After Muir Woods, we drove to Russian River Brewery. Brian told me just this weekend that their Pliny the Elder might be his very favorite beer ever, so I’m sure it was a thrill for him to be able to try the entire line up they had available at their brewery and restaurant.
Many of their beers are not sold to anywhere outside the brewery, let alone outside California.
I did help Brian sample the beers too, so don’t be worried that he drank 18 full tastings all by his lonesome.
Also, we ate.
They are known for their pizzas, and this one entirely met that expectation. And as for the beers? I enjoyed many of them; particularly and surprisingly, the sour beers, which are fermented in old wine barrels that you could see through a window just past our booth.
We had one more brewery to hit before we finally began the wine leg of our vacation: Lagunitas. They are unexpectedly located in a corporate business park; and I was shocked as we walked back that there was a backyard, party-like atmosphere.
As they told us on their tour, they’re getting big enough that they are no longer a small micro brewery any longer.
Brian shared a story, which they repeated on tour, about one of their brand new tanks that was lost at sea and needed to be remade and resent from Europe.
My favorite part of Lagunitas was the beer glasses, which were large mason jars. We took 4 home, and I love them for regular drinks too. I would replace my entire glassware with these, that is how much I love them.
Everything seemed timed perfectly then for us to be on our way and arrive in time for one of only two scheduled winery visits.
This first winery was at my insistence. I was concerned, while looking online for places to visit, that we wouldn’t be surrounded by vineyards anywhere. I wanted to sit by vineyards, and it seemed like so many tasting rooms were in downtown areas.
(I needn’t have worried, since there were plenty of vineyards everywhere; though this one would still top in terms of scenery from most)
Cuvaison was intimate and small but not too small, even though it was by appointment only. As Brian’s parents warned us, if you go too small, then you may feel obligated to walk away with a case. This one wasn’t that small and we just walked away with two bottles.
We chose to sit outside surrounded by vineyards, despite the wind that day. With jacket, scarf, and wine, I was comfortable. Our sommelier was very knowledgeable, and we received 5 tastings of great wine.
It was a great place to start our winery tour in Napa Valley, and we were in no hurry to leave.
Next up was Peju Province, and I confess that my first impression was that this winery was pretentious; but wine continued to flow, was pretty good, and I adjusted my impression. I liked Peju.
Peju offered standing group tastings, which was different than our relaxed, individual attention at Cuvaison. Everyone was nice and having a great time; we met a couple there who suggested a few other wineries to visit, of which we went to one the following day.
My favorite wine there was their Fifty Fifty and their Provence. The Provence is a combination white and red wine, which reminds me of Catawba wines from Put-in-Bay, but not as sweet. We sampled 9 wines in a half hour.
We decided there was time to stop at one more tasting room before heading to check in to our hotel and get ready for dinner, so we went to a tasting room right off the road called Cosentino.
We opted to share one tasting between us, and there I enjoyed the Cigarzin (which we came home with) and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Throughout my wine tastings in Napa, I determined that Cabernet Sauvignon is my favorite style of wine right now. Almost every one I tried, I thought was exceptional.
A special offering to the group next to us who had been there a while was “The Poet,” and we requested to try it as well, for fun.
The wine was from 1985 (the year I was born, as Brian reminded me a few times). There was sediment at bottom, and it was almost gold-tinged around the rim, but it was actually not too bad. Aged wines this old don’t have good consistency, so some bottles are good, and some may as well be vinegar. This, however, was decent.
The tasting at Cosentino was casual, and I was happy to have enjoyed that day 3 totally different experiences, from an intimate setting, to a scheduled group, to casual at the bar.
We arrived then at our hotel, and I was very impressed. We stayed at the Napa Valley Embassy Suites, and it had a big center outdoor courtyard with a lovely swan and mother and baby ducklings! It was a like a resort. In the mornings, it even offered an omelet bar, included with our stay.
We had dinner reservations at Brix, and Brian was sweet to share that it was an anniversary celebration for us (3 years!). They also gave us a seat with a view out into their gardens.
Our chocolate creme brulee (which I didn’t even know was possible) was divine.
Thus ended our first night in Napa Valley, which had so far lived up to all my expectations and then some.