Fall in San Francisco and Napa Valley

Last weekend, Kelli and I took a trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley. A first for both of us to SF, and Kelli’s first to Napa. It began as a Virginia Bar passing celebration/decompression escape. We both got an incredible trip, however. Incredible weather, beautiful sights, and great food and wine.

We spent the first day in SF, cruising around in our rental car. We did the touristy thing, but it was a Friday, so we had most places to ourselves. A little cruise down the mercadito and a meander to the marina proved to get us fantastic coffee and donuts, but the restaurant we hoped for was closed on Fridays lunch(Next time, Mamacita’s). My first bite of food in 10 hours (well, aside from that donut, but that doesn’t count right?) was at In ‘N Out Burger…finally. I made it to In ‘N Out!

Guess what's nearby!

The rest of the in SF focused on prodigious amounts of walking around and looking around, so I won’t bore you. But one highlight I must mention. Dinner. You KNEW I was going to mention food! Sushi. Amazing sushi. Like, so good I’ll recommend it. (Go to Okoze.) I didn’t find anything that was earth shatteringly different, but WOW was it fresh. So fresh I’m pretty sure the fish was still swimming in a tank out back with a chunk missing. (Go to Okoze.)

The weekend. Napa. I’ll focus on the highlights again. I took Kelli to some places that I’ve been to before, or had been wanting to go to for a long time, and we let the road take us where it wanted to as well. Clos Du Val proved to be a great experience once again. Go for a tasting, get a bottle and relax. Good views, great wine and very nice people. You don’t need an appointment either. Also, they have one of my favorite wine labels out there.

Clos Du Val Olive Grove


Oh yeah, I should mention, lots of Napa wineries require appointments for tastings. It’s lame, but it’s a necessity at times. Onward.

Darioush Winery is just south of Clos Du Val. Only a 2 minute drive. It’s like no other in the area. Good wine (big, heavy reds), but more pricey and you won’t get the personal experience here. But go for the interesting architecture and mix it up a bit.

Darioush Winery Entrance


Oakville Grocery (sandwiches, pasta salads, much needed bottles of water) and Taylor’s Refresher (burgers, onion rings, milkshakes) are musts for cheap lunches. Both will be crowded, but take that as a good sign. I’m sure Kelli was hoping they served rabbit at Oakville Grocery, given the logo, but no Peter Cottontails around.

Sterling Vineyards is another great experience. To get to the tasting room, you take a gondola ride! Just make sure you and your tasting bud won’t pee your pants from fear of heights. I won’t say Kelli was scared, but I won’t say she didn’t need Depends either. Once you’re at the top, you’re in for some amazing views. Sterling perched their huge place atop of large hill/mountain that juts out of the middle of the valley floor, giving you a great 360-degree view. You do a self-paced tour of the place with stations along the way to get your next tasting, ending with a final tasting at yet another beautiful terrace. Really fun. It’s just one more pee-shivering ride down again when you’re ready to go.

Sterling Gondola. The cab is TINY by the way.


Chateau Montelena provides great wine and great views like this:

Chateau Montelena, Jade Lake

We spent a good 30 minutes here just walking around and looking at the place. Never even tasted a drop. I’ve had it before and can say that you’ll get some great vino here if you do taste.

Somewhere around this time, my photos starting becoming more few and far between. Yeah, I know you’ll blame the wine, but nay! It was mostly because we went to places I’ve been to before. Which, by the way, are also great. Check out Cakebread Cellars (Kelli’s second favorite wine of all time) and Elyse Winery (Kelli’s new favorite! Ding ding! You’ve been OUSTED, Cakebread!). You’ll need to make appointments at both of these, but they’re worth it for the juice. I love the wine at both. Elyse is not great for views or tours. It’s literally in the guy’s backyard. Seriously. Their dogs are walking around the tasting room, and you’ll see the owner sitting in the back room buried under cases of wine. But it has some major charm that is hard to find anywhere else. You’ll be the only one there, too. I really can’t disagree with Kelli on the wine quality either.

It’s been a week now, but I’m already itching to go back. Maybe at some point life will pull me out there for a longer, if not temporary. But for now, to remind me, I’ll have some great wine downstairs and some memorable photos.


One thought on “Fall in San Francisco and Napa Valley

  1. the Kelli November 23, 2010 / 9:26 pm

    That gondola at Sterling is WAY scarier than it looks. ‘Specially if your tram car is tilted at a 60 degree angle because one side is weighed down by a “big and tall.”

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