Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Caviar, Burgers and Winetasting in Napa Valley

I have recently rediscovered Napa Valley, which is only a little over an hour drive from San Francisco. The last time I visited Napa was over five years ago with my family. The valley is home to both large wineries and smaller boutique ones.

We have a history of being too ambitious with wine tasting: Flash back to when we hit seven wineries in one day during our last wine tasting trip to Santa Barbara. This time, I insisted there be no more than four to five. We ended up at Domaine Chandon, Merryvale, Opus One and Pine Ridge.

I picked Domaine Chandon for our first stop because you gotta start the day with sparkly, no? I went for the prestige tasting (3 tastings for $16); not bad at all considering they filled up the champagne flutes. We also ordered a trio of caviar nibbles. The order came with a glass of the Prestige Cuvee Brut.

Left: Trout roe with celery, vanilla and parsnip puree
Center: White fish row with brioche and roasted grape
Right: Osetra caviar with creme fraiche

Beautiful presentation but not very tasty. I thought that the components of each piece did not taste good and were not complimentary to the caviar. The creme fraiche had a bland taste, and the vanilla essence in the first one was overpowering everything else on the dish. The brioche and roe combination was probably the best because the dish really showcased the roe, while the buttery brioche was merely just a side to accompany it.

After Chandon, we headed over to Duckhorn to no avail: the winery was completely booked and could not accommodate anyone without reservations. Note to self: make a reservation next time. It was the same situation at Cakebread.

We did have luck at Merryvale, where the reds that we tasted were delicious and smooth. For lunch, we hopped across the street to Taylor's Automatic refresher which is known for its fresh ingredients and drive-in/diner-like menu and decor. There were about 15 people ahead of us, but the line moved relatively quickly. The menu includes burgers, tacos and not to worry, you won't lose your winery buzz over lunch because they also serve beer and wine.

Ahi tuna burger. Wow, this was amazing. First of all, the bread was a toasted buttery egg bun. Secondly, the tuna was fresh and seasoned with a ginger wasabi sauce. The sauce gave the tuna such a tangy and delicious taste. I loved how they also included slaw instead of the usual lettuce. We were all impressed.

I ordered the Wisconsin Sourdough which includes grilled mushrooms, bacon, cheese, mayo and BBQ sauce. Hold the cheese please. The burger patty is all natural Niman Ranch beef. I am not an organic/let's-eat-natural-food type of girl but I could really appreciate the flavors of the patty. I liked this burger/sandwich however I think they could have eased up on the BBQ sauce. It was dripping everywhere like on the Carl's Jr. commercial.

Side of french fries and sweet potato fries.

After that filling and very casual lunch, we headed over to Opus One Winery where for $30, you too can savour a glass of their sole wine. Good wine but I am not sure if it is worth over $150 per bottle. But I do have to say that the property is grandiose.

We ended the day at Pine Ridge Winery. The service was good and so was the Rose and their Reds, however I did not favor their Whites even though our pourer insisted that they was excellent wines.

Wine tasting is such a fun trip, especially in Napa Valley. There are many fine wineries (including Sonoma which is about 15 miles away) and excellent restaurants in the region. It's also just a great weekend trip when you are looking for a mini getaway.

Hits: Wine Wine Wine
Misses: Need reservations for some wineries

Taylor's Automatic Refresher
933 Main Street
St Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-3486

No comments: