For our honeymoon, hubby and I decided to embark on a two week trip to California up the pacific coast highway in a Mustang convertible—best splurge ever! There is no better way to take in the majestic panorama of the PCH than with the top down and breeze in your hair. As difficult as it is to play favorites in this gorgeous state, I have to admit it was wine country that truly captured the essence of what honeymooning is all about. Having only seen pictures and movies that attempt to capture the picturesqueness of this magical mountain nook, I never imagined it would be so enchanting. Every city has a personality, a vibe of its own reflecting the culture and soul of of the people, and if I were a city, my name would be Napa Valley. It was a strange I feel at home kind of notion.
As luxurious as this haven can be, it is unpretentious, easy going and inviting, much like the people you will encounter. A small momentary segway of the type of kindness we encountered. . . an adorable couple seated next to us at our favorite local restaurant, Ad hoc, picked up our tab as a “nice meeting you, have a great marriage” gesture! We had no way to thank them in person; the generosity was such a heart-warming surprise. We vowed to pay it forward when we encounter honeymooners at dinner one day.
Now that you have a sense of the people, the scene is a photographer’s dream. All around is a pretty picture to be captured with perfect color and lighting playing off the vineyards and surrounding mountains, you feel more attractive by simply being part of this landscape. The air was so crisp—I felt a contact high from the intoxicating smell of salt and wood—it’s the kind of scent you would want to bottle up and spray on like perfume.
Here’s a little guide to the unforgettable food, wine, and luxury we encountered, and hopefully you can retrace our steps and find your own wine country bliss.
Our Favorite Local Fare:
For temporary relief from hunger—Ad hoc in Yountville, Ca. This eatery serves a single menu that changes daily. We were so impressed with the first dinner, we returned for seconds the next night, and were fortunate enough to experience Chef Thomas Keller’s favorite meal. . . . Southern fried chicken. I thought I had tasted fried chicken before. . . but I was wrong. This was a religious experience.
Mustards Grill is another great place to enjoy down home cookin’ in the comfort of a cottage like dining room with a garden on the property. The freshness of the veggies were out of control. You could taste the love in every bite.
The Wine Buzz:
We visited these vineyards and tasting rooms based on recommendations from friends and locals, but were unable to squeeze in anymore since we had to move on to San Francisco—but if I had had it my way, I would have stayed in a perpetual state of sipping wine at noon everyday for at least another week. I recommend starting with a decent breakfast and a visit to a vineyard serving up bubbly.
Domaine Chandon, Yountville, CA.
Mumm, Napa, CA.
Stag’s Leap, Napa, CA.
Kunde Family Estate, Kenwood, CA.
Cakebread Cellars, Rutherford, CA.
Elizabeth Spencer Wines, Rutherford, CA.
Orin Swift Tasting Room, Saint Helena, CA.
Bottles We Shipped to the East Coast:
Abstract and Palermo Blends (2011) by Orin Swift
Kunde Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (2010)
Cakebread Syrah (2011)
Where to Relax:
We got a great tip to visit the Calistoga area for a unique spa treatment, which offered a sensual and dirty appeal—everything you want on your honeymoon. A mud bath, jacuzzi dip and massage was our à la carte indulgence at the Golden Haven Spa. It took a little getting used to, but the hot mud (naturally heated by a hot spring) felt like you were being swallowed whole, but being cradled simultaneously. When you emerge covered in a thick layer of mud, the rinse will reveal your baby soft skin, but the best part is having a full on mud fight with your partner— because when will you ever have that opportunity again?! Prior to the appointment the playfulness began at the onsite bocce ball court in the center of a valley with 360 degree mountain views. The view just never gets old, or less worthy of mention.
Follow your joy my friends, I hope it leads you to this magical place so near and dear to my heart.