We all know Mark Twain famously said:
The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.
What not everybody knows is how spot on it is. So escape the cold and head to the heat of wine country, in the heart of Napa. It doesn’t hurt to get invited to a wedding to cement the whole plan like I did, but you can work around that.
Head up Friday, leave work as early as you can to avoid traffic of course. 90 minutes later, we arrive in St Helena at what Sunset Magazine profiled in a hip, cool motels piece, the El Bonita Motel. Grammatically wrong in Spanish we know, but who am I to complain. This is a hidden gem. The cool neon sign lets you know this is a throw back to the 70’s. Focus on low rates (most rooms are well under $200 which is a bargain for the area) with an amazing pool, a hot tub, and steam scene at the expense of everything else so you don’t mind the typical motel lobby, small rooms, no room service or services of any kind for that matter.
Facebook/El Bonita Motel
We head into town, about a mile away, to explore the town and shops before our dinner reservations. We stop in Cook Tavern for a nice glass of Cab, then over to the basement at Goose and Gander for another, then off to Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen for the main event: dinner! Grilled figs with serrano ham and ricotta, stuffed piquillo peppers, and the best meatloaf in the world are the highlights, but everything is pretty amazing. As is the Cab…
Wake up early and hit the wine trail. We arrange a bus tour for the afternoon with the wedding party, but you can do this on your own or through a smaller tour company. $40 tastings in Napa, but wine is free flowing. Not tightly poured, so all good. Tastings at St. Supery are outdoor for whites (Chard) while we are playing Bocce, and indoor for reds (Cab and Merlot.)
Next, a stop is Dean and Deluca. Mad dash for 40 people to unload, invade the store, and get food. Humboldt Fog cheese, sourdough baguette, Mario Batali’s Salumi Toscana and Hot Sopressata, and mixed olives. Now it’s a party! We eat hurriedly in the parking lot and on the bus, which is not ideal, but hind sight 20/20 we could have brought it to the next winery for a picnic.
With bellies full, time to hit Silver Oak. So excited for this stop! But we arrive and they are serving Silverado wines. Apparently we are at Silverado to my surprise. Bhe tasting is upstairs in a beautifully appointed room with a huge deck. We are told not to go out there, but it is too beautiful. We find out the deck is for club members. Since we are not rule followers, we’re outside for an hour refilling early and often as the big wigs we are(n’t). The Sauv Blanc and Cabernet SOLO were excellent. Back on the bus and back to El Bonita to drink some of our Silverado purchases by the pool before dinner. Air temp is about 80 degrees, it is downright pleasant!
Ready for dinner, $24 Uber later (Hint: This is way cheaper than a DUI,) we arrive at Michael Chiarello’s famous Bottega. Highlights include pesce crudo served on a beautiful ice block, wild mushroom burrata, grilled short rib meatballs that were more like delicious mini hamburger nuggets, branzino, and even a cut above that is the tagliarini bolognese (so much meat, it should really be called bolognese tagliarini!) and the octopus that literally tastes like dry aged steak!
Off to Pancha’s dive bar in Yountville for night caps and shooting pool. Word to the wise: don’t put your drinks down on the pool table, the owner does not like that. But anything else goes there, apparently.
We wake up and hit Archetype for brunch. This is my new favorite restaurant in the world. They have the first combo bar/kitchen I have ever seen and it is cool! We start with the most delicious drink in the world called “The Scala,” which is made with jalapeño infused tequila, ginger liqueur, lemongrass syrup, and lime juice with a cayenne salt/sugar rim. Ridiculous. The food did not disappoint either, summer squash omelet and Norwegian eggs (classic benedict with smoked salmon instead.) Make it here for Brunch. It’s non-negotiable.
It is early afternoon, time to hit the pool again and finish the remaining Sauv Blanc and Rosato. I’m dipping in the pool every 15 minutes because it is so hot while reading a book in between sips and dips. Late afternoon comes, time to clean up and get to the wedding at Beringer, which is a stunning, sprawling forest setting. The Cab is delicious and somehow we finished it all by the time the first course is served. On to an equally tasty Merlot for the rest of the evening, which we tried to finish, but to no avail.
Great weekend, romantic (I left those parts out,) HOT, too much food topped off with too much wine. Who could ask for anything more in a weekend getaway?