I need a weekend from my weekend, in the best possible way.

I’m finding as I grow up I have less time to take away for myself aside from those elusive weekend days that aren’t committed or full of mundane tasks that need doing between the sound and fury of the work week days. So when my vacation last October went awry due to the fires in the Napa Valley, I knew I needed to find a way to do a brief Napa Redux.

Included in that redux  would be some of the wineries we missed, another stay at the Napa Inn, and most importantly… the French Laundry at last! That meant this couldn’t just be any weekend, it had to fall on some kind of landmark event, some reason to justify to my brain weasels spending the money on that high end splurge. I also wanted to give Napa some time to recover from the fires, so the distance between my spouse’s birthday (October) and mine (June) seemed like a great time frame to wait – over half a year and a good growing season in there.

Friday morning bright and early I tucked my spouse into the passenger seat of my car so that I could brave the escaping LA traffic jams of morning rush hour, armed him with some coffee energy drinks, and started the trek north. I’ve never really done road trips where I’ve done any significant amount of driving, so the non-stop 3.5+ hours I put in before we needed gas was a personal record, and one I am actually quite proud of! All the way through the Grapevine, well into the Central Valley, before we had to stop for gas and did the switch until lunch at Pea Soup Andersen’s. He took us through the delta, since it’s a route he knew well from his time living in Napa, and to our lovely B&B. Dinner was at a favorite from the last trip, Zuzu, and then a nice relaxing bath in the claw footed tub before bed.

Saturday was for downtown adventures outside of Napa. A nice long drive took us to Treehorn for used books in Santa Rosa, then lunch and a gaming/comic book store in the same walkable area. Used books are a dangerous indulgence, but found some fun stuff. I resisted the game and comics siren songs. Another road trip, this time through what should have been some majorly burned areas that were surprisingly green, to Calistoga’s downtown main street. Art galleries, window shopping, and finishing with wine tasting at August Briggs – a favorite from my first trip many years ago. I’m rapidly discovering that I love Pinot Blanc as a summer sipping wine. After enough walking it was time to regroup at the Napa Inn and plot out a dinner. I had my eye caught by Basalt in downtown Napa, but they had no reservations available, so we gambled on their lounge which was first come first served and got in right away. The seating was uncomfortable, the service was a little off, but the food was amazing and the drinks were tasty too, so over all it was good but next time I will make sure to have reservations for the dining room instead of the lounge. More bath bomb experimentation – this time in a delightful pink with bubbles!

Sunday was my birthday! First thing of all we made it to Castello di Amorosa for the tour and reserve tasting, which took longer than anticipated. The original plan was to hit four wineries that day, but due to the tour and tasting starting late and taking longer than expected, we got out of there in time for a late lunch. I gave my Google-fu another go (Basalt had been my idea based on Google results) and we ended up at the Brasswood Bar + Kitchen (didn’t get to visit their winery) which gave my food-picker the redemption I needed. Great cocktails (and colorful!), outstanding food, and pleasant staff that was able to get us through quickly so we could make our reservations at the next vineyard. This time it was Materra, a Cunat family vineyard. Since my spouse’s name is Matera, and from his time living in the valley he knew one of the people managing Materra, we had a great connection before we ever arrived! Meeting the owners, having a lovely private tasting, talking about the valley, it was wonderful. So wonderful I joined their wine club!

Then it was time to return to the B&B to prepare for that special birthday dinner. Dressed up, decked out, and smart enough to take a Lyft instead of driving, we ventured out to Yountville. All for an experience that transcends words. Sparkling wine in the garden while we waited to start, a cozy table for two inside, and then to my delight a happy birthday to me at the top of the menu! Everyone visiting our table wished me a happy birthday and made sure that it was, indeed, a delightful night. Amazing wine pairings, adventures in food I’ve never tried – caviar and abalone come to mind, and upbeat well timed service for every course. Watching the timing on service for the larger tables near us was very impressive, the food was truly amazing and memorable for us (and tailored to our food predilections!), over all just an amazing night. Did I mention wine? A glass with every course ensured I was glad we had to catch a ride back instead of driving, and I got poured into bed at the end of the night. We didn’t see Chef Keller this time, like we did at Bouchon back in October, but they sent me home with lots of lovely bites and souvenirs of a remarkable night.

Due to our distractions of the day before, Monday after breakfast was packing up, a quick visit to Heitz and V. Sattui (my favorite vineyard and the place we were already wine club members) and lunch from V. Sattui’s divine deli. Then on the road home. Dinner was a brief detour to see friends, and with traffic caused by construction we found ourselves squeaking home shortly after midnight. Luckily the spouse made sure I had what I needed to sleep and get ready for work in the morning, then he finished unloading the car on my behalf.

Early Tuesday morning was back to the real world to catch up with all the work that was waiting for me. I find myself a little wrung out all this week, but so worth it in the long run.

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