Without an alarm, our wake up call was the aroma of homemade quiche wafting throughout the guesthouse and luring us out of bed. It gave us our boost for a brisk morning run to soak up the sun against the rolling, sunburnt California hills. Only a couple blocks from the B&B was a bike rental shop. As we brought our own (another way to keep on budget), we popped into the store for a free map on our way back. Choosing two loops for the first two days of tasting, we decided to start out with the shorter ride, which was 12-miles.
We planned for about three wineries a day for two reasons: it allowed us to revel in each venue and it cut down how many bottles Brian had to lug in his backpack! Before sipping on California’s fruity masterpiece, we continued our indulgent ways and channeled a typical Parisian lunch at Bouchon Bakery. We savored a baguette sandwich baked with precision, so that it crackled as we pressed it together. The inside was perfectly balanced with its softness and then delicately lined with ham and mustard, giving it that extra bite.
Although our appetite was satisfied, we were rather thirsty. Hopping on our bikes, within a few miles we arrived at Goosecross Cellars. We were some of the first visitors, opening up the patio to our choice of seats. However, before we sat down we noticed a small tour was gathering and welcomed us to join. With a sommelier and winemaker on hand, we had a genuine experience of grape to bottle. Learning about the process and passion under those corks, it naturally highlighted the depth in each drink. I’ll be honest, as much as I appreciate the art behind the production, I really applaud the final product; I struggled to sip the freshly crushed grapes. With skins and seeds floating in the vat, I knew I couldn’t ask for a sieve. Allowed to dip our glasses in, I let only a drop grace my tongue, which made my lips pucker and eyes squint from the sour taste. Clearly there was a lot of process to be had until these grapes reached a bottle I could uncork. I inconspicuously watered the surrounding plants with my premature wine.
The next hour we spent sipping on a riper vino. Ready to experience a different winery, we loaded our backpack with our newly acquired bottles and continued down the road to the next planned destination, Cliff Lede. A deliberate déjà vu, this was our second visit as it was here where we learned to appreciate chardonnay. They went against the grain in producing a typical buttery note and instead invited a crisper zest to coat our palates. Generous pours, great outdoor seats and deep conversations kept us idled until we were ready to continue exploring.
Our third and final spot was subpar due to unfriendly servers and a commercialized atmosphere. Combined with underwhelming wine, I couldn’t wait to leave. However, we overheard a bridge was closed, shutting down traffic. Worried it affected bicyclists, I panicked and told Brian we were two thirds of the way through and I couldn’t make it any further. He blankly stared at me, questioning what I suggested. The 12-mile loop turned into an 18-mile ride. Our muscles also carried the morning run, so our bodies were quite fatigued. No worries, we had a foolproof remedy.
Our touring adventures clearly warranted an indulgent happy hour and a lovely dinner at Hurley’s restaurant, then to chase that down with more wine and a soak at the B&B’s hot tub. Like being secluded in a secret garden isolated under the moon, it was our prune-like fingers that prompted our exit. Returning to our rooms sans TV, it thankfully forced us to retire early for the night.
Stay tuned for more on Napa…