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? :)
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This is fantastic! So awesome that he was gracious enough to ‘graph a menu for you as well…get that thing framed ASAP! Perfect kitchen decor, am I right?
Always love reading your travel posts because they are chock-full of great pictures…like I’ve said before, if this whole food blog thing doesn’t work out for you, there’s always travel blogging ;-) I’d totally read!
After enjoying all that downtown Des Moines had to offer, a friend and I were sitting outside of Fong’s waiting for our friends to finish up their late night snacks. I was rambling on and then saw a man walking down the street and sarcastically said “…and there is Curtis Stone.” My friend stopped and said, “No, I think that really was Curtis Stone!” We immediately rushed into the restaurant, found his table, and introduced ourselves. We proceeded to to tell him how we were huge fans and recommended the crab rangoon pizza. It was the highlight of the night!
Your Napa trip looks amazing! I will have to put that on my list of places to explore.
How exciting for you to meet Morimoto. I got goosbumps just reading about your experience!
LOVE reading your posts!!!!! What a fun girls weekend!!
I literally ran into John Stamos getting on an elevator at the Contemporary Hotel at Disneyworld. My husband and I had just attempted dinner at their California Grill, but I was so sick (I ended up having the flu) that we were headed to our room. I wasn’t looking up getting on the elevator & the doors open….and I walked right into him. Oh, I’m so sorry, excuse me….a friendly hello, no problem…as the doors are shutting I realize who I just ran into.
Then on a ski trip to Colorado, our family was going to take a snowcat up the mountain to have dinner at Beano’s Cabin in Beaver Creek. (HIGHLY recommend – such an amazing dining experience) In the lobby, waiting to board the snowcat with our family – we look up & saw Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks sitting across the room. We were completely star struck. He was just so tall & truly one of our favorite actors! At the time, I didn’t realize who Rita was – but love her too (Runaway bride, Sleepless in Seattle)! We were so star struck that we didn’t make the trek across the room – but with only us & them in the room…I’m sure we made for an akward experience in their waiting & our gawking. It would have been way better had we calmly thanked them & told them how much we enjoyed their work.
Lauren T 09.12.2012
I love that story of you with Morimoto and I’m glad you got to meet him! In my sophomore year of college I worked at Subway, and Ricky Stanzi (the former quarterback at the University of Iowa) came in and ordered a sandwich with another football player. I was so star struck that I kept forgetting his order, and I had to ask him 3 times what sandwich he wanted before I could remember to make it haha! Glad you had fun in Napa!!
I ran into Lisa Bonet in the elevator at the WDM Sheraton last summer. She told me she liked my shoes. It was amazing, despite the fact I wasn’t 100 percent sure it was her until later. I was under the influence.
I walked past Sophia Coppola when I went to Paris with my mom when I was 17. It was awesome, but not many people know who she is, so the story doesnt always pack a punch.
Love this post! I live in SF and love going up to Napa, especially in the summer when it is foggy here and I need my Vitamin D. Anyways, for a work retreat a couple years ago we went to Napa. My old boss lives there and has a winery so we went to a few places he had the “hook up” at, and we at dinner at Morimoto. He wasn’t there that night but we did get a tour of the kitchen! And the food was so amazing. My co-worker ordered the bone marrow just because it was on the menu and, why not when the boss is paying haha. Oh my gosh it was delicious! If you ever have the opportunity to try it, don’t be afraid. Love your blog! And today’s recipe, my fav! My boyfriend and I are obsessed with Orecchiette pasta. We call it suction cups because the first time we made it (he’s Italian and had never tried it!!) he said it reminded him of those little suction cups from when we were younger you flip and put on a table and they shoot up in the air, remember those?? Oh man, longest comment ever!
What a fantastic trip to Napa! That is so cool that you met Morimoto. I met Dave Matthews on a sidewalk in front of a grocery store. Pretty sure I stared at him in amazement until he noticed and then I managed to babble something about being a huge fan. He was super nice though!
