Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Napa Story (Part 1 of 2)

Napa is about stories - stories that are born, made, told, retold, overheard, shared, passed on. It is a place where people.. strangers... of external differences connect over a glass (or more) of wine. It is a place of wonderful landscapes and a myriad of colors that inspire and imbibe conversations and laughters. The place and these human connections you form here intoxicate you. And yes, the wine could, too.

I have been to Napa quite a few times before, but each time, something new about the town, and honestly, I also feel that something new about myself, is revealed to me. Last weekend was spent with a few new friends who apparently share the same passion for life - the good life.

24 Hours in Napa

Hour 1-5
Wine tasting, what else? I have done this a few different ways before but my favorite and the best deal so far has been the Silver Pass Weekend hosted by the Silverado Trail Wineries Association. Thanks to our inquisitive and ever-nosy friend Lynette, we accidentally got the 411 on the Silver Pass Weekend where you only pay $45 to sample wine at 15 participating wineries. The cherry to top that is that these wineries also serve free REAL food! This is the best spanking deal I have seen yet!

In the past, I have done wine tasting on a bicycle. It was a lot of fun and it made the experience very personal. It can be quite a hassle though to carry bottles of wine (if you decide to buy some) in a backpack and ride for miles. Also, Highways 29 and 121 don't really cater to cyclists (who have been consuming alcohol, for that matter).

Hour 6-7
Sober up, wind down. Wine is notorious to make people mellow out. I say give in to the urge for a siesta!

Hour 8-10
Dinner and more drinks. The one common gripe that I hear about Napa is that
restaurants close relatively early. It is perhaps best to plan a dinner early, research your options ahead of time, and call in a reservation. I didn't have the most earth-shattering dinner on this trip. We decided on Norman Rose Tavern, partly because there was hardly anything else open within walking distance from where we parked. I was surprised that the interiors actually exuded contemporary given its name. The menu was creative, but there are sadly not very many vegetarian options. Dinner would be around $25 with a glass of wine, excluding dessert.

I am partial to Italian food and the last time I was in Napa, I had dinner at Azzurro Pizzeria E Enoteca which had excellent, reasonably-priced, simple, tasty Italian grub. I would recommend this and would go back maybe next time! The place closes at 10 on Saturdays.

Hour 11-13
Baila!!!! Head on out to Bistro Sabor for Salsa, Bachata, Merengue and Cumbia on Saturday evenings. For neophytes, there's a short lesson that starts at around 10PM, and the dancing pretty much goes on until 2AM. As it turns out, "nightlife" is hardly existent in downtown Napa. Because I am a dancer, I honestly don't think it's a bad place to be on a foreign city on a Saturday night. Some dancing is better than no dancing, in my meek opinion. Bistro Sabor is a small time operation fueled by the restauranteur's sincere ambition to if not enculturate, at least educate, so it is excusable that there is no DJ and music streams from someone's laptop hidden somewhere. What did not tickle me, however, were the concrete floors. If you're a stickler for wood floors, I say don't even bother going, or at least stop by and drop a note in the suggestion box (if there's one). There are a handful of good dance partners and if you're the self-conscious type, I will warn you that there will be rifts where it will just be you and your partner dancing with a crowd of fifty people gathered around you in a circle.

Hour 14-16
Gatecrash a red carpet event! Not to say that there will be one every weekend that you happen to be there, but there was one when we were there so who's to say there won't be another one when you do?! We were ready to throw the towel in that night but on the way to the car, we heard blaring club music. It turns out, there was an exclusive launch party for the 2011 Napa Film Festival. It is crazy sometimes what you can get away with dark hair, a coy smile, a few words, and a cute dress.

Hour 17-21
Breakfast of the Champions - more wine! Check out Calistoga or St. Helena for more wineries. We stopped at Chateau Montelena which is famous for its castle facade and for bringing global attention to California wine in 1976, when its 1973 Chardonnay won against France's white Burgundies. There was also a Chinese garden with a little lake that offer picturesque mountain views. There's also Schramsberg on the hillside which I personally thought was a little drab except that they had the most interesting and biggest cellar I have seen yet.

The Facade of Chateau Montelena

Bottle-lined walls of the cellar at Schramsberg

Hour 21-24
Lunch. V. Sattui is quite popular for its deli and picnic grounds. Be prepared for a throng of people, though, and competing for picnic tables. I personally would not mind sitting on the grass underneath some tree. Great place to shop for cheese. Everything else (olive oil, bruschetta, spreads, seem expensive). An alternative would be the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa where they have a variety of local restaurants. They also sell fresh, local, organic fruits and veggies, bread, chocolates, and gifts. I have been here once before and on hindsight, would visit again the next time I'm in Napa.
Cheese shopping at V. Sattui

To be continued...

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