The conquering heroes have returned home. Poorer in the wallet, richer in the wine cellar, and somehow my pants got tighter. I’m thinking of switching laundry detergents. Again. Thanks a lot, Detergent.
Bob used the Concierge at Darioush Winery to recommend and set up dining reservations for us with the exception of our first night there. We arrived nearer to 6pm and hungry. We asked at hotel check in and our bell boy about nearby restaurants.
“Where can we eat at this hour without reservations dressed the way we are? Ok, I’ll change out of my flip flops but that is my only concession.”
We were given several names all within walking distance, because, you know, Yountville is all of four blocks long. And so we drove. Didn’t want to get a walking DUI in California so we didn’t take any chances.
Our first dinner was at Redd.
Um. Wow. Did not know what to expect and almost turned around once inside. The noise was palpable. I had to shout to the Host TABLE FOR TWO PLEASE. Thankfully, he showed us into another dining area where the guests were much quieter and we could enjoy our meal without resorting to sign language. I had the following:
It was, in four words, In Cred E Bull. Amazing and delightful. Bob’s dinner was equally and surprisingly fantastic. We honestly didn’t think it would turn out as it did. It’s a small restaurant, no more than 30 inside tables? But, Lordy, Lordy…yummy in the tummy.
We golfed the next day at a little 9 hole course called Vintner’s, the name playing along with the surrounding vineyards.
Wednesday night saw us at La Toque, a restaurant with a coveted Michelin Star. In the Michelin rating system, one star is good food, two stars are exceptional food and three stars? Lie down and die for food. There are only 81 3-star restaurants in the world. Earning a Michelin star is quite a coup.
I really started to feel ridiculous snapping no-flash photos and jotting down info once our meals were served. I had had an idea to do this but didn’t share it with Bob, merely surprising him each evening with my camera ready and ipad fully charged. By day four, his embarrassment had subsided and he joined in knowing full well where this was headed.
Currently, it is Maryland crab season. To be specific, soft shell crab season. It is not for the squeamish. I had ordered it on one other occasion and could not eat it once I cut into it. Something a little too spidery, I thought. Well, much like learning to like clams and mushrooms, I kept trying. Oh, my, this little poor molting crab was wonderful. No arachnidy appendages bothered me this time. Too bad I forgot to take a photo of what it looked like before I ripped it apart much like Daryl Hannah did to her lobster in Splash.
The next day saw us doing a private wine tasting at Darioush Winery, a Persian marvel. Our curator (Really. That’s her title) started our tasting with 2010 Viognier and Caviar on Potato Chip. I kid you not. The most glorious quarter size potato chip with caviar and crème fraiche, ever. I’m pretty sure that mine was inhaled via nostril, I don’t remember chewing or swallowing.
Side note: It appears that here in Napa, miniature is all the rage. Miniature potato chips and miniature English muffins with bacon butter. Yep. Bacon butter. Oh, and pork belly. And micro greens! Served on all menus.
After a tour of the vineyards and portions of the winery, we were lead to the tasting room. Here our curator, Diana, had it all laid out for us.
From left to right:
Roasted Beet Canapé with Laura Chenel Chevre
Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold La Saison Date Wheel Sandwich
Wild Mushroom and Roasted Garlic Ricotta
Slowly Braised Short Rib Roulade with Toasted Walnuts and Herbs
Lemon Verbena Panna Cotta with Vanilla Bean Shortbread
And the accompanying wines were Pinot Noir, Shiraz, 2007 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Darius II Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc.
We were blown away by the presentation and the tasting menus for both food and wine. It goes down in my book as a wine memory never to be forgotten. Needless to say, we went back to buy more wine TWO more times before we left for home.
That evening was spent dining at Auberge du Soleil, a place we had eaten before but somehow kept forgetting to revisit. Until now. One of us had a touch of the Bottle Flu so he that person drank water at dinner. Oh ho, but not me! They had a Champagne Sampler to help you read the menu. Here is what I had:
Mr. Why-Did-I-Drink-So-Much-Red-Wine-Today ordered this. Much like eating raw oysters, I couldn’t get past the look of it let alone put it in my mouth!
We golfed again the next day and furthered our depravity that afternoon with more wine tasting. Our last night was spent dining at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega restaurant. I was so excited to eat here. I love watching the Food Network and his show so very much. I just knew that we were in for a great meal.
Reservations are a must and with a two-week advance call in, we still were seated early at 5:15. It was packed in like sardines, dress code was all over the place, and I loved it. Except for the noise again. I asked our waiter if ‘Michael’ was in that evening and he replied, “No, his biggest fan was here yesterday.” It was kind of smart-assy, I thought but he wasn’t going to ruin this for me. I watched what little of the line that I could see and made comments to a much recovered Bob about it.
Now, another thing about Napa we learned was that all dinners are pretty much three to four courses. With wine. Not different wines with each course, that was an altogether different menu. But, my goodness, the calories alone for a meal had to be over 1,000.
Here is what I had:
And here was Bob’s Pesce Crudo; a solid block of ice with four pieces of Ahi tuna. What a presentation, hm?
We had eaten a few times in Rutherford at Chiarello’s other restaurant, Tra Vigne and loved it. But to be honest, the noise level, the amount of people in the restaurant and the smart alecky waiter kind of put a gloom on my over all impression for Bottega. The food was good, but then I had eaten good and great food all week long. This was not a stand out meal. In the end, I don’t think we’d return here but mosey on up to Tra Vigne if we want ‘Michael’s’ cooking.
Did we have a great time? Oh, my yes. Can I recommend other restaurants to you? Yes, I can. And we can recommend scads of wineries as well. My two biggest winery surprises were Artesa, reminding me of my dear friend, Pilar, and a small boutique winery hope&grace. If you can find these wines where you live, please give them a try: the Artesa Chardonnay and the hope&grace Pinot Noir, both yummy.
The Pièce de résistance, the Diamond of the visit was Darioush. Find it, buy it. You’ll thank me for it later.