I’m a member of Alpha Omega, I wanted to make sure that we got the full treatment (all of the proper free stuff) and wasn’t sure we could do it following a big tasting.

As we drove on into the winery parking lot, we marveled that the place was still under construction. True, we were there around September last year, but it’s not like Napa has much of a winter that they couldn’t have finished. I made the same comment to the host and he seemed agreeably frustrated. At least they stayed open during that period. A place that Ken wanted to go to (351?) said they were remodeling their tasting room and would be closed for the summer.

Anyway, they had a mix of whites and reds available for tasting. It is my unfortunate (depending on your perspective) luck to have had a Rombauer Chardonnay and I have yet to find an equivalent in my extensive wine drinking experience. Their Sauvignon Blanc was nice, but didn’t really wow me. Su (as most folks would know) skipped the whites and went straight on to reds land. I only got to sample one red before the host dude said that they had a barrel tasting of their 2007 Cab. Given our very positive tasting from the Regusci bottle hot off the presses, we were pretty excited. To quote the Regusci dude, 2007 is going to be a great year. Alpha Omega’s version didn’t disappoint. Maybe their wine maker is just great or maybe because they bought those grapes generally it worked out for them to be correlated to the market. Either way, the wine was so good we bought 6 future bottles to be delivered in the late fall/early winter time frame. Thankfully, this wasn’t the end of the good wine there. We picked up two bottles of their 2007 syrah (which was also just plain yummy). They had some very tasty wine called Era Napa Valley 2006, but we didn’t think it was price-worthy ($128 member price per bottle). All in all, a good visit.

After two reasonably long visits (and since we did skip breakfast), Su and I decided it was time for our inaugral visit to the Rutherford Grill. I lost track of the exact count last year, but it was around 3-4 times mixed between lunch and dinner. I don’t know how this place does it, but every meal is savory, delicious, and just plain awesome. Our lunch didn’t disappoint. I re-visited the French Dip and Su had an Ahi Tuna Burger. The smells these guys generate are way better than the spray-on flame-broiled flavor from the likes of Burger King (not really surprising). Anyway, the experience was better when the waitress changed my glass of wine after I picked a bad one (not corked, I just didn’t like it) for free. I call that service with a smile.

After lunch, as we didn’t want to repeat the 6 winery marathon that occurred before, we chose to see an afternoon show of the new movie Up. Reviews seemed solid and it would be a good break in the day. The movie was good and I have to admire the marketing genius of the producer to create a movie that appeals to so many folks: old people, kids, dog lovers, parents (who have to bring the kids when the grand parents won’t), and Su and I (classification?). A little bit surprising was the very poignant sad beginning, but I guess how can you know if you’re up if you’ve never been down?

Around this time, our car was basically running on fumes so we tried to find a gas station. There is a station in Yountville that has some very old pumps, but when we stopped by, the blinds were closed and didn’t look very hospitable. We ended up refueling in Napa (where the cinema is located) where I annoyingly had to pay $0.45 for the privilege of using an ATM card because they didn’t take credit. We asked the hotel staff later about gas options and she said that the spooky one in Yountville is completely automated. Apparently, the paying machine was off to the side because there was no way that pump was doing anything automatically unless it was reprising a Flintstones role and had some animal inside doing the real work.

Anyway, we headed back to the hotel and decided to explore more of the local shops in what I guess was sort of a very fancy mall. There is a decently sized wine store and a bunch of art galleries but on the whole nothing really interesting (really, a statement about shopping in general). The trip was salvaged by another wine tasting in the last shop we went stopped in. Apparently, there are a lot of these little wine tasting rooms that aren’t technically wineries. We found a couple nice bottles, but decided not to buy at the time. For reference, the top 3 were: Eileen 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Giana 2004 Zinfandel, BuonCristianini 2005 Syrah. The first two were made by Michael Chiarello (apparently famous).

We chilled out until dinner (me outside, Su inside) and I made great progress in my book. We were going to Tra Vigne and had a reservation at 7:30. Given that we didn’t feel like driving back (and hence worrying about how much we drink for dinner), we decided to call a taxi. We have had some success with that option(once it worked well, the other time we ended up nixing the cab after a long wait and driving). We knew it would take about 10-15 to get there and we figured it would take about 15 min for a cab to arrive. We called the desk at 7 and asked them to get us a taxi to the restaurant. We migrated to the lobby about 10 minutes later. At about 7:20, we asked for a status. The receptionist promptly called and they said “they got behind, but will be there in 5 minutes”. Well, we waited 5-10 minutes, called again, and then waited some more. We really didn’t want to drive and the taxi driver must have known it. By the time it was 7:45 (we had called the restaurant at 7:30 and told them we would be 20 minutes late), we decided to kaibash the cab and drive ourselves. What really erks me about the whole situation is that if they had given us a reasonable time frame, we could have made a better decision earlier rather than being dragged along with this “5 minutes/almost there” status.

Anyway, we got there and the place wasn’t full so I think not too big a deal on the tardiness. Even though we were both feeling full, we opted for two appetizers and two entries and a bottle of wine. I will say that the apps were great(fresh mozzerella and prosciutto pizza), but we didn’t get half way through with them before we asked those to be boxed. For main plates, Su had the rabbit ragu and I the short ribs(supposed to be the house signature dish). Personally, I thought the apps were better. We’ll see (or most likely Su will see) if our leftovers are just as good the next day.

It was a long day for us as neither of us crashed before 10pm, but at least we had a little adventure. We’ll see if the rain stays away tomorrow (fingers crossed).

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