Napa Trip – Day Four – Letting My Inner 6 Year Old Out, Free Beer & Trash Talkin’

Yes. 6 year old.

Why?????

Because we went to the Jelly Belly factory!!!!!

The Jelly Belly Bug!!!

The Jelly Belly factory, about 20 minutes south of Napa in Fairfield, is free. And it’s a lot of fun. The day we were there, they were making something orange-y, because the smell of orange permeated the tour. Which was fine by me! We got to taste a Jelly Belly through the various stages of development, which was interesting. You never think about how complex something as small as a Jelly Belly can be until you taste it through each stage of development.

Did you know that the “imperfect” Jelly Bellies are bagged and sold exclusively at the Jelly Belly factory stores? They are called…wait for it…

BELLY FLOPS!

Unfortunately, the Jelly Belly tour doesn’t like you to take pictures, but it’s a definite recommendation…even if you go to wine country without munchkins!! Especially if you start or end the Jelly Belly Adventure with the next stop…

Bud. Weis. Er.

Oh yes. Right next to the Jelly Belly factory sits the Budweiser plant in Fairfield. And if you like beer, well, let me tell you something.

Free 10 oz. pour. Your pick of what they have.

6 tastings AFTER your free 10 oz. pour.

What’s not to love????

So for my free 10 oz. pour, I chose the Shock Top Raspberry Wheat. I am really hoping to be able to find this in my local stores because…damn, it’s good. It’s fruity and hoppy and…well, everything a good wheat beer should be!

While this won’t ever beat a Portland beer, in my not-so-humble opinion, this probably gives the best mass-produced idea of a Portland beer without actually getting Portland beer…

I can’t remember what all we tasted in our six samplers, but I do remember three:

Stella Artois – this surprised me at how delicious it was…very light, but still crisp and packed a wallop.

Michelob Ultra Lime Cactus – Lime Cactus you say? YES! Lime Cactus. Just try it. It’d be good when you’re out back grilling on a warm summer day.

Michelob Amber Bock – I’m not a huge fan of dark beer, but…OMG. This was good.

So after getting our fill of beer and learning about the history of Anheuser-Busch, we started our tour…which was, yes, FREE!

Fermentation Tanks at the Bud Plant

So after filling our morning with Jelly Bellies and Budweiser, we decided to head up to Yountville and to Domaine Chandon.

Entrance to Domaine Chandon

This is where the trash talkin’ comes to play. Our server, Brian, is a transplant. From Washington. Which was cool.

Until he said the three most dreaded words I could hear.

“I’m a Husky.”

Now, to be fair, I have some good friends and an Uncle who are Huskies…but that doesn’t mean I can’t hate on the school and the mascot every once in a while. 😉 See, I bleed Crimson. As in, Washington State University Crimson.

Trash talking…it’s bound to happen. Even when WSU is blowing chunks, I still love my Cougs and won’t root for the Huskies.

ANYWAY! After getting our little trash talking session out of the way, we got to taste through a spectacular portfolio of Domaine Chandon Bubblies. The Prestige Cuvee tasting for me and the Classic tasting for my mom and cousin.

The Prestige Cuvee tasting takes you on a journey of Chandon’s highest end Sparkling Wines: The etoile Brut and Rose and the Tete de Cuvee.

The etoile Brut and Rose are both solid. Very beautiful wines, with lovely bouquets, lots of fine bubbles and just very pretty in the glass.

etoile Brut

The etoile Brut is reminiscent of the holidays. Apple pie. Cinnamon. A hint of caramel. Oh. So. Yummy. It’d be very hard to resist tasting this. And believe me, it’s taking all the willpower I have to not open the bottle of this I have sitting in my garage.

etoile Rose

Sorry for the crappy pic quality…he blocked my natural light!!!!!!!!!!!

The etoile Rose…ahhhh…summer. When will you come?

That’s seriously what I think of. Summer. This has lots of raspberry throughout…love love love this. I talked myself out of buying it at the winery…and found it at Safeway for half the price!!

Again, I’m having a hard time not wanting to pop this bottle open one night.

Tete de Cuvee

There are no words to express the Tete de Cuvee except…well, the text I sent my best friend probably summed my experience up the best.

“Help me justify buying a $100 bottle of sparkling wine that damn near gave me an orgasm.”

This was eyes-roll-to-the-back-of-the-head, out of this world amazing. It was like walking into your house, smelling the apple pie that’s cooling in the window, eating a couple of fresh cherries followed by a chocolate-chip-and-walnut cookie. While the combination sounds crazy, it WORKS.

After getting our fill of Sparkling Wine, we forgot to turn onto Hwy. 29 (ooops)…but decided we were hungry. So we went into Yountville and explored a little bit.

We fell in love with Bouchon Bakery. The macarons…my mouth waters at the mere thought of those delicious cookies. But we didn’t get lunch there…we just got snacks there. 😉

For lunch, we went across the street to the Pacific Blues Cafe. I had the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich. My cousin had the “Chef’s Special” Pasta, which was like a Pasta Alfredo with Broccoli and Chicken and Mom had the Grilled Organic Chicken Breast. All of which were soooo good. We decided that Pacific Blues was definitely a must-stop the next time we’re there.

Pacific Blues Cafe sign

After Yountville, we made the trek over to Sonoma for a bit.

Why?

Well, I am a big, big fan of Michael Sebastiani’s work at Cathedral Ridge Winery in Hood River, OR (in fact, Cathedral’s 2007 Bordheauxd Red is gracing my glass as I type). When I was leaving their tasting room one day, I saw a small sign saying “Visit Michael’s other winery in Sonoma, CA” (or something to that effect), so I made a mental note of it.

Directly across from the SE corner of Sonoma Plaza, you’ll find a small, unassuming shop that reminds you of an old-fashioned dry goods store. But it’s more than sundries and knick-knacks. The sundries and knick-knacks share space with the Highway 12 Tasting Room.

Highway 12 Winery
.

How were the wines? Spectacular, of course! I loved the Sauvignon Blanc and the 2008 Napa Chardonnay (which is now sold out). The Mission Hardware Old Sonoma Red Blend is amazing, too (and it’s currently a steal at $7.25/bottle on their website).

After spending time at Highway 12, we found our way to Charles Creek
, which is on the opposite side of Sonoma Plaza.

Why Charles Creek? I had to see their cow made entirely of wine corks, Ms. Moo-lot.

Ms. Moo-lot

The wines were pretty good. I was more impressed with Highway 12 than I was Charles Creek, though…but it wasn’t the wines. It was the personality of the person behind the bar. She asked where we had been and when we told her, she used it as an opportunity to vent about her experiences at some of the wineries we had visited. Yeah…thanks, but no thanks, ma’am. I don’t want to hear about your negative experiences when I had a positive one.

All in all, this was a good day. Free beer, free Jelly Bellies, good food, good wine and some good-natured trash-talkin’ always makes the soul happy!

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