Sunday, May 10, 2009

California dreaming, part IV

Eight wineries down, and the afternoon is waning away. Of course, a trip to CA wouldn't be complete without celebrating with Flynne and Tyler at Domaine Chandon. I love bubbly - it's a go-to for me - so, naturally, I didn't need any convincing to go!

After we parked the car, and strolled around with Layla, we progressed up the hill to the tasting room. Looking around, this was no little deal, but a rather large retail complex/tasting "restaurant." I could probably have spent the whole day here, first walking the grounds, then tasting the wines, lunching late in the dining room, followed by shopping in the gift store, and finally a late afternoon/cocktail-hour aperitif at the bar. Hmm...

Needless to say, that isn't what we were looking for, but we did grab seats at a table outside on the patio, under an umbrella. Layla romped in the grass, chasing squirrels, and Tyler and I ordered three tasting flights - brut white, sweet white, and pink champagnes!

The relaxing atmosphere, the fun people watching, and of course, the beautiful bubbly sips are a must for visitors to the Napa area. Tyler and I visited the gift shop on the way out - he to buy a surpris
e for his and Flynne's anniversary, and I to bring a bottle back to NYC for a career change celebration (more on this in a later post). We both chose the classic, timeless favorite -the Brut Classic. Next time, when I come back, I will definitely have to check out Mumm for a comparison!

To finish the day, we chose Artesa winery. Quite the architectural masterpiece, it is set into the side of the hill, with strong geometric lines, and a lot of cement. Walking in, you pass a beautful reflecting pool, before entering what felt like a earthen vault.

I don't remember much about the wines - two I really disliked, almost acidic and too tannic. It might have been the sheer amount of wine I had had that day, but I don't know. What I can tell you is that I loved the location, looking out over the lower Napa Valley before it flattens towards the Bay. Looking around, with nearly a 180 degree view from the entrance, I really fell in love with the landscape. The colors, the hills, the valleys, and the expanse. Do I have to go back to NYC?

We concluded the day, exhausted and half asleep, at 5:30pm with dinner at The Boon Fly Cafe at The Carneros Inn. Situated right along the Sonoma Highway, I wasn't sure how the proximity to the road would affect our dining experience (it actually didn't at all, thanks probably to the big fences along the road), but I knew that the bright red exterior was a good indicator of a clean, simple - yet modern and rustic meal, with an emphasis on the fresh agricultural bounty of the area.

I was so right on. We started the meal off with drinks - obsessed with St. Germain, I of course treated myself to one of their St. Germain cocktails, with bubbly and lime - and freshly baked bread. Refreshing, indeed!

I was starving, and the menu had my tastebuds salivating - from the salads, to comfort foods like mac and cheese or short ribs, to fresh fish and innovative flatbreads, there was something for everyone. I love spinach salads, so the Warm Baby Spinach Salad with roasted apples, frisee, shallots, bacon, blue cheese, spicy pecans, tossed lightly in a mustard-sherry vinaigrette was soo down my alley! For my main meal, I can never pass over a good burger - for me, it's like a complete meal on a plate! The Boon-Fly's Kobe Beef Burger was no exception - a nicely sized (read: thick and red in the middle - no flat, gray wimpy patties here) burger on a slightly sweet brioche bun (good to sop up juices!) with a choice of cheese - swiss for me - with bacon and avocado, with a side salad in lieu of fries.

The meal was a hit - the warm dressing combined with the sweetness of the apples, the crunch and spice of the nuts, with the creamy cheese and salty bacon was like a symphony in my mouth! Quite full already from the salad, I could only manage to eat half of my burger, but I slowly savored each bite, juices running down my fingers, but of course sopped up by the fresh brioche roll. Luckily, the next day I had to drive to San Francisco, so I knew that my doggie-bagged dinner from the night before would be a perfect treat for the trip down.

Driving back to Santa Rosa, we of course stopped off at Starbucks - soy lattes, a latte for the driver, and of course my Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate for me. It was the perfect sweet end to a long, yet completely fulfilling and incredible day. As I dozed off in the back seat, I looked out the window at the darkening expanse of my surroundings, and the emerging stars. This is certainly a place that will always have a place in my heart.

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