Not quite ready to bid adieu to the heat, we followed the birds lead and headed south. We hadn’t planned this getaway, but when given the opportunity for a few kid-free days; our first thoughts whisked Brian and me to Napa: Yountville to be exact. The vision of nibbling on cheese paired with some of the world’s best wine, all while basking under the autumn California sun on a rooftop terrace; it warmed us into limp relaxation just thinking about it.
Brian and I first discovered this gem of a place nine years ago. In search of a chic French styled bed and breakfast – that was affordable – Maison Fleurie charmed us. With so much French character, it transported us to Provence. From the rustic décor, bundles of lavender and the provincial breakfasts; it defined blissful repose à la française.
This was our third visit as we not only loved the B&B, but also swooned over the town in which it’s located. It more recently emerged as a stylish wine tasters destination. The quaint feel and foodies’ mecca draws people worldwide. It even houses the infamous French Laundry with renowned chef Thomas Keller, but we’re saving that for another date as we do Napa on a budget – and yes, it’s possible. There are many other affordable options that mimic a typical French bistro, Italian cantina or American fine dining.
We always opt to drive. It’s easier to bring wine home and this time we had a surprise puppy to pick up for the kids, so the long hours in the car to and from Portland were worth it. The day we left was the earliest we ever wake on a day off and our only goal (other than arriving safely) was to make it to Maison Fleurie in time for their inviting happy hour.
We pulled up to our “Disneyland for grownups” and relished in the view of one of my most coveted spots. The rural brick building covered in vines, highlighted with hunter green doors and shutters, begs for couples to unwind. Although it was a warm fall day, when we ascended the steps of the cottage and opened the creaky front door, a fireplace was roaring next to a cozy spot where we could curl up with a book. We checked in, went up another flight of stairs and became reacquainted with our room. We freshened up prior to quenching our apéritif thirst. Downstairs we were found balancing two glasses of wine (each) and plates piled high of cheese, fruit and crackers, then retreated upstairs to the rooftop. With only one other couple lounging, they were settled in our seats – well, the ones we had planned to plop our rears in until sunset. However, their amiability created an enjoyable conversation and a restaurant recommendation.
We made our way to dinner shortly after and our pace was slower than usual as we were on no one’s schedule but our own. We strolled the town, delighting in the warm evening. Arriving at the recommended Ciccio, we were surprised to see it resembled a grocery market. Leave it to Yountville to transform the former general store’s interior to a casual, yet uber chic Italian joint hosting local fare, with a spot light on its wood fired pizza oven. The prices were relatively reasonable and the menu was enticing. For a weeknight, the place was packed, so clearly popular amongst travelers and locals alike.
Usually avoiding pasta for waistline reasons, we ignored diets and savored a pile of homemade noodles doused in a beautiful red sauce. We also shared an authentic pizza that obliged a trip down memory lane to a previous trip to Florence, Italy. The waiter came by mid-bite encouraging his sample offering of a globally recognized wine, which happened to be from Napa. Anticipating enrapture over the body and fruitfulness of our sip, he mentioned it was a steal at only $99 a bottle! Remember, we were doing Napa on a budget. However, when in Rome: not to say we purchased a $99 bottle, but when surrounded by the many steep prices at wineries, we splurged and were crazy enough to spend $75 for a bottle on day two of our trip! I think ten times before I spend $10 on a bottle when home, so our $75 purchase was clearly the aftermath of our heads swilled after a day’s worth of tastings. C’est la vie.
A strong start to our tranquil travels, we could hardly wait for the next three days.
Stay tuned for more on Napa…