Thursday, September 20, 2012

Napa Vacation. Part 3.

This was the highlight of our trip... On our last full day in Napa, we hired a driver for the day. What a GREAT choice! I highly recommend doing that at least one day while you are in Napa! My dad and I did a lot of research into which company we wanted to hire. We wanted one with a great reputation, but we didn't want one of the bigger, more commercial limo companies. He and I agreed we wanted to go with a smaller company so we could get a more boutique and personal experience. TripAdvisor helped us out A LOT! (not only in finding a driver but for many other aspects of our trip) We found a name that kept popping up and had amazing reviews: Napa Valley Wine Excursions.  Paul Bailey, a Napa native, started his own company to give people 5-star service and share his first-hand knowledge of the Napa Valley. He has many strong relationships with some of the most exclusive wineries in Napa, which we were lucky to experience a few because of those relationships! He was kind, funny, extremely helpful, and we enjoyed having him as company the entire day. Bonus: He's also a photographer and took pictures of us the entire day. A couple of weeks later, he emailed us beautiful, edited pictures of our fun day. No other car/limo service offered that! Call Paul Bailey at Napa Valley Wine Excursions first when you're planning your Napa vacation!

See his TripAdvisor reviews here.
Website here. Facebook here.

Paul and I worked closely to plan the perfect day in Napa. We wanted to visit a couple places we had heard great things about, but Paul really wanted to plan a few stops himself. He told me we wouldn't want us to miss these hidden gems he knew about but weren't on the typical tourist's wine route. SOLD! I am so glad we listened to him, as his picks were among our favorites of the trip! Paul picked us up from our hotel (Which I HIGHLY recommend and will write about more later) and we began our day at Cakebread...

Dolores Cakebread has beautiful gardens on the grounds! We decided it was a photo-op. Naturally.

We were there during bottling, and these are all the empty boxes waiting to be filled with wine.

In one of the tasting rooms, the entire ceiling was covered with Cakebread corks...except for 2 loners. Our guide said there were around 20,000 corks up there!

Next, was our favorite stop of the trip. Not only for the wine, but because of the incredible experience we had tasting and learning about it. Caspar Estate is a perfect example of what Napa wineries should be about: intimate knowledge of wines, one-on-one tasting experience, and take-your-breath-away views. Caspar had all of these in spades! Take a look....

We got out of the car and walked up to this... Every one of us gasped at the view! 

It was a panoramic view of the entire Napa Valley from the top of a mountain!

Here's the setup that we had all to ourselves for a private tasting!

Caspar isn't "open" to the public, so you can only do private tastings upon appointment. Thanks to our driver, Paul Bailey, we got to experience a wine tasting like never before!

Our incredible setup: 2008 and 2009 Caspar Cabernet, cheese from the local area (including Cowgirl Creamery that we LOVED), and olives, honey, and olive oil that are made right there on the Caspar grounds! Talk about impressed...we wanted to buy everything right then and there! 

That honey was to die for! Well...everything was. The three of us (parents, brother, and me) joined the wine/food club. Can't wait until October when the shipment comes! 

Getting the VIP treatment was such an unforgettable experience... especially with THAT view!

An informal history of Caspar Estate & great info about the grounds and wine from one of the owners.
Photo courtesy of our driver, Paul Bailey

Definitely our favorite stop of the whole trip!
Glad Paul worked with us and knew we wanted small, boutique wineries and experiences or otherwise we would have never found this hidden (wine) oasis! 

Next stop was Frank Family Vineyards. My bff, Ashley, raved about this place and made sure it was on my list of wineries to visit. She and her husband loved the red wines from there, and since we're a red loving family, I knew this was a place we must visit. (Thanks Ash!) We were all SO glad we did! We absolutely loved the wines, and the guy who gave us our tasting was so funny and interacted with us the whole time! 
If you go, ask for Dennis (who I hear is incredible and hilarious) or Vince (the guy we had). 

Having an absolute BLAST at Frank Family Vineyards!

Y' CUTE is my "little" brother?

Another recommendation from our driver was Salvestrin Winery. We had a private outdoor tasting with Joy, who was quite literally a joy to be around! She had the most outgoing, kind personality!

Their Estate Cab and Estate Petite Sirah were our favorites! 
Request Joy if you go! She will make your day :)

We still weren't tipsy had some steam left, so Paul asked us if we wanted to try and squeeze one more tasting in at another off-the-beaten path, appointment-only winery. Let's be honest... we all said YES!
He called a friend who worked at The Terraces at Quarry Vineyards. The friend told him to bring it on, so we left for our last winery - once again - feeling impressed at how well Paul reads his clients and knows his stuff. Little did we know that we would end our trip on such a fun note....

