Before I describe the next part the flitterwochen redux, let me clear something up from my last post. With my descriptions of the cheesy electric fireplace and snarling whirlpool tub, I may have left you with the impression that the Napa Inn is not a nice place to stay. That is not at all the case. It’s quite a lovely establishment with a very friendly staff. There’s even a wardrobe in one of the hallways that I’m pretty sure leads to Narnia, although Ian suggested it was probably just used for storing towels. Well, Professor Kirke’s wardrobe was ostensibly used to store out-of-season coats, but it still led the Pevensie children to great adventures, so you just never know, do you?
The staff at the inn was particularly accommodating to us on the first morning of our stay. Although the sign-up sheet for the first breakfast seating was full by the time we had checked in, the staff was hospitable enough to let us dine early, al fresco in the inn courtyard, so that we would not be late for our planned excursion that morning. I was grateful for this and couldn’t help but feel bad leaving my quiche uneaten. I even tried a tiny bite, which is quite an unexpected move for me as eggs are my least favorite food in the history of ever, but the cheese and vegetables did not disguise the egginess enough for me to eat more.
After breakfast, we headed to the train station to pick up our bus, which transported us to Raymond Vineyards, an organic, biodynamic estate in Napa Valley. Our time there included a tasting and tour combination. During the Theater of Nature portion of the tour, we learned about all that goes into wine making, from the soil and the plants to the animals and the winemakers. Also, there were chickens, so I got the chicken fix that I had missed in Sonoma. Plus, I fed rosemary to goats and learned that a single bat can eat up to 1200 mosquitoes in an hour. So let me just say–yay bats!
The tour also included an exercise in picking out various aromas in wine. We were given several glasses to sniff, and for each, we were told to identify the predominant scent by choosing from a long list. I’m proud to say I only missed one. I mistook clove for herbal, which is particularly odd since I recently underwent a dental procedure that involved oil of clove, after which I smelled and tasted clove for about four days. Maybe I really just didn’t want to think about clove anymore.
The tour also took us to the Crystal Cellar at Raymond, which features stainless steel walls, impressive chandeliers, an extensive collection of crystal decanters, and some other…interesting decor.
We also got quite an education on wine barrels. I’d had no idea they were so expensive! American oak barrels range in price from about $350 to $500, but French oak barrels can set you back anywhere from $800 to $3600! Plus, they typically are used only three times for aging wine.
When the tour/tasting concluded, the bus took us to Grgich Hills Estate (more on that next time), where we boarded the Napa Valley Wine Train for a fabulous lunch and some great scenery.
After the train ride, we strolled around Napa a bit more, tasted some spirits from the Napa Valley Distillery at the Oxbow Public Market, had another wine tasting at Back Room Wines, learned to dance the Cha-cha, sat in an over-sized chair, and had dinner at the Napa Valley Bistro. All in all, it was a fine day. And that’s the truth!