Sippin’ on Memories

We returned from our most recent trip to wine country a little over a week ago, on a flight so badly delayed that we got home at 3:30AM. We had spent the previous week in Yountville, Santa Rosa, San Francisco, and Calistoga, and as much as I love being out there, Zooey’s little hand clutching mine to wake me up at 6AM the next morning was better than any wine I’ve ever had.

A look at some of our favorite wines from this trip.

Everybody does wine country a little differently in my experience. I’m a bit of a zealot, and have visited as many as nine wineries in a day. My wife asked me to “tone it down” a bit this time around, which seemed reasonable enough. To give you some sense of our trip and what all it entailed, I’m including the rough itinerary below:

Napa, Sonoma, & San Francisco

Friday, July 30 (Lodging: Silverado)

9:48AM Depart OMA for DIA (UA1030)

10:30AM Land at DIA

11:19AM Depart for SFO (UA1561)

12:55PM Land at SFO

            3:30PM Tasting at Silverado

            5:30PM Tasting at AXR

            7:00PM Dinner at CIA

Saturday, July 31 (Lodging: Silverado)

            5:00AM Climb Mt St Helena (5.5 hours)

            12:00PM Lunch at La Calenda

            1:30PM Spring Mountain Vineyard

            3:30PM Sutter Home (no appointment—buy shippers)

            4:00PM Louis Martini

5:30PM Cook dinner

Sunday, August 1 (Lodging: Hotel La Rose)

            8:30AM Kayaking tour with Enjoy Napa Valley

            11:00AM Brunch with J&C at Brix

            2:00PM Tasting at Ridge Vineyards in Lytton Springs (charcuterie plate)

            4:00PM Tasting at J Vineyards

            6:00PM Happy Hour at The Villa

            6:30PM Reservation at The Villa in Santa Rosa

Monday, August 2 (Lodging: Hotel La Rose)

8:30AM Breakfast at Sebastopol Sunshine Café 124 S. Main St.

9:30AM Visit Meadowcroft Winery

11:30PM Mayo Winery tasting and picnic

1:30PM Tasting at Matanzas Creek

3:30PM Tasting at Red Car

5:00PM Bodega Bay dinner Lucas Wharf or Fisheterian Fish Market (no reservations)

7:00PM Doran Park: wine and sunset (sunset is around 8:30)

rTuesday, August 3 Happy Birthday B! (Lodging: Hotel Zetta)

8:00AM Depart Santa Rosa. Breakfast pastries and coffee at hotel

9:30AM Park Car at Hotel Zetta & Leave Luggage/Wine at Hotel

10:00AM Take muni f line down Market St to Ferry Building

10:20AM Walk from Ferry Building to Pier 39/Fisherman’s Warf

11:30AM Lunch – Fog Harbor Fish House

1:00PM Walk to and tour Ghirardelli Square

1:30PM Cable car from Ghirardelli Square (Hyde-Beach cable car to Lombard St) Uber to Rothy’s

1:45PM Lombard St (Walk down to bottom)

2:00PM Uber to The Castro (20min drive) Pink Triangle Park/Castro Theater

2:40 Uber to Castro

3:00PM GLBT Historical Society Museum

4:00PM Walk to Mission Delores Park

5:00PM Uber to Hotel for Check-in  

6:05PM Walk to cocktail lounge

6:15PM RESERVATION – Charmaine’s Rooftop Lounge for drinks

7:45PM Walk to dinner

8:00PM RESERVATION – Dinner – 54 Mint

9:30PM Uber to Smuggler’s Cove  

Wednesday, August 4 (Lodging: UpValley Inn)

            8:00AM Walk to brunch and pass Painted Ladies

9:00AM Brunch at Brenda’s Meat & Three

10:30AM Check out of Hotel Zetta

10:45AM Depart for Napa

            12:00PM Visit Church Vineyard

            2:00PM Tasting at Vermeil

4:00PM Tasting at Larkmeade

            5:00PM Check into Hotel

            6:15PM Dinner Longmeadow Ranch

Thursday, August 5 Happy Birthday Sonja! (Lodging: UpValley Inn)

            Spa morning anyone?

11:45AM Mumm sparkling tasting

            1:30AM IL Pranzo luncheon at Round Pond

            4:00PM Smith-Madrone

            7:15PM Dinner at Bouchon Bistro

Friday, August 6

9:36AM Castello di Amorosa

11:30AM Beaulieu

1:00PM Lunch at Ad Hoc

4:30PM Depart SFO for DIA (UA2031)

8:01PM Land at DIA

9:00PM Depart DIA for OMA (UA5259)

11:33PM Land in OMA

One of the shippers we purchased at Sutter Home

As you can see, even though I toned it down, we still kept fairly busy. So on Friday, we had our travel companions/neighbors over to unpack the bottles we purchased. Collectively, the four of use limited ourselves to one or two bottles per winery, then split the cost. We stored them in a special place in the cellar and plan to drink them together. A lot of the bold Napa Cabs and Merlots we bought will be perfect when Nebraska’s moderate fall transforms into Nebraska’s harsh winter. It’s nice to have some great wine to look forward to.

Once we finished unpacking, which I should add was done with a lovely flute of pet nat in our hands, we carefully selected a bottle that was tied to a favorite memory from the trip, decanted it, and enjoyed it at the table in our wine cellar.

AXR Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.

The bottle we chose was an AXR Cabernet Sauvignon 2015. We had a phenomenal time visiting AXR on our first night in Napa. Our host, Richie, is a truly delightful human being, and the property is just gorgeous, as are the wines which are crafted by one of my favorite winemakers of all time, Jean Hoefliger. The power was out in and around St. Helena that night, but the natural light streaming in through the east-facing windows of the historic building created a nice ambiance. We toured the property, admired the massive stand of redwoods in the back, and learned as we were leaving that the Cullinary Institute of America where we had reservations had closed that night for lack of power. No matter; we found a Mexican restaurant in St. Helena, ordered burritos and quesedillas, and pigged out. This Cabernet, balanced and slightly lean, flavorful and complex, brought back so many memories of the trip, and spawned reminiscences and conversation that lasted well into the night.

As I write, I’m reminded that there are countless wines available in the world, and many of them are genuinely very good. Often, what matters as much as the quality of the wine is the connection that one feels to it, the memories of the first time you had it, who you were with, what you were doing. I know that Napa and Sonoma are only two out of hundreds of AVA’s and wine regions in the world, yet they are uniquely special to me because Sonja and I honeymooned there years ago, and their singular importance in my life is reinforced every time we return, this past time with great friends, to make new memories. These days, it takes quite a lot of self restraint on my part not to move to Napa. Hopefully, we continue to return often enough that I can keep that urge at bay, and continue sippin’ on memories with my wife and friends here in Nebraska.



Please, no photographs.

2 responses to “Sippin’ on Memories

  1. “…and as much as I love being out there, Zooey’s little hand clutching mine to wake me up at 6AM the next morning was better than any wine I’ve ever had.”
    Sounds like you had a really great trip. But, you may want to put this part on a plaque. 😉😉

    Liked by 1 person

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