Jake and I have been dreaming about a trip out to wine country for years. Then I was pregnant for a good four years straight. No one wants to be preggo in Napa. So this year, we finally made it happen. We both turned 30, so it seemed like the perfect reason to get away. That, and we NEEDED time together. We can so easily slip into roommate mode if we don’t spend intentional time without the kids, so we try to take a trip just the two of us every six months or so, just to remind ourselves that we really do like each other, despite how crazy life is with four littles!
When we started thinking about where we wanted to go in wine country, I immediately thought of my friend, Emily, who has lived out there with her husband, Cody, for the last five years. (You can follow her awesome life on Instagram: @egrasmussen.) I reached out to her and asked which spots she’d recommend. She went above and beyond, and created a day by day itinerary for us, complete with reservations at some of the best wineries and restaurants in the area. We didn’t have to think about a THING, except showing up and sipping on wine. Perfection.
Where We Went
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
We flew into San Francisco on a Wednesday, and stayed there for a night to check out the city. We’d never been, so we did all the touristy things, like riding a cable car, going down to Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Golden Gate bridge. We stayed at Parc 55 which was beautiful, and right in the heart of downtown San Fran, a quick walk to shopping and awesome restaurants. I LOVED San Fran, and would totally go back for a weekend getaway there and check it out more.
We took the cable car from our hotel to Fisherman’s Wharf and had dinner at Scoma’s, which was like taking a step back in time, since they had their what seemed like their original decor, yet it was still super classy. I had something off their market fresh selection, which I thought was a no-brainer, because you actually see the shack where they clean the fish straight from the sea on the way in!
Thursday, April 28, 2016
On Thursday morning, we woke up, got a solid workout in, had a delicious breakfast at the hotel (the buffet was INCREDIBLE), and got in our rental car to drive out to Napa.
Our first appointment was at 11am at Domaine Carneros. Based in the Carneros wine region, Domaine Carneros specializes in sparkling wines made in the traditional traditional méthode champenoise. Their stunning 18th century château-style building, completed in 1989, was architecturally inspired by the historic Château de la Marquetterie owned by Champagne Taittinger in Riems, France. It was drop dead GORGEOUS, by far the most beautiful building we visited during our trip. We went on the Art of Sparkling Wine tour which is available daily at 11am, 1pm, 3pm daily. I liked starting there in the morning, I thought it was a perfect way to start the day before getting to the red wines. They also have a program called the Sparkling Suite which we’ve heard is one of the most romantic experiences in wine country. I think we’ll have to check that out next time we’re in the area.
Our tour guide, Neil, was incredibly knowledgeable and showed us the entire process of how the wine was made. I think this was my favorite tour, since they really went in depth about the entire process. I learned a lot!
After that we headed to Pride Winery, which was recommended to us by one of the doctors Jake works with. Wow, this place was GORGEOUS. It was a super windy trip up to the top of the mountain where this winery sits, and it was well worth the adventure.
This was taken in a private wine room that’s hosted several celebrities. Absolutely beautiful.
Everything about Pride was spectacular. If I had to choose some highlights, it would be the wine (so good and served at top steakhouses across the U.S.), the amazing caves we got to walk through which store their wine between 50 – 60 degrees, and our tour guide, Jay. He’s been working there for 7 years, and is actually one of their newest employees. Pride employees are like family, and it’s a very desirable place to work. Jay was INCREDIBLY knowledgeable, and had a personality that made the tour a lot of fun. If you head there, be sure to ask for Jay!
After Pride we headed to Napa to find our hotel. Jake travels quite a bit for work, so he had lots of Hilton Honors points which helps us greatly to be able to make trips together happen frequently. We stayed at the Embassy Suites in Napa, which to be honest, was one of the prettiest hotels I’ve ever stayed at, and we’ve stayed at some pretty stellar hotels. I know there are lots of ritzy places to stay in wine country, but we will definitely be going back here again.
