When I was in my early 20’s a few girlfriends and I piled in my car and we drove from Seattle, Washington to San Francisco, California on a whim. We had a laundry list of sights to see and things to do in the course of a weekend and Napa was on the top of the list. We were young, careers starting out and lived pretty much paycheck to paycheck. Despite, at the time, our financial woes we made it work and had a fabulous time in San Francisco. We toured several wineries, sipped wine that (looking back) we didn’t really appreciate and took several bottles home. I had such fond memories of Napa with my girlfriends.
Photos taken in 2010 at Castello Di Amorosa
When my 2nd wedding anniversary was coming up my husband and I weren’t going to do anything aside from a dinner. We got an email with flight deals and the cost to go to San Francisco was ridiculously cheap so we decided to go on a spur of the moment trip. My husband had never been to Napa and I couldn’t help but gush how much fun I had the last (and only) time I had been.
I live in Washington State and I truly believe that we are spoiled when it comes to wine. We have a plethora of wineries to choose from all over the state. The wine is great, the prices are ideal, the tasting fee is minimal and the experience is fun. One of my favorite things to do is go on a spontaneous day trip to a winery. Who doesn’t like a spur of the moment wine trip? If you do – don’t go to Napa then!
Our first stop was promising. My husband and I stumbled upon Heitz Wine Cellars. The tasting was free and the wine was great! How wonderful! We picked another winery at random and drove 30 minutes up a mountain to get there. The scenery was beautiful, but the winery was by appointment only. Bummer! We tried another winery but it was by appointment only. So we then began calling wineries to ask if they accept walk-ins. Most did not and if they did – their tasting fee was $35 or more! You would think if you bought a bottle it would be waived, but most replied only a small portion. It boggled my mind how different Napa was now compared to when I was in my early 20’s.
Napa is pretentious. I said it and will say it again: Napa is pretentious! Washington wine can easily go head-to-head with Napa Valley and win. When you pay those ridiculous tasting fees you are only paying to feed the egos of the wineries and for the “pleasure” to say “I drank wine in Napa!” It’s so trivial to me that you have this location that sticks its nose up in the air for those who want to have a fun, spontaneous trip and turn them away. Wine should be shared.
I was discourage and in disbelief. We decided to park in town and walk around the storefronts so the drive from San Francisco to Napa wasn’t a complete loss. That’s when we found Orin Swift Cellars. They were welcoming, reasonable and laid back. All things most of the others in that area weren’t. To top that – their wines were amazing! We stood and talked awhile with the host and told him our gripes with Napa so far and how disappointed we were. He then took the time to write out several other wineries to try that wouldn’t disappoint and would be what we were searching for when we came to Napa.
Tank Garage Winery was our next stop and is one of my favorite wineries to date. In fact I shipped several bottles home to Washington. They specialize in blends and never make the same blend twice which I feel adds and enriches the experience. After Tank we felt we had our fill of the Napa Wine experience and headed back to San Francisco. Those two wineries salvaged our day and the only two reasons I left with good memories of Napa.
This past weekend was a busy one for me. Friday my husband and I celebrated my dad’s birthday with him at Elliot’s Oyster House. If you like Oysters and are in Seattle; it is hard to beat Elliot’s happy hour prices for the half shell. The downside is the happy hour is only eligible for those seated at the bar, which is very limited.
I love seafood, but my love for shellfish is a lot deeper. I like to pair my oysters with a nice Sauvignon Blanc and fortunately Elliot’s hosts Chateau Ste Michelle’s on their happy hour menu (win-win!)
Saturday we found ourselves hosting a few friends for dinner. We served home-made sweet potato Gnocci and a Blueberry Dutch Baby for dessert. Dinner was paired with a nice Rose from Maison De Padgett Winery located in eastern Washington. This Rose is called “Lipservice” and is only available at the winery in 1.75 liters. So I tend to only open a bottle when hosting a gathering.
I found the Blueberry Dutch recipe in a new cookbook I bought myself for my birthday. When I laid my eyes on it I knew I had to make this dish right away. It is super easy to make, very savory and can be a perfect dish for brunch as well as a heavy dessert after dinner.
Sunday is typically my day at home where I meal prep and get things ready for the upcoming work week. However, this Sunday is special. I am headed to Woodinville to celebrate the 60th birthday of someone very dear to me. Woodinville boasts a wide range of wineries and satellite locations for wineries located elsewhere. It is the go-to hotspot for wine tasting in western Washington. This will definitely be a future post!
There is something to be said about the feeling you get when you are in the kitchen, cooking, with music on. I’m pretty new to experimenting in the kitchen and my Type-A personality amplifies the anxiety of trying to get the recipe to exactly as it should be. Music helps counter this. I have many playlists to choose from on my personal Spotify account that I can peruse to fit my mood. Most are hours long.
Below are some staples I have from my dinner party playlist that I have playing while I’m cooking and while guests are over. All are easy-listening and don’t take to much away from the conversation and the dinner itself.
Warning Sign by Coldplay
Baby Can I Hold You by Tracy Chapman
Days Like This by Van Morrison
When the Night Comes by Dan Auerbach
The Breach by Dustin Tebbutt
Jolene by Ray LaMontage
This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) by Talking Heads
Lost In The Light by Bahamas
White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes
Shelter from the Storm by Bob Dylan
Gypsy by Fleetwood Mac
Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
Millie by Wilderado
Redbone by Holocene
Coastline by Hollow Coves
Wicked Games by Widowspeak
Moonlight Kiss by Bap Kennedy
By Your Side by The 1975
Lucky by Jason Mraz
Fade Into You by Mazzy Star
Honey Hold Me by Morningsiders
Hold My Girl by George Ezra
Into the Dark by Ben Lee
Blood by The Middle East
Angela by The Lumineers
Eyes by Rogue Wave
A Real Hero by College and Electric Youth
Crush by Foxgluvv
Linger by the Cranberries
Caramel by Suzanne Vega
When I was younger wine was something I had zero interest in. I had a lot of older friends who, anytime there was a gathering, always had a wine glass in hand. Unfortunately for me – my drink of choice was vodka. This was mainly because it was easily mixed into anything. I was (and am) considered a “light weight” among my peers so I was very inebriated after one or two drinks while everyone else was sipping, tasting, enjoying vino. After Christmas of 2008 I made a New Years resolution that I was going to start liking wine. January 1st – if I were to have any alcohol it had to be wine. The rest is history.
I enjoy the social aspect of wine. I love going to various wineries and shops and looking at how they’re set up, how they welcome customers and how they brand their wine. I’ve been to my fair share of wineries (mostly all along the West Coast). However, I’ve never felt the need to join a wine club. Sure I have my favorite wines from specific wineries, but I never saw the point of joining until I was introduced to Eleven Winery one year ago.
Eleven winery is located on Bainbridge Island; which is a short ferry ride West of Seattle. The tasting room is walking distance from the ferry dock while the actual main location is 4 miles down the road. Typically when I go to a tasting I like maybe 50-75% of the wines on the tasting menu. When it comes to Eleven winery there has not been one single wine that I have not liked and it has quickly climbed to the number one spot of wineries I love. I am now officially a wine club member! Last night I went to my first “wine club pick up party”. They served tacos and sangria made from their Tempranillo and had local musicians playing in the background. It was a perfect evening with perfect company. I joined the standard club so every 2 months I get one red wine and one white. Featured this month was the Tempranillo and their unique white mourvedre. As of now you cannot find the White Mourvedre anywhere else, but I am so thankful I got a bottle in my wine release because it is amazing!