“Wine is bottled poetry.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Day 3 had been a big day for us in Napa, so we took it a bit easier on Day 4. We slept in and spent some time exercising, finally making it out of the hotel around noon. We headed first to the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, a wonderful mecca of shops and cafes. You can sample olive oils and balsamic vinegars, explore cheese shops and fresh produce from nearby farms, sip an espresso or indulge in some pretty amazing ice cream. They have chocolate and brewery offerings, as well as some tasty restaurants. No trip to Napa is complete without a stroll through Oxbow.
We hit up the Hog Island Oyster Company for some deliciously fresh oysters paired with a bright Sauvignon Blanc. We then strolled around and sampled oil and vinegar at The Olive Press and purchased a beautiful, light dipping EVOO and some excellent aged balsamic. I perused the cheese selections and we relaxed over a positively velvety cappuccino at Ritual Coffee Roasters. We then drove up the beautiful Silverado Trail to St. Helena, where we met Steven and Yevgeniya at Hall Wines.
Hall probably ranks in the top 3 of my favorite Napa Valley wineries for two reasons. The first is, of course, the wine. They specialize in Cabernet Sauvignon, though I have to say their Sauvignon Blanc is really, really good as well. The second reason is that Hall is just a super cool place to hang out. The elegantly modern estate is basically an art gallery interspersed with clever witticisms. Kathryn and Craig Hall, the founders of Hall Wines, select each piece of art themselves, and many of the pieces are reproduced on their wine labels. There is one piece made entirely of index cards, a light installation in which you can see birds fluttering past, and multiple sculptures and installation pieces scattered across the grounds.
Hall does not require a reservation for tasting, and it’s one of the best tasting experiences to be had in Napa. You can get your taste, then meander about their grounds as you sip. You can play corn hole or lawn bowling. You can walk through their vegetable and flower garden. You can lounge on the Ocean View Terrace (lifeguard off duty!) or on the deck outside the tasting room, overlooking the vineyards.
When you are ready, you stroll back up to the tasting bar and get your next pour, then you can head back out again. Most of the walls in the tasting room are floor to ceiling windows, and at certain times of the day hanging panels catch the sunlight and project a myriad of colors onto the main tasting room wall. I realize I’ve said this already, but the whole experience at Hall is just fabulous! What more could you ask for than excellent wine paired with acclaimed art and lawn games on a beautiful sunny afternoon in wine country?
We enjoyed our wines thoroughly, comparing the different Cabernets as we drank in the wonders of the Hall estate. My only wish is that they could do wines by the glass. The only way the Hall experience could be even better would be if you could finish your tasting, purchase a glass of your favorite, and continue to enjoy the grounds. Alas, they legally are barred from offering such a thing, which is probably a good thing; otherwise people like me would most likely hang out here all day and never leave!
Wrapping up our afternoon at Hall, we realized we were hungry again – the oysters, while delectable, were not particularly filling, and several hours had passed. We made our way to Goose and Gander for an early dinner.
Goose and Gander is located in St. Helena a short drive from Hall Wines. It is a rustic public house with a seasonal menu and a casual vibe. They have a hip basement bar and a beautiful patio shaded by trees, umbrellas, and vine-woven trellises. They also have a menu with something for everyone, and making our selections was a tough process as everything looked so good! Our server was attentive and personable, and he made some good recommendations when it came to our selections. We started with some delicious cheeses and the lamb tartar – again, I don’t personally eat mammals but everyone else ensured me it was tasty. I had the grilled Spanish octopus, which was divine, and I found Brian’s duck breast perfectly prepared and delicious. We paired this with a Cabernet Sauvignon recommended by our waiter, and were very content.
Our main courses concluded, we headed down the street to PRESS for dessert. The cozy dining room at PRESS opens onto a patio with vineyard views, and their menu looks yummy. I vowed we would have a meal here the next time we come to Napa!
From here we returned to the Marriott. The sun was now setting on our Napa 2017 vacation, and we decided to relax by one of the fire pits in the twilight, recounting our experiences. The next day we would all get up early for the long drive home to Southern California, but for now we were content to smile and laugh together over one more glass of wine. It really was a wonderful and memorable trip to Napa, and I can’t wait for our next one!