21-22 September: Great hospitality in Napa Valley

Author: Mrs A

Location: Napa Valley, California

Friday: We wound our way out of Yosemite National Park and headed north to Napa Valley. We stopped at a little health food grocery and diner for brunch on our way through Merced, before winding our way across flat plains and back up into the rolling hills of Napa.

Our next port of call was the Oxbow Markets in Downtown Napa, an indoor marketplace selling quality foodstuffs, including spices, cheeses, oysters, olive oil, fresh bread and vegetables amongst others. It was all premium produce (and a premium price of course), but we couldn’t resist sourcing some goodies to take to our friends’ house.We spent an afternoon catching up with Susan, becoming acquainted with one of their cats, Olly and checking out their hummingbirds on their patio.Joe soon arrived home from work, and we caught up over some delicious drops of wine from Quintessa, the winery Joe works at. At about $150 a bottle, this was out of our budget, but very tasty.Dinner was a California speciality, a tri-tipped steak, seared in a pan then baked in the oven. It was spectacular, served with potatoes, fresh salad and tomatoes and basil from their garden. The cheeky neighbourhood cat, Diego, joined in hoping to steal some snacks.

Saturday: It was somewhat of a slow start to the day for some of us, and we all felt for Joe who had to head off early to the winery to help host their big members’ lunch. Mark, Susan and I decided brunch was in order, so Susan drove us to the picturesque village of Yountville.Yountville has characteristics more akin to a French village in burgundy, with stone buildings, tree lined streets and market gardens growing produce to cook in nearby restaurants.

We followed a sculpture trail through the settlement, and were interested to see the thoughtful description of the first non-natives to settle in the area (in Australia, we far too often see the European settlers described as the ‘early’ settlers, ignoring the 60,000 years of habitation by Aboriginal populations!).Mark chose the special once we had reached our lunch location, despite not really understanding what he was ordering. When asking about ‘Masa Harina’ we were told ‘it’s a bit like grits’ – which made absolutely no sense at all. Mr A says it was like a savoury tapioca. He gave it five stars!

Susan then took us to Trefethen Vineyards to show us the incredible feat of engineering there. During the 2014 earthquake, the supporting beams for the wine cellar and tasting room had cracked, leaving it leaning and about to collapse. The building is now supported by a huge steel frame.

Napa is on the cusp of harvest time here, and the vines are positively creaking under the weight of grapes.It seems crazy to be in Napa and not going wine tasting, but someone (Mr A) needed an afternoon nap, so we returned home for just that. I chilled out in the garden with one of Susan and Joe’s cats, Olly, watching out for local birdlife.Joe soon returned from work, and we all got ready for a night out. Walking through Napa town, you could have been mistaken for thinking we were somewhere in northern Italy, with the sun setting over the hills and the gondola paddling up the Napa River. It has a lovely feel, with nice boutiques and a buzzing atmosphere.

Somehow we again managed to avoid wine! First calling in to a little brewery for some local drops, and then to the most delicious Mexican restaurant, where we stuck to the Margaritas all night!But we don’t mind one bit – this visit has all been about visiting Susan and Joe, and the great company and laughter we enjoyed with them has all been worth it. This is one area we’d be keen to come back to again.

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