when work called me to the west coast a few months ago (whoa–this post is long overdue), a brilliant idea struck kfo’h: let’s join forces with a quick jaunt to northern cali. i told you it was brilliant. what made this plan even more genius meant that we wouldn’t have to sleep apart while i was in phoenix. (go ahead and laugh, but i’m a big baby and hate being away from my love.) with only a couple days to soak in the beauty of upper napa valley, we made relaxation the main attraction and let luxury link guide our decision-making.
sayonara, wintry northeast.
we flew into san fran too late to enjoy the city and chose to leave too early the next morning to do anything but down some seriously strong peet’s coffee. armed with a number of restaurant recommendations from an old friend, we bid farewell to the golden gate and headed north on 101.
first stop: healdsburg. what an adorable quaint town. it’s too bad we didn’t have time to booze it up at 2 of our favorite zin makers: seghesio and ridge. instead, we circled the square and settled on a quick bite at barndiva. frites + wine. sold! or so we thought. it was our first (and luckily only real) disappointment of the trip. the food selection was meh. but to put it gently, we are not foodies, and thus realize it might be unfair to judge food on anything other than our own enjoyment. (however, now that i’m typing this, i must say–is there really any other way to judge food?) but even for us unadventurous, non foodie types, the service lacked genuine enthusiasm. expecting friendly and down-to-earth, we got stuffy and annoyed. but if you’re ever in the area, give it a try. perhaps it was just an off day for the divas.
6pm massage appointments left no time for any gallivanting around town, so on the road we were again to our final destination: calistoga. we ooh’d and aww’d over the rolling hills and winding roads through a rain-soaked windshield, wishing with each turn that we had more time to take it all in.
calistoga ranch welcomed us with just the sort of tucked-away retreat we needed. nestled into a canyon, the ranch is surrounded by unabashed beauty on all sides. one smile from kfo’h, and i knew we were in for a perfect weekend–rain or shine.
after our massages, we picked up dinner at local favorite tra vigne, scored a bottle of 2009 seghesio (thank god, and the citizens of napa county, for wine in grocery stores.), then happily plopped ourselves in front of the fire to recount our first awe-inspiring day of this much-needed vacation in upper napa valley–despite not having visited a single winery. not to worry, we would correct that travesty very soon.
after a fireside breakfast on sunday, with the rain cleared and the hint of sunshine beaming on our backs, we took advantage of the fleet of cars calistoga ranch offers its guests and reserved the convertible for the day. we weren’t messin’ around, folks. we had napa to see.
by chance, we happened upon duckhorn vineyards and gave it a whirl. stunning grounds and notable wines, this whirl was a good one.
with a hefty flight of reds sloshing around our bellies, it was time for a little snack. we drove through the sweet town of st. helena past shop after shop and recommended restaurant after recommended restaurant, until our eyes feasted upon this. roadside dive for sharing a grilled cheese and fries? eat your heart out, sonic.
snack done, the time came for another drink. (because that’s what you do on vacation. duh.) after a little dessert from woodhouse chocolate, we made our way to auberge for champagne with a view (and one heckuva view it is). cousin to calistoga ranch, we considered making auberge our next hotel stay, but we are not yet convinced there is anything better than the privacy and captivating beauty of calistoga ranch.
romance under the stars, albeit cheese-a-riffic, offers the best description i could ever give of our drive to napa that night. with the top down and our hands interlaced, i couldn’t have imagined a better moment.
with a little time before our dinner reservation, we perused around tyler florence’s incredible shop on the riverfront, followed by a stop at the oxbow public market. the oxbow looked promising, but we arrived just as the merchants were closing up shop. bummer. still time to spare, we whet our palette with a shared flight of 3 bountiful reds at bounty hunter wine bar.
palettes sufficiently whet and stomachs officially growling, we floated into oenotri for dinner. aside from everything (honestly, everything) my kfo’h cooks for us, this was quite possibly the best meal we’ve ever had. trumer pils, brussel sprouts (yes, mom. i tried brussel sprouts and liked them), polenta, pizza, and pasta. ’twas a meal fit for 4, and not 2, but what’s the point of vacation if not to indulge in a gluttonous feast? incredibly delicious and reasonably priced, if you’re ever in napa, add oenotri to your list.
another smile from my love. another perfect night.
with a heavy heart and rested laurels, we savored one last breakfast by the fire in our comfy, oversized robes before packing it up and heading back to face the harsh reality of a blustery cold and snowy NJ.
but as we daydream of our next real vacation, calistoga is never far from our thoughts.