Caprese Pasta Skillet | Iowa Girl Eats 09.12.2012
[…] Caprese Pasta Skillet September 12, 2012 0Oh my gosh, I LOVED hearing about your celebrity run-ins! Made me feel better about being such a spaz on Saturday. Can I also say how envious I am? I mean, […]
What beautiful photos (I adore grape clusters too) and such a memorable trip! I was a total LOST addict and met several members of the cast at their final season LOST celebration in CA. It was one of the most exciting nights of my life meeting Jorge Garcia (LOVE him! I look like a hyper-grinning idiot in a photo taken with him), Daniel Dae Kim, Nestor Carbonell (he smelled SO stinkin’ good!),Rebecca Mader,Sonya Walger, Titus Welliver (he stayed and talked with us for awhile- such a nice guy. No creepy “Man in Black” at all!)and Director Jack Bender. AWESOME.
I actually met YOU in Trader Joe’s and was a bumbling mess! I’m such a nerd! But it was the coolest to see you shopping there with your mom! Love your blog…and you!
Renea B. 09.12.2012
That is so COOL!! I love him on Iron Chef. So Cool. I live in Des Moines & recently started following your blog. Renea.
My fiance and I want to get out to Napa in the semi near future; you’ve given us some good ideas!
Loved your story about meeting Morimoto, too. How funny! And awesome. I’ve met Donald Driver of the Green Bay Packers. I was living in Texas at the time and he and his family live there in the off season. He took his kids to the pool I worked at for swimming lessons and I was able to sit and chat for a few minutes. Super nice guy, EXTREMELY humble, and definitely not as big as I thought he would be! But I guess that’s pretty normal for a wide receiver. :-)
Chelsea @ Chelsea Eats Treats 09.12.2012
I can’t believe you got to meet Morimoto!!! I’m so jealous!!! I would love to meet him and Bobby Flay. Oh, and Alton Brown. And probably Giada. Ok, all of them. Haha!
Also, I just wanted to let you know your pictures didn’t load in my Google reader today, only the text and links. It usually works fine so maybe something weird happened with my reader, but I just wanted to let you know!
I live in Ottawa (Canada) and last July (2011), Kate and Wills came to town.
We went to the Governor General’s house where they were arriving for a ceremony and were waiting at the front of the barriers lining the driveway (it’s a LONG driveway).
They were supposed to be driven all the way to the house and get out there, but all of a sudden we heard the secret service men saying “They are getting out of the cars” and everyone started running around.
Sure enough, JUST before where we were standing they got out of their cars and decided to meet some of the crowd.
Kate got out and walked RIGHT over to me! I was SO unprepared (we thought the most we would see is just them drive by us!)
Anyways, she shook my hand and said “nice to meet you” and then I babbled something unintelligible along the lines of “thank you for coming to Ottawa”……really???
Then she moved on and Wills came next and shook my hand and I babbled something dumb to him too (who knows what!).
They are both gorgeous in real life and VERY genuine.
ALL my friend were SO jealous! I was even on the news because mine was the first hand she shook. Everyone kept calling “I just saw you on the news shaking Kate’s hand!”
Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy 09.12.2012
Such beautiful photos and delicious looking food!
Jennifer L 09.12.2012
It’s 11am and all I want is a glass of wine!
Great Morimoto story! A lot of us bumble our way through a meeting with someone we admire greatly. In fact, I’m not so sure about anyone who does keep their cool :)
I had Ron Livingston (Office Space/Sex and the City/TIme Traveler’s Wife) come into my place of work in Iowa City. I reacted similarly to you by getting all star struck. He was very nice though and even signed an autograph for me. I guess he is originally from Iowa and he said he was in town for a wedding. Totally made my day!! :)
That looks so much fun! Now I want to convince my girls to go on a wine adventure.
When I worked at a bar in Chicago, I had to serve Michael Jordan a beer. I tripped on my way to his table, and spilled his beer down my shirt. I am smooth.