Day 2 of our Napa Valley Girlfriend Getaway kicked off with getting picked up curbside at our hotel by Platypus Tours – the transportation company we chose to take us around for the day. Can’t beat service like that! ;)
One of my biggest pieces of advice when touring wine country is pay for transportation. We all know it’s unsafe to drink and drive, and furthermore, you will get busted. We saw 3 people pulled over in a 1 mile stretch of road the first night, and heard from some locals that cops are super tough on drunk drivers.
Platypus offers private transportation OR group tours in Napa and neighboring Sonoma for $99/person which I found to be very competitively priced, especially when you consider everything that’s included – water, snacks, lunch, and reduced tasting fees at the wineries we visited (all $15 or less.)
The girls and I picked the group tour option, and boarded our luxurious bus with 8 other wine enthusiasts at 10:15 on Saturday morning then set off for a full day of wine tasting!
Our driver for the day was Karl, who has been giving tours in Napa Valley for years (previously he was a cop – said people liked him a bit better these days… ;) ) The drivers at Platypus usually set the itinerary, and Karl told us he had chosen four small, niche wineries whom he had close relationships with to visit that day.
He passed out some waters and we were off – first stop, Corison Winery!
Corison Winery is owned by Cathy Corison who joined the group of Napa Valley winemakers at a time when it was still largely a boy’s club.
Her style of producing small batch (we’re talking 50 cases or less) unfiltered Cabernets earned her the title of Winemaker of the Year in 2011 from the San Francisco Chronicle. We all kind of felt like we were in the presence of greatness when we arrived!
Our guide was Holly Evans-White – a passionate, dry-humored wine lover who uses terms like “meth teeth” to describe the point at which you know you’ve had enough red wine for the day. We LOVED her!
Holly filled us in on the winery while pouring tastes of white wine to wet our whistles before heading out to the vineyards to look around.
Corison uses a style of farming called “dry farming” which means they do not water their grape vines. Crazy, right?
The grapes develop super long roots that grow deep into the earth, tapping the natural water supply. Rain can actually ruin a dry farming crop, as the roots will shrink and suck up too much water, causing the grapes to grow too fast, bursting their skin and molding in the process.
The same thing actually happened to my cherry tomatoes this summer. They went SO long without rain that the first time we got a good soaking they grew too fast from the inside out, and burst in two! So sad.
Anyways! We followed Holly back inside, got a tasting of Corison’s unfiltered Cabernets, and learned a TON about wine. For instance, did you know that “organic wine” simply means the grapes were grown organically, but anything added to color, preserve, or filter the wine doesn’t have to be organic?
Cathy Corison’s wine are grown organically AND they do not add dyes, thickeners or ANYTHING else to their wines (which, in addition to dehydration, is what largely leads to hangovers!) The result is a wine with a thinner mouth-feel than I’m used to but good, and pure tasting. This winery was a treat to visit. :)
After saying our goodbyes to Holly, we hopped back on the bus where Karl had a sweet cheese plate and more waters waiting for us. All included in the price of transportation!
I dug into some creamy brie and sharp cheddar. It was just the ticket.
Next we headed to the oldest continuously owned and operated winery in the Napa Valley – David Fulton Winery.
Planted in 1860, the winery produces less than 400 cases of Petite Syrah every year and felt deliciously Mom and Pop.
Operations are currently led by fourth generation Fultons who call in their friends and family once a year at harvest time.
Everyone camps out in the vineyards, harvests ALL day long, then celebrates at the end with an epic BBQ.
I want to come next year! ;)
The group crowded around the tasting table and took sips of David Fulton’s current wine selections.
I loved the sweet, dessert Port wine the best.
We were given little York Peppermint Patties and told to take a sip of wine, bite of patty, then another sip of wine. Chocolate is a popular pairing with wine, but the mint gave it just that little something extra. It was sooooo good!
Definitely will be recreating this combo in the dead of winter next to a roaring fire. I don’t know why. It just made me think of that. :)
While we were tasting Karl had laid out a lunch spread for us to enjoy on the winery’s outdoor patio, overlooking the vineyards.
We hungrily filled our plates then headed out to enjoy!
It was PERFECT – seriously, I could not have been more impressed. Croissant sandwiches, quinoa salad, fresh pears, meats & cheeses, and local heirloom tomatoes. So yum!
After lunch we wandered around the grounds a bit, checking out the scenery.
Call me crazy, but I could take pictures of grape clusters all day long. Crazy! There, I took care of it for us.
Karl told us to put our party pants on for the next stop to Hopper Creek Winery and, after pulling up, we immediately realized why.
After passing by rows of green vines bursting with clusters of sweet red grapes, and under shady trees surrounded by lush landscaping, we saw the front door of the winery…and a basketball court.
After opening the door and seeing this guy – I knew. Hopper Creek is the dive winery of Napa Valley, bahahahaha!
Totally fun and completely unbuttoned – Hopper Creek is a BLAST.
