A weekend jaunt

Recently, after two years of not having easy access to an automobile, Joe and I signed up for ZipCar.  Not only does it make getting huge amounts of groceries a whole lot easier, but we also decided we wanted to take advantage of the many amazing places that surround San Francisco and get out of the city for more one day weekend trips.

So on Saturday, we hopped in our rented MINI Cooper and jetted up to Yountville.  Pretty much instantly, I felt like smacking my head against the dashboard because Napa Valley is SO FREAKIN CLOSE.  Even with traffic in Berkeley and Vallejo, we got there in about an hour.  Why hadn’t we done this sooner?

I have little to no interest in hitting up tasting rooms these days — not to toot my own horn, but after a few weeks at Crushpad and a few months of living in the cellar at the Chron, I kind of know a thing or two about wine.  Needless to say, paying anywhere from $5 to $30 to taste flights of wine isn’t the best use of my money anymore.  So Joe and I decided we’d just park it somewhere, get a bottle of wine, and enjoy the perfect 80-degree weather.

We ended up at Domaine Chandon, primarily because they have an amazing outdoor space.  I’d been there once before, when Joe’s sister came to visit early last year.  Oddly enough, I like Chandon a lot more from one of their still wines than the sparkling they’re famous for.  They produce a still Pinot Meunier, a red grape sometimes used in sparkling wine along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  It’s kind of uncommon to see it produced in a still form, but I really love it as an everyday, supremely drinkable table wine.

We like it so much, in fact, that we bought a case of it.  Hooray!

After taking down a bottle of the Meunier, a cheese platter and a charcuterie plate, we jetted over to Bouchon, also known as One of My Favorite Places in the World.  We got there early enough in the evening that we were able to snag a table in the bar, then proceeded to indulge in a dozen Salt Aire oysters, salads, macaroni gratin, and the CORN!  You may have heard of this corn, for its reputation proceeds it: sweet kernels, cooked sous vide with brown butter, thyme, Pernod (so THAT’S what the licorice-y flavor was!) and copious amounts of crème fraîche, I’m sure.  I could’ve bathed in it.

We washed the meal down with glasses of Sancerre and finished the meal with cappuccino.  It was a perfect afternoon.

Before heading in to Bouchon, we’d taken a little walk through Yountville, and ended up at The French Laundry gardens.  I hadn’t even realized where we were when we first saw the land — beautiful, colorful rows of tomatoes, eggplant, red bell peppers.  Perfectly manicured thyme plants next to fragrant sage and rosemary.  The backdrop behind the garden is the mountain range that creates the Napa Valley.  The sun was setting, the air was warm and breezy, and it was quiet.  Peaceful.

There are two benches that face the garden, and Joe and I sat there for a few minutes, taking in the day, the sun, the smell of the air.  It’s moments like those when I’m always reminded of how truly connected I feel to the land here, and how much I truly enjoy my work.  There’s no place I’ve ever visited that I adore quite as much as Wine Country, and heading up north is always so inspiring and rejuvenating.

I’m ready for the week ahead.

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