We walked in to see this....the tasting room....

Eclectic artwork and furniture from local artists in Napa & San Francisco....

The room was decorated around this red wine barrel with lucite, done by an artist in SF.
   We knew this tasting would be fun! The owner had just walked in after being on the tractor, about to give an interview with a PBR in hand. (that says it all, right?!) We were tasting, joking, and laughing so loud, the owner stopped the interview and came over to meet us - and of course, drink some wine with us! We ended up listening to music, dancing a little, and learning a lot about the down-to-earth vineyard owner. These were the most affordable wines we came across the whole trip, too. Not only were they affordable, they were amazing wines made by great people. Who doesn't want those qualities - and memories - attached to the wine they drink? We certainly did!

None of us are white wine lovers, but we all ended up loving their Chenin Blanc! Another fave was their Zin & Cab Franc! Check them out here

Enjoying ourselves immensely. Obviously.
They also make balsamic vinegar (the real way) on the property!
Ask for Tim, the owner, when you go. You'll leave there dancing - and not because of the wine ;)
Our last night, we had dinner at Mustards Grill, another one of Cindy Pawlcyn's restaurants. We loved it so much! The pork chop came highly recommended by - literally - everyone so naturally I got that. So so good!!! Definitely put this on your Napa restaurants list!

That concludes our Napa trip! (Here is Part 1 and Part 2) 
Hope you enjoyed reading about it and the commentary I had on the places we visited. Please comment and let me know your favorite wineries and restaurants. I plan on taking my little honey back there soon so he can experience it like I did! Below is a guide I made when we were planning our Napa trip. I put several hours into this, so I wanted to share it with you guys. It breaks up Napa into small towns/areas and what's in each place, i.e. wineries, shops, and restaurants. That way, I felt I could know my options in each area and plan accordingly. I didn't want to drive to one end of Napa, only to have a tasting appointment at the other end right after. These are places that I went or came highly recommended to me by friends and/or locals. (**denotes places we loved!)

Napa/Downtown Napa:
-Winery Tasting Rooms
-Oxbow Public Market (go here to try Ritual Coffee Roasters!)
-Domaine Carneros (Boon Fly Cafe is near here)**
-Also near Domaine Carneros: Scribe Winery** and Ram's Gate Winery** and Artesa
-Del Dotto**
In south Napa, there's a great produce stand called "D&S Produce." on the corner of Stanley Lane and Hwy 121/12. 
Napa Thrift stores: Community Projects (downtown Napa) and Goodwill on Imola

-Stags Leap
-Robert Sinskey
*Ma(i)sonary Art Gallery & Winery
-Paraduxx (Duckhorn's sister winery)
-Pine Ridge
Yountville deli (lunch option)
-Girard Winery
-Jessup Cellars
-James Cole
Redd*** heard great things about!

Big Ranch Road: 
-Biale (Great Zin; known for their "Black Chicken" wine)

-Silver Oak
-Miner** amazing; ask for Scott and do cave tour & tasting
Mustards Grille is near here. 
Lunch option: Oakville Grocery

-Conn Creek
-Rutherford Hills
-Elizabeth Spencer
-St. Suprey
-Sequoia Grove
-Alpha Omega
***The Terraces (we LOVED this!)
**Caspar Estates (located on the Mayacama Mtns) AMAZING experience with great views, great cheeses, and they make their own honey and olive oil
Rutherford Grill (restaurant)

St. Helena:
-Heitz Cellars
-Joseph Phelps
-Freemark Abbey
-Orin Swift
Gott's Roadside & La Condesa near here for lunch/dinner.
*St. Helena Olive Oil & another olive oil store is "Olivier" which we loved!
Goose and Gander
-Market Burger
-Cook (great chocolate cake here)

Diamond Mtn/Calistoga:
-Frank Family** great wines & ask for Vince or Dennis
-Chateau Montelena
-Cafe Sarafornia is here, for breakfast!

Howell Mtn:


  1. Lindsay!! How've you been girl?! Your blog popped up on my reading list and I can't believe I lost touch with you and your blog, girl! Awesome photos!! You look great! Hope all is well!


  2. I officially want your life. It sounds like you had a BLAST!
    xo Josie

  3. ah so jealous! thanks for sharing your pics & picks!

    xoxo Shauna

  4. i love napa and haven't been in a few years - i'm bookmarking this post so i have these suggestions handy!