24 Hours in Napa Valley

L and I planned a spontaneous trip to Napa Valley over Memorial Weekend. We booked a hotel room the morning of, loaded up the car, and off we went! It was the first time for both of us, and we little knew what to expect. All we wanted was sunshine and wine.

We started at the Oxbow Public Market, an indoor market similar to the Ferry Building (SF) / Chelsea Market (NYC) / Mercado de San Miguel (Madrid) — local, artisanal markets with various food/vendor stands.

The Napa Valley Distillery.
So many bitters!
L sampled them all, but managed to limit herself to just two.
Cheeses made from cows, goats, and sheeps(‘ milk)!

Ca’ Momi, where we had lunch.

Gnudi – organic spinach and Bellwether ricotta gnocchi. Very savory/cheesy.
Creamy polenta and delightfully provincial looking vegetables.

Lest I forget, we also got truly delectable ice cream from Three Twins on a homemade waffle cone. Except that it was so creamy and melty that there absolutely was not time to take a photo of it. I was downing it as quickly as possible, but still got bittersweet chocolate dripped all over me!

We got these cherries at a roadside stand. Mmmmmm. I never knew the delight of a perfectly ripe cherry til now.
We walked around downtown Napa, and were surprised at how deserted it was. We had both expected more of a Destin-like, glitzy tourist town. But instead there were few pedestrians, and, it seemed, fewer open storefronts. The Napa Town Center had more vacancies than stores. Not to be satisfied with just writing it off as “everyone’s off at the wineries,” I did some research. It was good to be reminded that Napa is still very much an agrarian, blue-collar area, and despite the fine wines, $$$ Yelp ratings and artisanal amenities, we’re the interlopers. 

Major development in downtown Napa kicked off about a dozen years ago, starting with the Historic Napa Mill on Main Street and a collection of businesses including the Napa River Inn, Sweetie Pies bakery and Silo’s, a wine bar and live music spot.

Then came the well-coiffed celebrity chefs with their chic dining rooms and non-Napa roots. The move to make downtown a more cosmopolitan destination for the throngs who usually pass by on their way “up valley” has stirred some debate with the locals.

Larry and Eleanor Archambeault have lived in Napa more than 30 years and remember when downtown had more of a blue- collar feel.

“I go to an exercise group with mostly older people, and not everyone likes the change,” said Leonore Archambeault, over bites of yucca fries at Oxbow Public Market.

Downtown Napa luring tourists who once bypassed it,” The Sacramento Bee, Feb 19, 2012

We had an incredible dinner at Tarla, a mediterranean restaurant. Above, saganaki, described on the menu as flaming Halloumi with truffle honey, apricots and lemon. I didn’t realize they would actually pour brandy on top and light it on fire. It was crispy, sweet, cheesy, deliciousness. It was amazing. Appetizer and dessert combined.
These pomegranate-cabernet braised short ribs were so, so good. I savored each bite of succulent beef and garlic-mushroom risotto. I liked it so much, I was even willing to consider conceding the dominance of the Korean short rib.
The next day was overcast, but not to worry — we were only really planning to drink wine, anyway. We went to Acacia Vineyard, where we sampled two chardonnays, a rose, three pinot noirs and a syrah.
This Marsh Chardonnay was my favorite (I prefer whites usually). I also loved the watercolor label–which is the view outside the window to the left of this frame–and the fact that the proceeds are donated to preserving the marshlands.
The pinot is poured.
The vineyard, and the marsh beyond.
We then drove more or less offroad, and nearly straight onto this bridge, marked DO-NOT-ENTER-WILDLIFE-PRESERVE. But it was too invitingly undulating, so we parked the car and went for a little walk instead.
What a lovely trip. You can bet I’ll be back for more soon!
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