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Napa During "The Crush"


larousse
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I'm heading to Napa in late September for a wedding and I was hoping to getthe lowdown on which wineries and restaurants to visit. Opus One is one I'm looking into but I hear it's not open to the public. I'm in at the Laundry and I'd like to hit Bouchon for lunch but where else. I'll be on a damaged budget after the Laundry so any less expensive ideas would be helpful.

Also any nice eats along the PCH as I'm driving down to San DIego.

Thanks in advance.

M

NYC

"Get mad at them eggs!"

in Cool Hand Luke

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Larousse, with our continual rainy spring, it is unlikely you will be experiencing any crush in September except at maybe some of the sparkling producers (Schramsburg, Mumm, Domaine Carneros, or Domaine Chandon). These are the businesses that start their picking first but we are already speculating that harvest for most red wines will not be starting until October going into November. We are here in the second week of May and are sitting through a tremendous storm which has already dropped an inch-and-a-half of water.

I'm not convinced that Opus One is the best tour/tasting in the valley. If looking for high-end cab tastings, consider Nikel and Nikel, Quintessa, or Caymus.

Foodwise, Bouchon is much more accessible if you consider going in right when the wineries are shutting down (around 5:00-ish) but sit at the bar. The mussels in saffron are exceptional.

I am also a big fan of Terra, Zuzu, and Pilar.

Don't hesitate to PM me with any specific questions!

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Larousse, with our continual rainy spring, it is unlikely you will be experiencing any crush in September except at maybe some of the sparkling producers (Schramsburg, Mumm, Domaine Carneros, or Domaine Chandon). These are the businesses that start their picking first but we are already speculating that harvest for most red wines will not be starting until October going into November. We are here in the second week of May and are sitting through a tremendous storm which has already dropped an inch-and-a-half of water.

I'm not convinced that Opus One is the best tour/tasting in the valley. If looking for high-end cab tastings, consider Nikel and Nikel, Quintessa, or Caymus.

Foodwise, Bouchon is much more accessible if you consider going in right when the wineries are shutting down (around 5:00-ish) but sit at the bar. The mussels in saffron are exceptional.

I am also a big fan of Terra, Zuzu, and Pilar.

Don't hesitate to PM me with any specific questions!

Opus One has a great tour, but you have to call weeks ahead and make a reservation. You can walk in anytime if you only want a tasting. You'll need appointments at Nickel and Nickel or Caymus too. They're all terrific.

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Just curious...how are you in at the Laundry, since they only accept reservations 2 months to the day in advance?

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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Just curious...how are you in at the Laundry, since they only accept reservations 2 months to the day in advance?

He might have a table for 8+ -- those tables CAN be booked more than two months in advance. (I think it is a private room).

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If you’re lucky you'll miss harvest while your out here. The beautiful mountain roads all back up with trucks driving 20mph. The winery staff has far more to do during crush than the rest of the year so they will likely be less available. During crush a lot of the tours change to avoid places where the tourists are at risk of being flattened by a truck/forklift/etc.

The tour at Opus is worth doing if you can arrange it - if you are a regular customer at local wine shop, they should be able to arrange it for you through their distributor, it'd be worth a call on your own also. Quintessa as Carolyn pointed out above is also a nice facility, though their tasting I believe costs $50/person. Caymus is at the other end of the spectrum, offering a free tasting but no tour, if you luck out you'll be there during one of the two or three weeks each year that they pour their Special Select Cab as part of the tasting. Pride is a great place to visit and also an excellent spot for a picnic; get some supplies at Dean and Deluca before you head up the mountain. Phelps has a very enjoyable tasting out on their patio with an assortment of interesting wines and a great view. Shafer would also be worth checking out, great Cabs and nice people. For all these places you'll need to call to arrange a reservation.

As far as restaurants go - Martini House, Terra, Bouchon, Don Giovanni, Bistro Jeanty are all similarly priced ($50-$100/person with wine) and quite good, Martini House being my favorite of the bunch. A bit cheaper ($25-$50 w/wine) would be ZuZu, Cook, Bounty Hunter, and Market - Cook has similar food to Delfina in SF without the trendy atmosphere, Bounty Hunter is just good simple food and a very reasonably priced wine list, and ZuZu is a trendy tapas place with a fairly static menu but that is only a problem if you are local and want to eat there frequently. Taylor's is also a great spot for lunch.

If you are planning to drive from Napa to San Diego, unless you have a couple of days to spend driving, take I-5 instead of the PCH. If you’ve got the time then the PCH has great views and an endless supply of small towns to visit along the way. Cambria is a good place to crash for the night half way down to LA. You should be able to get there in time for lunch, from there you can make the 20min trip to San Louis Obispo/Paso Robles for more wineries and dinner before you head back for the night.

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I'll second Melkor's Shafer rec. My wife & I just went a couple of weeks ago, and it was great. They've changed their format, and conduct sit-down tastings of all their wines, preceeded by a very informative talk about their sustainable vineyard management practices. The afternoon wound up with a visit to their caves and a tasting of their port.

Another tour/tasting to consider is Far Niente. Cost is $40/person, but well worth it. They just began tours last summer/fall, and the tour is followed by a sit-down tasting with a little cheese and, in our case, quiche.

If you'd like to tour a truly boutique winery, I'd recommend Staglin Family. Tours are very small and intimate, and usually conducted by the Staglin's daughter, Shannon.

Edited by samgiovese (log)

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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Wow, thanks very much. I'm new to the egullet and I didn't expect such a response. I guess my cousin was lying to me about the crush but that seems to be a good thing. Does anyone know if any of the wireies/vinyards have room? I live in NY and the L.I. wineries and upstate ones sometimes have rooms for rent or comp for industry people. I have a place to stay but...It'd be cool.

