Napa Valley Trip - June 2023 Andrew & Hannah
After making the journey to Los Angeles for a Wedding, Hannah and I decided to make the short flight north to Sonoma County to visit the Napa Valley. For my North Carolina readers, LAX has a direct flight via Alaska Airlines that will take you from LAX to the Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport, which offers rental cars as soon as you step off into the small baggage claim area. A direct flight from Charlotte -> LAX followed by a 1-hour flight from LAX -> Sonoma County is the route we chose, and found it very simple for our first time. Sacramento was also another recommended airport to fly into with another short drive (about an hour) from the Sacramento Airport to Napa, CA.
On day one, we landed in Sonoma County around 10:30 am with no real plan for the day, which I have found to bring some great experiences. We jumped in the rental car and checked in to our hotel, and asked the staff at the hotel where they thought we should spend the afternoon. We started off by driving to Oakville, California, which sits about the center point of Hwy 29 (the main road through the valley). Oakville is not only a town but also an AVA (American Viticultural Area) along with the other towns listed on the map. The reason for our stop in Oakville was to visit the Oakville Grocery store, which has served Napa Valley since 1881. The once quaint country store has been given a breath of fresh area brought by the many tourists looking to grab lunch and step back in time. Oakville offers breakfast and lunch options, including delicious deli sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas. After a delicious lunch, we stepped into their tasting room which offers a modern touch on wine tasting where guests receive a wine card to insert into various machines to taste a variety of different wines from Napa Valley, even offering the opportunity to taste wines that have received a perfect score (100) from reviewers such as Wine Spectator.
After our stop in Oakville, we headed to Castello di Amerosa, as recommended by the Hotel. After grabbing a last-minute wine-tasting reservation, we journeyed to the Calistoga AVA and stepped onto what appeared to be the Italian countryside. Driving to the top of the hill, you are awed by a castle that appears to be from 800 years ago while only being built 30 years prior. The owner imported materials from Europe, including the drawbridge, to ensure a perfect replica of the many castles left standing across Europe. Hannah and I finished the evening in downtown Windsor CA (a small town in Sonoma County), where we had a tasting at a local family's tasting room and enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant.
Hannah and I woke up excited for more adventures starting with a little surprise I had planned that included the Legacy tour on the Napa Valley Wine Train. This experience started in downtown Napa where we embarked on an all-day tour on board the train. Starting with a delicious breakfast prepared by the onboard chefs, we toasted with a glass of “bubbles” to another beautiful day. After breakfast, the train carried us through the valley, where we stopped at the famous Napa Valley welcome sign and enjoyed a wine tasting from local Raymond Vineyards.
After our first stop, we enjoyed a freshly prepared lunch on board accompanied by a glass of Merlot as the train continued towards Charles Krug Vineyards, where we were greeted by our wine educator, who strolled us through the vines and took us to the second floor of the tasting room for a private tasting of four of their wines. Once we finished up at Charles Krug, the train engineer Nace gave us a little tour of the train engine and even treated us to ride alongside him as he drove us to the second vineyard of the day—a special treat for a train lover like myself. The last stop on the tour landed us at V. Sattui, where we got the chance to taste 4 wines with Jacob, who accompanied us as our Wine educator at this stop. We finished the day with a delicious dessert on board and returned to the station to finish the day. After our train tour, we made a quick stop at the Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch and enjoyed their Rutherford Estate tasting and a charcuterie board before heading home. Also, as a first-timer in California, I had to stop at In-N-Out Burger and have a quick dinner.
On our last day, we journeyed once more to the Oakville Grocery store to have a delicious breakfast sandwich before heading to downtown Napa California to meet up with our tour group hosted by Platypus Tours. Our driver picked us up along with 6 others at various pickup spots to do a “boutique” winery tour of three family-owned and operated wineries in Napa Valley, which is scratching the surface of the over 400 wineries that are situated in the area. On stop one, we visited the Ghost Block Winery, also known as the Napa Wine Company. We enjoyed a tasting of 5 wines and a special bonus of a barrel tasting of a 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon. Hannah and I really enjoyed their wine and even decided to sign up for their wine club. On the next stop we enjoyed a picnic lunch at Augburn-James Winery, where their winemaker led us through a tasting of some of their small-batch crafted wines, including a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Malbec, and a Bordeaux Blend. Our final stop was Hagafen Estate, where we went through our final tasting of the day. We enjoyed a little shopping and a delicious dinner in downtown Napa before heading home for the evening, wrapping up our first of hopefully many trips to this beautiful wine region.