Napa Trip – Day Two – THIS is your idea of a “60% Chance of Rain”???

So after arriving in Napa, we ate at the restaurant next to our hotel (Red Hen Cantina…best freakin’ margaritas I’ve EVER had) and basically crashed for the rest of the night.

Monday came…and as I mentioned in the Day One post, I’m a huge racing fan. So of course, I had to visit Mario Andretti’s winery.

The fountain just inside the entrance to Andretti Winery

Walking through the gates, you enter a courtyard and go on to the tasting room. When we were there on Monday, it was slow, but that was okay. I hate busy, crowded tasting rooms…no matter what time of the day or what day of the week. There’s just something about being squished between the wall and the tasting bar that ruins the experience for me (true story…).

We got to select our four wines. My best friend is a Riesling lover, and so when I saw a Riesling on the tasting menu, I decided that the Riesling would be the very first wine I tasted in California. And I didn’t regret it. It was a dryer (drier??? I always got confused with that in school…) Riesling, but still had a fair amount of sweetness. I loved it so much that I knew my best friend would love it as well (she trusts my tastebuds enough to speak for hers), so I ended up buying her a bottle. I can’t wait to relax at her house on a spring or summer evening with some chicken and steaks on the grill and this in my glass!!!

My other absolute favorite at Andretti was the 2008 North Coast Pinot Noir. Now, I live about an hour (give or take) from the heart of Oregon’s Pinot Noir Country, so, needless to say, I’ve indulged on my fair share of Oregon Pinot’s. I’ve NEVER come across on like this. This is a complete 180 of all the Oregon Pinots that I’ve had. Lots of luscious, juicy cherry & sweet, dark berry notes, very little “Pinot Noir Funk”. This one, I can’t wait to enjoy with…hell, I don’t know. But I do know that whatever I pair this with, I’m going to enjoy it!

After Andretti, our next stop was BUBBLY!

Disclaimer: I love bubbles of all kinds. Whether it be blowing bubbles with my 6 year old niece (and then popping them just to get a reaction out of her…heehee), blowing bubble gum bubbles, drinking sparkling wine, driving my bubble-looking car…I don’t discriminate when it comes to my bubble-love.

We made our way to Domaine Carneros. I had heard some great things about Domaine Carneros and was excited to go there.

Domaine Carneros

As we were walking up to the staircase, I immediately thought of the first college I attended, St. Martin’s University in Lacey, WA. St. Martin’s is situated on a hill and has a grand staircase very similar to the one at Domaine Carneros. Except the Grand Staircase at St. Martin’s is MUCH steeper.

ANYWHO! Domaine Carneros is the American venture of France’s Taittinger Champagne, if you didn’t already know. Our server at Carneros was named Al and he was so full of information! From showing us how to PROPERLY open a bottle of champagne (I still haven’t perfected it…I still get a big pop when I open a bottle, instead of a gentle one) to just his knowledge of the wines being served, it was first-class all the way!

All three of us went the same route…the sparkling wine sampler. We also got the Sparkling Cheese Plate and the Pastry Plate. Sadly, I do not not have a pic of the Sparkling Cheese Plate, but trust me, it was tasty!!

Pastry Plate...we had already devoured one by the time we decided to take a picture.
Our bubblies...from l to r - 2006 Brut, 2007 Brut Rose and 2006 Vermeil

All of these were eyes-roll-to-the-back-of-the-head delicious. We walked out with a bottle of each from our tasting, the Vermeil for my cousin, the Rose to give my grandmother as a gift and the Brut went to a good friend who was celebrating her 21st birthday on the day I was at Domaine Carneros (I told her I’d bring her back something awesome for her birthday…admit it, wouldn’t you want someone to love you so much they gave you a bottle of good bubbly for your 21st birthday!?!?).

After spending waaaaaay too much money (ooopsie) at Domaine Carneros, we made our way up to the The Hess Collection. This wasn’t so much for the wines, but for the art collection they have there.

My favorite pic from Hess...their reflecting pond and building

Now, my idea of art must be totally different than their curator’s idea of art, because…well, a hall that looks like it has big, huge piles of what looks like petrified cow $#!* down it isn’t my idea of art!!!!! For the record, I was raised on a farm and we had our own beef cattle, so I know what petrified (and fresh) cow $#!* looks like.

Besides the Hall of $#!*, The Hess Collection has a really freakin’ cool burning typewriter. According to one of the employees, it’s scary to turn on in the morning (I believe that), but it is definitely a unique attraction.

What I tasted at Hess…it was meh. I didn’t fall in love with it, but I didn’t hate it, either. I was impressed, though, with their Small Block Syrah Rose. I bought that at the winery and bought a bottle of their green-labeled Chardonnay at Safeway (it was much cheaper at Safeway than at the winery).

After Hess, we went down the road a little bit to Hendry. I heard about Hendry at a frequent-traveler message board I go to and everyone who had been there gave it rave reviews…and I can see why! Great wines and great tour!

Our tour was led by George Hendry and he gave us a thorough history of the property, starting with his family’s background and how they originally had a little bit of everything on the property.

Vines at Hendry

After our tour, we got to sit down for a formal tasting of everything on Hendry’s menu. Yes. Everything! Now, unfortunately, I have misplaced the piece of paper that I wrote my notes on (with my luck lately, it got tossed into the trash), but I do remember a lot.

We started with a side-by-side tasting of the Pinot Gris and Albarino (sorry, I don’t know how to make the cool little accent marks…) both of which were good, but they didn’t stand out as “I NEED these!”

We went on to the Unoaked Chardonnay and the Oaked…err, I mean Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. Now, I’m a slut for Unoaked Chardonnay, so of course I was intrigued!

Unoaked Chardonnay (left) and Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (right)

The Unoaked Chardonnay was heaven for me…beautiful, lots of fruit and they really let the fruit’s character shine through on this one. That’s not saying that the Barrel Fermented wasn’t good, because it was, but my preference lies with the Unoaked Chardonnay.

We skipped around after that, with the Rose & Cabernet being the last pairing. Why??? George wanted to show what the difference was in the body of wines and what tannins do to your palate.

From the remaining tastings, the Pinot Noir really stood out. I like to compare the Pinot Noir to Archery Summit‘s $85 bottles of Oregon Pinot (take your pick on which one, because to me, all of Archery’s $85 stuff tastes the same). When I told George that, he got this little satisfied smile on his face. His is over half the price of Archery’s.

We ended the day with In-N-Out. All of our friends from California told us that we needed to go there. So we did.

In-N-Out, Napa

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut, sorry In-N-Out lovers, this NW girl still loves her BurgerVille.

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