Friday, June 17, 2016

Girls! Girls! Girls! In St. Helena

Trip date: April 2016

Few things can be more relaxing than a girl's weekend. They are high on my list of favorite things to do. In April my girlfriend Rachel invited Gail and me for a quick weekend at her beautiful house in St. Helena. Having been multiple times before, I knew the weekend would be just the kind of relaxing time I needed.

The three of us met at the airport, boarded our Alaska prop plane headed to Santa Rosa airport, and waited for take off. And waited, and waited. Finally the pilot announced that we had a broken plane and we'd have to deplane and wait for a new one. Ugh. Luckily they found us a working model fairly quickly and we were in the air, free wine in our cups, and making the short flight to the Napa area.

We landed to cool gray skies and a bit later than planned. Rachel called an order in at Pizzeria Tra Vigne as we drove, and we picked up some delicious pizzas and salad to take home for dinner. Seems the rest of the town had the same idea as the place was hopping!

We capped off dinner with some wine and hot tubbing and turned in early. Ahhh, off to a good start!

The next morning we awoke to more cool and drizzly weather. After a nice walk down to The Model Bakery for breakfast (house-made English muffins!!!) and coffee,  we took advantage of a break in the rain and went on a scenic walk through the nearby hills, past vineyards, and checked out some incredible new homes being built (and going for a paltry $9Mil).

With no pool time in sight we called a few wineries and made reservations for some afternoon tastings. First up was Duckhorn. The property here is really fantastic and if the weather would have been warmer their huge wrap around porch would have been the perfect place to taste wine. The service here was really nice too, when we explained that one of the ladies can't drink red wine, they generously waived the $35 tasting fee and even poured us all two additional whites not included in that day's line up.

Next we drove to the famed Chateau Montelena. In 1973 this winery scored the top scores at the Judgement of Paris and seemingly helped put Napa on the international wine map. The property has lush gardens and a beautiful pond that would have been perfect for strolling around, except for that rain situation. This time when we explained our friend's red wine situation, they continued to refill her glass with one of the two whites they were pouring each time they served us a new red wine. And on top of that they waived all our $25 tasting fees due to Rachel being a part-time local!

We decided to try the new Archetype restaurant back in town for lunch but when we arrived the manager told us they had just finished lunch service. The chef was checking the reservations for the night and when he heard Rachel explain that we were just hoping for a simple salad he graciously offered to make us something! We grabbed seats at the pass, ordered a carafe of rosé that they have on tap, and watched Chef Reed prepare us delicious chicken paillard salads. Talk about service!!! We were so impressed we had Guy the manager make us reservations for brunch the next day.

We warmed up back at the house sipping champagne in the hot tub (as you do) before getting cleaned up and walking the short distance to Cook restaurant on Main Street for dinner. Cook has a great, lively ambiance and has seriously delicious pasta dishes. They also have a casual spot next door, Cook Tavern.

Back at the house we hit the hot tub again. Skinny dip style this time. I won't even tease you by telling you about the pillow fights after...

In the morning Gail and I strolled down to The Model Bakery for coffee again, past the sweet houses and their yards, all bursting with rose blooms. Then the three of us did a little shopping on Main Street before returning to Archetype for brunch.

The place was packed, Chef Reed was in the kitchen again, and the food was amazing! I was extremely happy with my leg of duck confit, waffle, and duck egg! Almost every table had a plate containing an adorable short stack of pancakes on it and when we found out these were dessert lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry sauce, we followed suit. Fantastic and super fun brunch!

We made the easy 40 minute drive to the airport and caught our flight back to Seattle without incident. It was a super chill weekend with great friends, great wine, lots of laughs, delicious food, and of course hot tubbing. Love you ladies! Xoxo


Photos here.



Saturday, June 4, 2016

Weekend in Burgundy, Part 2

Trip date: September 2014

Our weekend in Beaune was off to a good start, we awoke the next day to brilliant sunshine and found the Saturday market going on in town. There were lots of delicacies such as sausages, cheeses, honey, and even a stand selling whole truffles!

The market closes at 1pm so don't go too late. We walked around the town for a bit, it is so cute and really lovely, especially when it isn't raining! We decided to have lunch at the restaurant Le Conty at an outside table on their patio, in the shadow of the cathadral. 
A little champagne, steak tartare for me, grilled lobster for Forest, and a shared cheese plate...hello Saturday!