Check out these party pics on the wall (and please be aware that Karl is in many of them – the bachelorette parties love him!)
I immediately felt at home (I have a serious soft spot in my heart for dive bars,) and especially so after School House Rock poured everyone a glass of wine and took us outdoors to show us around.
The girls and I unknowingly timed our visit to Napa Valley at the beginning of one of the most popular times of the year to visit – “The Crush” – or harvest time. Hopper Creek had just begun to process some Sauvignon Blanc grapes that day, so we got to see them load the grapes into a hopper where rubber balloons inflated, crushing the grapes causing them to release their juices.
One of the workers grabbed a glass and collected some fresh juice for us to try. It tasted like the most delicious apple cider (actually) that I had ever had. SUCH a treat!
Afterwards we headed out to their back patio to sip the remaining wines in our tasting flight.
It was perfectly relaxing, and just fun.
Cheers to Hopper Creek!
Karl had one last stop planned before dropping us back off at the hotel – Hagafen Cellars.
Unbelievably beautiful grounds, nice people, and great place to wind down.
I’ll be honest with you – at this point we had all had a lot of wine, and the entire group sat on the patio and talked our faces off at one another the whole time. All I’ve got to say is, Karl is a saint! ;)
We were promptly dropped back off at our hotel around 5:00, then after a quick run up to the room to freshen up, the girls and I headed off to dinner at Morimoto!
I had been to Morimoto when I was in Napa earlier this summer, was blown away at how fresh and delicious everything was, and wanted the girls to try it too. I am also a HUGE Morimoto fan (been following him since the OG Iron Chef in Japan!) and it didn’t feel right to be in the presence of one of his restaurants and not eat there.
We called and were told there were no open tables, but decided to risk it, show up and see what happened. It’s a good thing we did, because we were able to get right in. Never hurts to just check it out!
We settled into our seats and ordered some appetizers to share, which we promptly devoured. Wine tasting really takes it out of ya’!
Buttery, fresh tuna pizza, and crunchy pork gyoza. Ughhhhhhhh… :)
We each ordered our own sushi entrees – a Spicy Scallop Roll (not on the menu – but just ask and they’ll make it for you) and 2 pieces of Salmon Nigiri for me. I am not kidding you when I say this might be my favorite thing I have ever eaten. I cannot even begin to describe how fresh and mouthwatering it was!
Our server told us the restaurant flies fresh fish in from Tokyo every 48 hours and I totally believe it. I will remember this sushi forever – droooooool.
Mmmkay, this is where it got really interesting (I’m grinning like an idiot as I type.) After dinner we were chatting, finishing our drinks when I got up to use the ladies room. As I walked through the dining room, towards the open kitchen line which I had to pass to get to the restroom, I looked up, then back down, then quickly back up again as my eyes bugged out of my head.
THE Iron Chef – Masaharu FREAKING Morimoto – was standing 10 feet in front of me supervising the line!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was so shocked that I promptly crashed into some poor woman’s chair, nearly sending her flying across the dining room.
OMG, I hissed at her, I am SO SORRY! It’s just that – Morimoto is standing RIGHT OVER THERE!!!! She’s all, No, it’s ok, I KNOW!!! I quickly helped her scoot her chair back in then,
maybe it was the wine talking, I WALKED UP TO HIM while he was supervising the line.
Chef Morimoto, I babbled as I stood 4 inches from his shoulder, I am SUCH. A. HUGE. fan of yours!
Yes, is all he replied as he nodded his head once.
It’s just that, I’ve watched you for years, and well…
It’s just such an honor to meet you!
I just…ok. You’re the best!! (Bows – BOWS – then runs away to the restroom.)
Omg it was HORRIYFING! For both of us! He was clearly trying to work, then after I busted him out, 20 people came over trying to take pictures of him. I felt a tiny bit better when our waiter told us this is what happens every time he comes, which is once or twice a month. Oh Morimoto!
On our way out I recounted the story to the general manager who was standing near the door and, with the encouragement of my girlfriends, he insisted that I return to take a picture with him.
Thankfully Morimoto was much more prepared to take visitors at this point, kindly listened as I told him again what a huge fan I was, then actually bowed back this time. OMG!!!
The best thing ever. Literally – the best thing ever. Who goes to Morimoto’s restaurant and actually expects to SEE Morimoto?! It was truly an honor to meet him, and I totally cried tears of joy back at my table after our first encounter as I was telling my girlfriends about it. I respect that man so much!
With that, our night ended with me clutching the signed menu he sent me away with all the way home. It was the perfect way to end an already unforgettable weekend in Napa!
Well, I hope you got some good ideas of where to go if/when you visit the Napa Valley! I can’t recommend it enough for couples, girlfriends, and even dudes’ trips. We actually saw a bunch of bachelor parties this weekend.
Regular programming to commence tomorrow! :D
Have you ever met anyone famous? Did you play it cool, or were you a hot mess like me? :)