Art of Romance: Napa Valley Wine Country Weekend
First things first – a romantic weekend doesn’t happen without champagne. Mumm Napa was the initial stop for a private tour and tasting, where we enjoyed vineyard views and sampled a wide array of their sparkling wine. The cheese plate pairs with their champagne and cleanses the palette between the sparkling wine tastings. I had yet to taste several of their limited-production wines. My favorite is the exceptional DVX, aged up to six and a half years and made from the choicest grapes. We purchased a bottle to enjoy later in the privacy of our room.
Cruising along wine country roads with sunshine streaming through the sunroof and music playing in the stunning new Jaguar XJ sedan was a great addition to a romantic weekend. Traveling in luxury and style makes the journey so much more enjoyable. The car’s sleek design provided a comfortable interior that enveloped me in soft leather in the roomy passenger compartment. Everything needed for personal comfort is easily controlled and within reach, seat warmers, seat coolers, massage, and a large trunk to store the wine purchases. Indulgence was the weekend’s theme with food, wine, and spa adventures planned.
Calistoga was a short drive, where we planned to have lunch at Boskos Trattoria. The dining room was comfortable and the pasta dishes were imaginative and so delicious. Paired with a salad and wine, it was the perfect lunch. They offer a selection of well-priced Italian and California wines.
We checked into the Cuvaison Artist’s Cottage at Mount View Hotel and Spa, which had a private patio and an outdoor Jacuzzi. There was just enough time to settle in before our spa reservation for the hydrotherapy mud bath and massage. Experiencing the famous Calistoga mud in a liquid form was perfect – it smelled like herbs and provided all of the benefits of the mud treatment without being heavy or claustrophobic. After a wonderful massage it was time to enjoy the outdoor pool, kept at a pleasant 84 degrees. The beautiful pool is the perfect place to chill out, and with a little imagination it was easy to envision the fabulous parties of the glamorous Hollywood era. The nearby Jacuzzi was the perfect finish to a relaxing day.
Dinner reservations were at the historic Calistoga Inn in their elegant indoor dining room. A glass of J Brut Cuvee sparkling wine started the meal. A chopped Caesar salad was followed by paella (enough for two) with chicken, dried chorizo, mussels, clams, and prawns. There was little room left for dessert but we were persuaded to try the Meyer lemon ice-box pie with fresh whipped cream. After this delicious meal it was time to walk off the calories on the way back to the hotel. The night sky was bright, and at that moment there was nowhere that I would rather be than in a private Jacuzzi under the stars with a glass of wine.
Starting the day with breakfast in bed – one of Mount View Hotel’s standard amenities – was lovely. Then it was off to Schramsberg for a tour of their caves and a sparkling-wine tasting. They offer limited reservations to visit the winery for tastings, so we were thrilled to be able to see their caves and taste their wine. Located on Diamond Mountain, this historic property has the oldest wine cave in the Napa Valley and the distinction of being written about by Robert Louis Stevenson in The Silverado Squatters. The current owners, the Davies, bought the property in 1965 and resurrected it with the goal of making award-winning sparkling wine. The tour was fascinating and concluded in the caves, where we had the opportunity to sample the finished product. They make a diverse selection of sparkling wine, all exceptional, and most only available at the winery or to wine-club members. At any given time 2.7 million bottles of sparkling wine are aging in the caves for up to 10 years, which is why it is so remarkable.
A series of food experiences awaited at the Culinary Institute of America, located in a historic castle that was once the home of the Christian Brothers. We were given a tour of the professional kitchens for chefs-in-training, as well as the consumer areas where cooking demonstrations, consumer cooking, and wine classes are held. The Flavor Bar was the perfect place to hone our tasting skills with the Chocolate Experience, learning more about chocolate sourcing and production. After that, it was time for a meal at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. We started with the olive oil pairings from California, Spain and Italy, also available in the Flavor Bar. Next the Monterey Bay sardines with a glass of Alborino, vegetable risotto, and sweet finale dessert (small bites of the most popular sweets). I developed a love affair with food after dining here.
Solbar at the Solage Resort was our choice for dinner since it is a three-time Michelin-star recipient. The open dining room has a modern-yet-romantic ambiance. While we were pondering the menu, the kitchen brought out a colorful beet mélange with raitha, pistachio, garam masala chicories, and citrus; and Nantucket Bay scallops with salt-roasted fennel, smoked potatoes, sunchokes, Meyer lemon, and piquillo peppers. The food was exceptional and almost too beautiful to eat. For our meal, we chose the treviso and baby escarole salad served with a giant sourdough crouton and the Petrale Sole with globe artichoke, leeks, Delta crayfish, and blood orange sabayon. The meal was remarkable, servers were attentive, and the overall dining experience was fabulous. The Spa at Solage has won numerous awards and worth a visit, read about the spa at Solage Resort.
After a leisurely breakfast in bed, it was time for a Wine Sensory Experience at W.H. Smith Wines. The two-hour tasting is designed to help develop the ability to discover smells and flavors. Each of the exercises involves smelling or tasting many of the aromas that are found in wine. The blind tastings are designed to help develop a memory bank of smells that can aid in detecting flavors during wine tasting. It certainly enabled me to develop a stronger sense of smell and identification of the nuances of wine.
Since we enjoyed our stay in the Cuvaison Artist Cottage, it only made sense to visit the winery on the route home. Cuvaison has two tasting rooms, one in Calistoga and one in the Carneros region. Their location in Calistoga has a picnic grove with tables which they encourage use of with a purchase of their wine. During spring and summer they are happy to provide a special box lunch in a picnic basket with an advance reservation. Their reds are luscious and velvety, and we could easily spend the afternoon enjoying a bottle at one of the outdoor tables. After a stroll around their beautiful grounds, it was time to leave the wine country. For more information click here.
Mission Accomplished: Although our romantic wine country adventure was coming to an end it was time to look forward to the return journey in the gleaming black Jaguar XJ sedan.