Ready for the day, we drove out to Chateau Meursault for a tasting. Poor Forest, I kept making her pull over as the damn scenery was just too beautiful! 

Like the day before at Marché aux Beaune, the chateau also has their tasting set up as a self-guided cellar tour where you end up in a series of small cellar rooms for the tasting. We had 4 whites and 4 reds to taste but unfortunately there was only one woman trying to pour for 3 rooms of people and the entire thing was a complete cluster fuck. The wines however were very nice, especially a 2009 Premier Cru Meursault, and we bought a few to take back to Paris and share with friends. 
From here we drove to Volnay. We kept a look out for open caves since we weren't able to make any appointments due to the harvest going on. We stumbled upon Domaine Albert Boillot where winemaker Raymond Boillot greeted us. This man was absolutely charming, taking us on a little tour of his winery and cellars, tasting us through his nice selection of wines made from the Volnay and Pommard areas, and telling us about his family's history in the wine business; he is the tenth generation of wine makers in the family! Also all of Boillot's wines are between 8 and 22 Euro! Amazing QPR!

After making some purchases we walked around the tiny town a bit and came upon Domaine Françoise Mure et Fils, the winemaker was outside and offered to show us around and taste two of his wines. Unfortunately we didn't like either and when we thanked him and started to leave he was quite rude about the fact that he opened wines for us to taste but we weren't buying. C'est la vie.

From here we drove all of 1.5 miles to Pommard, past the lovely vineyards with their leaves just starting to turn fall colors, and filled with teams of people picking grapes and heading to the crushers.
We saw an 'open' sign at Maison G. Brzezinski and found another super nice winemaker, Gilles Brzezinski, who tasted us through his well priced and delicious Burgundies. All in all a great day and actually quite fun hunting down open places vs running to make appointments.

typical rear view mirror sight along the back roads of Burgundy
Just outside of Beaune we made a quick stop for gas and I had to laugh and take this photo when I went in to pay; you can see that to the right of the cashier desk is a tiny bar in the gas station and it was obviously happy hour for the local men (and one smart woman!).

It was also about time for happy hour for Forest and I, one can only drink wine for so long! Martinis were had at the bar at the very quaint Hotel de la Poste back in Beaune before wandering around town for the evening.
We had some fantastic rillettes and charcuterie at the super fun Bar du Square, the cafe has a large outside patio that was obviously everyone's favorite place to be on a warm fall evening! Amazing lists of wines from the region, by the glass, gives you a chance to try some you may not have gotten into during your stay.

It was finally dark and time for the Beaune Trail of Light. Seven of the city's already beautiful buildings are illuminated in an amazing light show that goes from June until September. I'd say this is a serious do-not-miss. It's free, allows you to stroll around the town at night, (we stopped along the way for wine at the Maison du Colombier, which has a great view of one of the buildings) and is really just incredibly stunning. I'd also suggest clicking through the link above as their photography of the buildings is amazing.


And with that our amazing day in Burgundy, and pretty much exactly what I dreamt of a day in Burgundy should be like, came to an end.

The next morning we checked out of our funny little Airbnb, and headed back in to Beaune one last time (on this trip anyway!) to go to the Sunday brocante. This type of market is a bit different than a marché au puces in that the later is more of a flea market (hence the name) and the former is more real antiques and therefore a bit pricier. I bought two gorgeous silver wine coasters to use at home, these are the best types of souviners for me (besides my crazy, tacky magnet collection).

Back on the road we headed north along the famed Routes de Grand Cru. Although we didn't get to do as many tastings as we had planned for, seeing the harvest happening in the fields and the colors on the leaves, smelling the fresh crush of grapes in the air, it was an absolutely gorgeous time to be in Burgundy. We had a lovely last lunch in Fixin at Au Clos Napoleon, complete with a bottle of 2010 Guy et Yvann Dufouleur Clos du Chapitre Fixin 1st Cru Burgundy, beef with Époisses sauce, scalloped potatoes, and a gorgeous selection of cheese for dessert. A perfect wrap to the trip and we were headed back to Paris!
All pretty Burgundy photos here.