Monday, September 19, 2011

To Napa we go!

Over the mountain and through the woods, to Napa we go!

We packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel and made the long drive over the mountain to the other side of wine country, Napa Valley.  Our style tends to be more of the Sonoma way, but our last few trips we've been better about spending at least one day in Napa, and have found some wonderful wineries.  Also, the restaurants in Yountville are just amazing. 

First things first - lunch.  Now, it may seem a little odd to do lunch first...but we had to work for it.

In an attempt to do something new and different on this trip, we signed up for a CIA Enthusiasts cooking class at the Culinary Institue of America Greystone, right in the heart of Napa Valley.  We decided on the Bold Flavors from Tuscany class, and were so excited to go.

Little did we know it was an emersion class....

We got there and the group sat around this big table in an enormous, beautifully clean kitchen.  Then the chef, fully dressed in her chef outfit, came and chatted for a few minutes, handing out a packet of recipes.  Then we were directed to select a station, and informed that we should get going because we'd be eating in an hour and 10 minutes.  Eating what we'd cooked...on our own. 

Our recipes were potato gnocchi and radichio and onion crostini. 

Have you ever made gnocchi from scratch before?

Yeah, me either. 

It was a crazy hour and a half by the time we got everything plated, but super fun.  I'm so glad we picked something more challenging because we were able to ask some questions and received guidance along the way.  Gnocchi isn't something I would have attempted at home, but it was really not that tough and soooo good...

Especially with the brown butter and sage sauce that we made.  Mmmm.

I think my favorite line of the day was husband shouting that he was 'in the weeds' and felt like he was on Top Chef...while he tried to saute onions and top some crostinis with cheese and the onions...while I attempted to kneed, roll, cut, and boil gnocchi. We both felt like we were on Top Chef with the race of the clock, and I was channeling my inner Fabio with my gnocchi!

We all shared our dishes with the rest of the class and spread them out on a huge counter buffet style.

Everything was really delicious, and we had a great time trying the different dishes! 

Completely stuffed and slightly exhausted from the 'class' we raced off to our first wine appointment. 

WAY up on a hill mountain, we pulled up in front of a beautiful rustic gate at Outpost Winery. Iyla was our host, and she was wonderful.  We tried their Grenache, Zinfandel and Cabernet wines.  She gave us a great tour all around the property, through the newly (that week) finished guest house(s) and out into the vineyard.  The wines were delicious and views one of a kind.  She's from Pittsburgh, so we shared some east coast stories.

The white grape bins are everywhere, just waiting to be filled when Harvest comes!

Leaving Outpost, we worked our way back down a little bit and stopped at Ladera.  Ladera is a beautiful, small Napa winery, mostly focused on estate Cabernets. 

Their Cabs were nice, but we typically don't drink too many cabernets.  But we did snag a bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc to take home!

One more stop for Saturday, and it was at Failla Wines.  Jeff, affectionately called Honey Badger by the folks at Outpost, was a great host.  We all got a good laugh when we called him Honey Badger, as we'd been instructed to do...apparently there's a youtube video that explains it all!

Jeff was very knowledgable about the wines and the Failla story - it was great to listen to him.  We really enjoyed our visit!  It's a beautiful setting tucked back in, and they have a big table set up for people sit around during the tasting.  There were 3 other couples there and we did the tasting together.  It was interesting to share stories about other places in Napa with the couples.

After saying goodbye, we headed down to Yountville to check into our inn for the night.  We discovered the Four Sisters Inns on our first wine country trip, and fell in love.  We've stayed in several of them, and this was our second time at Masion Fleurie

It can be expensive to stay in some of the fancier suites, and our less expensive room is tiny, but it's still lovely. It's wonderful to walk to the restaurants and cafes in Yountville, and their homemade breakfasts at the inn are amazing.  I'm not sure I could stay more than a couple of days in this room, and the bathroom's mini-sized, but it's still really nice. 

Drinks at my favorite, Ad Hoc, and dinner at Redd awaited us on Saturday night!  We freshened up, changed clothes and walked the couple of blocks to the main part of town.  It was a beautiful night and every restaurant was just a buzz with people out on the town!

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