“Compromises are for relationships, not wine.” — Sir Robert Scott Caywood
By the time we departed from Silver Oak Cellars it was already getting on toward the lunch hour. We didn’t have much time before our Duckhorn Vineyards appointment at 1pm, but no trip to Napa is complete without a visit to V. Sattui Winery. Unique to wineries in the Napa Valley, V. Sattui has on its grounds an extraordinary deli and picnic area. You can do your tasting, purchase your favorite bottle, then visit the deli for truly exceptional cheeses, meats, and other goodies. You can then park yourself at a quaint picnic table on their lush lawn in the Napa sunshine. Few luncheon experiences can compare!
To my disappointment, as mentioned, we didn’t have enough time for this – we lingered too long at Silver Oak. So this visit to V. Sattui was more of a quick breeze through the deli, sampling cheeses and olive oils, selecting pâtés, and piling back into Steven’s Audi SUV where the goods were divvied up on paper picnic plates. We happily nibbled as we wound our way up Highway 29, arriving right on time at Duckhorn Vineyards.
Duckhorn Vineyards is located off the Silverado Trail north of St. Helena. It’s a lovely property and they produce very nice wines, but I found the tasting experience disappointing. Though we were on time for our appointment, we were not greeted or seated for 30 minutes. We sort of wandered around the little shop where you first enter; when we tried to ask someone to assist us, we were told to keep waiting. Once we were seated, we sort of sat there looking at the line of empty wine glasses in front of us for a good 15 minutes before anyone came around to pour our first taste. No one really took any time to tell us about the wines, and again there were long stretches between tastes where we seemed to be pretty much ignored. It was odd for Napa, a region known for its hospitality and service. I would say you could be safe in skipping Duckhorn Vineyards on your next Napa visit – stick to ordering your favorite wines from this winery online.
A bit underwhelmed, we departed Duckhorn for Cakebread Cellars. I am definitely a Cakebread fan; we went to Cakebread last year with my parents, and I was impressed with their Pinot Noir as well as many of their other wines. As such I was really looking forward to Cakebread, especially after the subpar Duckhorn experience.
Cakebread Cellars was founded in 1973 by Jack and Dolores Cakebread. The estate is located between Oakville and Rutherford right off Highway 29. The grounds are pleasing with the main building, a rustic wooden structure, rising above the rows of vines. Since our visit last year the tasting room has changed, and they have established a pretty garden where they grow, among other things, vegetables used in their culinary endeavors. Cakebread offers several tours and tasting options, as well as cooking classes for members and multiple other events. One of the things I appreciate about Cakebread, in addition to their delicious wines, is that they are on the more reasonable end of the tasting fee spectrum for Napa Valley.
Unlike Duckhorn, at Cakebread we were greeted immediately upon entry and offered a taste of their Alexander Valley Vin de Porche rosé during our brief wait for the entirety of our tasting party. The rosé was bright and dry and perfect for sipping outside on a hot summer day. Within moments we were led to the garden, where JP conducted our tasting al fresco surrounded by flowers, vegetables, and vines.
I sat on a smooth wooden bench enjoying this tranquil experience, lazily sipping the delicious Cakebread offerings, listening to the pleasant voice of JP as she told us about each wine she poured. I found one of their blends very interesting; it is called Guajolote (which is Spanish for “wild turkey”) made of 40% Merlot, 30% Syrah, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% each Grenache and Cabernet Franc. It was an unusual blend that I wasn’t sure about when she described it, but that I actually enjoyed very much! At the end JP even gave us a bonus, a taste of a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon made from the fruit harvested at their Dancing Bear Ranch vineyard on Howell Mountain. Still, it is the Pinot Noir from Cakebread Cellars that I fancy, and as such we purchased 3 different Pinot Noirs and a bottle of their Reserve Chardonnay.
Our tasting done for the day, it was time for dinner! After a brief discussion, we selected Bouchon Bistro, a French restaurant concept from the famed Thomas Keller which proudly boasts a Michelin star.
Needless to say, everything at Bouchon was incredibly delicious. We started our meal with oysters (amazing) and escargots (when in France…) served in the more traditional escargot dish, each morsel topped with a small puff pastry. This we paired with a luscious Sauvignon Blanc recommended by our waiter. Brian and I split a simple salad of greens, and for my entrée I had the most incredible trout of my life. Tender, flakey, bursting with flavor, the fish was elegantly topped with haricot vests and toasted almonds. Oh, it was soooooo good! The service was equal to the quality of the meal, and the experience as a whole was immensely enjoyable.
I realize experiences like these are a bit of a splurge, but honestly it’s worth it. What in the world is more joyous than good food with good wine and good friends? How can you help but feel wonderful when all of your senses are replete with delight? The smell and taste of excellent food and wine paired with the voices of friends chatting and laughing, the smiles on each other’s faces, the tactile feel of a hug or a handshake, the heat of other people nearby, the inner warm glow of love and happiness all around you. It is divine, and yet also doesn’t need to take place at a fancy restaurant. Those who know me know that I enjoy cooking and I love hosting – dinners, cocktail parties, etc. It brings me so much pleasure to have people I love around me, sharing a good bottle of wine and an array of snacks and cheeses or a home cooked meal. These experiences give me life, and thus I pursue them with great zeal.
Thus we closed Day 2 of Napa 2017, returning merrily to the Marriott, eager for what the morrow might bring.