On Thursday night, we went to downtown Napa and watched NFL draft at a sports bar before heading to Ristorante Allegria, and devoured some pasta. We didn’t eat enough that day, and needed to carb load a little. 😉
Friday, April 29th, 2016
On Friday morning, we woke up, worked out at the hotel, and ate a quick light breakfast. Then we headed into downtown Yountville, which is seriously the cutest place EVER. Emily suggested Bouchon Bakery, which I’m forever grateful for. The pastries were amazing, along with the coffee. We ended up going back a second time before we left because it was that good. If you go and see a line, don’t let that scare you off. It moves quickly, and is WELL worth the wait.
After that we met Emily at Merryvale Winery. The family-owned St. Helena winery is one of the most historic and significant wineries located in the Napa Valley. As the first winery built in the valley after Prohibition, it has some amazing historical features, like the cask room, where our private tasting took place INSIDE a giant tank where they stored wine back in the day.
Our favorite wine here was called Profile whose label shows the profiles of the proprietors, Rene and Laurence Schlatter.
When we were at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse last weekend, we noticed they offer Merryvale cabernet on their wine list. I highly recommend it next time you’re there!
We also stopped by one of Merryvale’s sister property the day before, called Starmont Vineyard & Winery which was a more laid back atmosphere that even has a kids and pets eat free program which I thought was really unique!
After Merryvale, Emily took us to lunch at Farmstead which was incredible. It was all farm fresh organic, and all the food is made on their ranch right there in wine country. I highly recommend going there when you’re in the area!
On Friday night, we ate at Glen Ellen Star, and it’s a good thing Emily called and got us a reservation ahead of time or we wouldn’t have gotten in. This restaurant was the most adorable thing, with a rustic contemporary feel, and food that I never wanted to end.
These brussel sprouts and this bread. Swoon.
It just so happened to be Emily’s birthday that day, so we she and Cody had a reservation the same night, so we got to see them in passing as we left. They’re good friends with the kitchen staff. 😉
Saturday, April 30th, 2016 (JAKE’S 30th BIRTHDAY!)
On Saturday morning we got a workout in at the hotel, and headed out to Sonoma for the day! We landed at the Sonoma Plaza. It was an adorable area where you can walk (key word) from tasting room to tasting room trying out the best wines in the country. We started at Pangloss Cellars and loved our tasting so much that we brought home a bunch of bottles to enjoy later.
Then we headed over to lunch at Girl + the Fig. Again, such a good choice by Emily. Definitely recommend a reservation at this one too!
After that we walked around and shopped a bit, popped into a couple other tasting rooms, and headed back to the hotel to freshen up. We opted to take an Uber to dinner and ended up over at Redd Wood, then got a ride back and shared a bottle of the wine we purchased at Pride Winery outside by one of the many fire pits our hotel had.
Sunday May 1st, 2016
This was our last and final day in Napa. We started the day at Bouchon Bakery again, and before we headed back to San Fran, we stopped at Sterling Winery & Vineyard. The highlight was taking a gondola ride to the top of the mountain where the tour was. This tour was unlike any of the other tours because it was a HUGE place. The scenery was gorgeous, but I don’t know that we’d go back again. We tend to prefer a smaller more intimate experience!
We drove back to San Fran, flew to Omaha, then drove up to my parent’s farm where our kids stayed. We rolled in around 2am, and peaked in at our sleeping angels. It was amazing to have a weekend away, but just as amazing to be back with our sweeties again!
If you head out to the area, please let me know your favorite spots! We’re already dreaming about our next trip out there, and would love any and all recommendations you have!
I share many more “real life” mom moments on Facebook, Instagram, and Periscope. I’d love for you to follow along on our crazy, not perfect, incredible journey. Follow me on Instagram: (@ambermkuiper), Facebook (Mommy’s Me Time), Periscope (@AmberMKuiper), and Snapchat: amberkuiper