“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.” — Benjamin Franklin
Well, the start of Day 1 was interesting. What we intended to be a relaxing drive up North, complete with a collection of Audiobooks and tasty snacks, quickly devolved into a very uncomfortable experience when the air conditioning of our car suddenly ceased to exist. How easily we take such things for granted! Air conditioning is a luxury for which I will, from this point forward, be sincerely grateful. Driving through the Central Valley in the 90 degree sun without air conditioning was fairly miserable, and I will admit I did not handle the situation gracefully.
Somehow Brian managed to tolerate the ensuing 6 hours of my griping and groaning, heroically patient man that he is. When we arrived at the Napa Valley Marriott I burst free of the sweltering car and made a beeline for the air-conditioned lobby. Heaven! My sweating skin drank in the delicious coolness, and I was able to focus again on the joyous fact that we had arrived in Napa! We checked in and 30 minutes later re-emerged, showered and refreshed, to head into the late Napa afternoon. It was time for some wine!
We met my friend John and his significant other, Patrick, at the John Anthony Vineyards tasting lounge in downtown Napa. John and I worked together first during a research elective my senior year at Harvard College, then at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute after I graduated, and then at iPierian, a start-up biotech company, in San Francisco. He started as a mentor and quickly became one of my most valued friends. Ours is a friendship going back 10 years with multiple stories and escapades. I hadn’t seen John in three years, and I was glad for the opportunity to enjoy his company again. We breezed in to the chic lounge, hugs were exchanged and introductions made, and we embarked on the first of many fabulous tasting experiences of the week.
John Anthony Vineyards is owned and operated by the husband and wife partnership of John and Michele Truchard. Unlike most wineries, located on a single estate, John Anthony Vineyards is made up of several small vineyards scattered throughout the southern part of the valley, including the Carneros and Oak Knoll appellations. Each vineyard location was chosen for its soil and microclimate, and the harvests are pooled to craft their wines. I have to say, this strategy is working well for the couple – the wines we tasted in this pleasant lounge were excellent. The tasting room is situated in a perfect location, walking distance from the plethora of downtown Napa restaurants. The feel of the lounge is relaxed sophistication, very much my preference for social gathering places. I loved the simple pleasure of enjoying good wine with good friends in this graceful space, and I will most certainly be back on future Napa expeditions.
After our tasting we headed to Angele for dinner. Angele is a little French restaurant located on the river in downtown Napa, right next to the Napa River Inn. The restaurant is a converted boathouse with a pleasant patio and river views. They call themselves “French country,” and that is a good description of the atmosphere here.
We started off with oysters and escargots, served not in the usual escargot dish or in the shell, but in a puff pastry with a delectable garlic butter sauce. Delicious! We also sampled their fried deviled eggs, something I would normally shy away from, but that I had to admit were tasty. I had the tuna nicoise salad, the lighter fare exactly what I wanted on this pleasant evening. Brian had their roasted pork chop (I personally don’t eat mammals, though fish, poultry, and yes, snails are fair game) which he described as expertly done. We paired it all with a lovely pinot noir of John’s selection. The staff was personable and attentive, the service excellent.
The evening was a delightful way to kick off our vacation, and we went back to our hotel excited for the week to come.