The Launrdy accepts reservations up to a year in advance for parties of 8 or more. I nice way to bypass the speed dialing 2 months before you want to go. I'm also in the business and work for one of TKs former chefs. One of the perks I guess.

Also why should I take I-5 instead or HWY 1?

M

NYC

"Get mad at them eggs!"

in Cool Hand Luke

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If you aren't in a hurry and you have something fun to drive, by all means take the PCH. There is very little to see and do along I-5 but you'll be stuck in the car for half as long. We drove down to Cambria/Paso a few weekends ago on the PCH, aside from getting stuck behind a string of slow drivers it was a fun drive.

Your cousin wasn't lying, most years late Sept would be the start of harvest - this spring has been unusually wet and we just had a quick hail storm today so things are going a bit slower this year.

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I live in NY and the L.I. wineries and upstate ones sometimes have rooms for rent or comp for industry people.  I have a place to stay but...It'd be cool.

Also why should I take I-5 instead or HWY 1?

Larousse, I would guess that about 65% to 70% of the wineries have "rooms" and guest cottages for the industry. The trick is getting a distributor to get the room for you as they are generally reserved for individuals affiliated with stores or restaurants that are supporters of the product. I have a good friend who is the wine buyer for a hotel in Los Angeles. Nine times out of ten, he can book the cottage at Stag's Leap, Franciscan, or Silver Oak THROUGH the Distributor that supplies said wine to the hotel. It is that Tenth time that he stays with me...

My take on Highway 1 is to not bother. It IS pretty, but it seriously can take 12 to 14 hours to get from San Diego to San Francisco. It really is going to depend on how much time you have -- if you've only got four or five days, do you want to spend a whole day behind the wheel of a car? It is a great trip if you've got more than a week and can stop and experience the coastline more than once or twice on the drive. If your time is limited, than I would haul butt to get up here... Also, keep in mind that September can be REALLY hot, which could make spending a lot of time in a car (even with air conditioning) unpleasant.

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We just returned from a trip to SF and Napa and I highly recommend Zuzu for tapas. Standout dishes included the Air Dried Beef Filet with Whole Grain Mustard Aioli and the Roasted Trumpet Mushrooms, Asparagus, Truffle Vinaigrette and San Andreas. We also ate at Chez Panisse and the French Laundry, and I found Zuzu to be a nice diversion.

The benefit of I-5 is that it's much faster. It's god-awful boring and monotonous, though. Not much of a way to see California. Like others have said, PCH can take a very, very long time to drive (don't get stuck on the twisty part from Carmel to Hearst Castle in the dark -- what a pain). We drove PCH back from SF to Orange Co. and it was a bit painful. However, the scenery is worth it if you've never driven it before.

We visited Opus One a few years ago and I place it near the bottom of the list (we didn't do the tour, though). The building is this mausoleum-like modern structure that's very out of place, in my opinion. And the tastings are woefully expensive. We've enjoyed Duckhorn (nice grounds, nice tasting facility), Chateau Montelena, and Mondavi (informative tour).

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Don't miss the Frank Family Winery, just north of St Helena. Be sure to read the historic plaque I put up last year. Real friendly people and great wine. Eat at the Martini House in St Helena. :biggrin:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Don't miss the Frank Family Winery, just north of St Helena. Be sure to read the historic plaque I put up last year. Real friendly people and great wine. Eat at the Martini House in St Helena. :biggrin:

Chateau d'eau doen't happen to ahve a restaurant with a newly hired chef de cuisine moving from NYC soon does it?

M

NYC

"Get mad at them eggs!"

in Cool Hand Luke

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While I was in Napa, I dined at French Laundry, of course. However, I also dined at Tra Vigne and Brix, which were both excellent. Brix was located on highway 29 and had a view of the back garden, which was beautiful.

All the wineries along the Napa Highway were very nice. I thought that Mondavi setting was beautful, the wine was just OK.

Adam from Jersey

"To invite a person to your house is to take charge of his (her) happiness for as long as he is under your roof."

Brillat Savarin

You don't have to like everything I make, but you still have to eat it.

A Co-Worker from Work

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I can second Tra Vigne. It's also very pretty and a great place to sit in the courtyard and have a glass of wine before dinner. Don't forget about Mustards Grill. Not as prettty but the food was good two years ago. Heading out to Napa/Sonoma again in the fall so it's nice to get more restaurant ideas here.

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BTW, now that "the tourist season" is among us, remember to make reservations. Can't tell you how many folks are literally wandering the streets, waiting an hour-and-a-half (or more!) to be seated at restaurants.

There is a new restaurant in town (or should I say, on the 29?), also, called Bistro Zare -- I'm reviewing it for my other job this week and will report back.

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I would suggest taking the 101, with possibly some diversions onto Highway 1, when travelling down to San Diego. The I-5 is faster, but it's also a very boring drive and you don't see anything interesting for miles and miles. There are some nice things to see and do along the 101, and if you can stay the night along the way, it's much more rewarding.

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Don't miss the Frank Family Winery, just north of St Helena. Be sure to read the historic plaque I put up last year. Real friendly people and great wine. Eat at the Martini House in St Helena. :biggrin:

Chateau d'eau doen't happen to ahve a restaurant with a newly hired chef de cuisine moving from NYC soon does it?

No, unfortunately. We have 5 chefs each with a specialty. We all cook then eat on the deck overlooking the valley and drink large amounts of wine.

:biggrin:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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We'll be in Napa next week over Memorial Weekend and are staying in Yountville. How far/where is ZuZu? Sounds great!

Zuzu is an exception on the reservations -- they don't take any.... From Yountville to Zuzu is about a 15-minute drive down the 29, exitingoff at 1st street and heading into downtown. Park when you reach the corner of 1st and Main.

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