Roger here... We are officially NO LONGER in southern California. We ARE in northern California, in a nice campground just outside of Vacaville, CA. We arrived a couple of days ago after three relatively short days of driving. Along the way, we made one-night stops in Tehachapi, CA (a windy place) and Patterson, CA (a pretty place). (The Kit Fox Campground just off I-5 in Patterson is a great place for an overnight stop --- half off the regular rate for members of Passport America; new, clean, easy, and very friendly staff.)
Yesterday was Napa Valley day. The drive to the valley was relatively short --- distance-wise, just 25 miles.
Time-wise? Now, that was a different matter. We intended to leave around 9:00 a.m. to avoid some of the traffic. One dead car battery, a Good Sam jump start, and a new battery from Auto Zone later, we actually left Vacaville at 11:30 a.m. Not the end of the world.
Most of the drive, distance-wise, was on an interstate highway. Most of the drive, time-wise, was on the parking lot that is known as California State Highway 12. The traffic came to a complete stop as soon as we got off the interstate (a dozen or so miles from Napa). We did not go faster than 10 mph until we reached Napa. Lots of time to photograph other vehicles. (Dianne thought the vintage pink and white travel trailer was cute.) (Dianne here: What first caught my attention was a small bumper sticker that said something like "Old Ladies Rule" -- my kind of woman!)
Lots of time to photograph the beautiful scenery. No blurry pictures here due to movement of the car.
When we finally reached Napa and highway 29 into the Napa Valley, everything improved. The roads were better, the traffic thinned, my mood improved --- a lot.
Our first stop was in the small town of Oakville, where we bought gourmet sandwiches for a picnic at the Oakville Grocery.
This quaint little grocery, the oldest continuously operating grocery in California, is famous for their gourmet picnic sandwiches. Our good friend Jay told us we should stop here. We had read that the waits were long. We only waited about two minutes, and left with our sandwiches. Things were definitely improving.
Our first tasting stop was just up the road at the Beaulieu Vineyard. Most people who know wines know this winery as BV.
Dianne snapped a shot of some of the fermentation tanks while I searched for a parking space. Found one!
The short walk to the tasting room was nicely landscaped, as expected. What I did not expect was a greeting at the door with two tastes of chardonnay and an escort to the tasting bar. (We knew that the tastings in the Napa Valley would be pricey, so we decided to share tastings at the places we visited.) The nice welcome and the great personality of the pourer quickly convinced us that we should each do a tasting of reds. Dianne picked a $15 tasting. I picked a $20 tasting. All but one were wines not widely distributed by BV. The pourer set everything up so we could each taste small portions of ten different wines. She also gave us some hints about rolling the cabernet glasses instead of swirling them, and sniffing from the top of the glass for a different aroma.
We anticipated that the wines in the valley would be more expensive than what we would normally pay. We decided in advance to limit our purchases in order to obtain two or three bottles that we really enjoyed. At BV, we purchased a pinot noir that our pourer said was the best in the valley. I don't know about that, but it was excellent. Cha- Ching. (Oh, and we also received four free wine glass marking pens --- whatever those are.) This was fun; definitely better than fighting traffic and replacing a battery. Before we left the BV grounds, Dianne took a photo of some white dogwood blossoms. We had dogwood trees at our last two Indiana homes. It was good to see them again.
Time to move on, but only a couple of miles down the road. Our next stop was the Alpha Omega vineyard (also recommended by our friend Jay). We were forewarned that this was a pricey place, but that the tasting prices in all the wineries were similar. He also told us that they had the best reds he had ever tasted, high praise from Jay. So our little Toyota made a right turn into the parking lot.
Another winery. Another tasting (this time shared). Another idyllic view of California grapevines outlined with flowers with mountains in the background. The day went from frustrating to nearly perfect.
Our wine-tasting pourer here seemed like an old friend. I asked Dianne who he reminded her of. Her answer was "Brad Jackson," one of the very best teachers with whom I ever worked. That is exactly whom I was thinking of. Our pourer, a former HS band director, presented each tasting with the same knowledgeable, fascinating style that Brad Jackson used when hooking his 7th grade students to a love of science and social studies. This guy was great, if only I could remember his name! (We will be seeing Jay and Nancy in a few weeks in Oregon. We bought two bottles of Jay's favorite reds to share with them during that eagerly-anticipated visit.) Cha Ching!
Doesn't Dianne's grilled vegetable panini look yummy?
My chicken salad sandwich, loaded with grapes, was just as delicious. We split them in half and shared. What a great lunch.
This was our view:
Before moving on, Dianne took a picture of the white jasmine vine that was growing along the side of the tasting room. We have three of these growing up our pergola in Texas. They are doing well. Can't wait until they get to be this lush.
We intended to visit one or two more wineries, but Dianne was a little tipsy :-). So, we drove to the picturesque town of St. Helena to turn around and head home. Quality is usually better than quantity, and our afternoon was certainly filled with quality. At the end of the day, we spent less than we typically do on these sojourns; however, we will be enjoying some quality wines. Maybe we are getting smarter.
On the days that we are forced to leave the dogs in the motor home for a few hours, like this day, we always make sure that they get a lot of exercise before we leave. It is easier to do at our current campground because there is a large dog park where the doggies can actually run and chase each other. The pet picture of the day shows Bandido on the way back to the motor home with his precious, but grungy, orange ball.