A Cali Spring Break

San Francisco, Napa, and Sonoma, CA | March 15-19, 2015 | What a much needed break from the grey and cold of Wisconsin this trip was!! Jon surprised me at Christmas with hotel reservations at a Napa boutique hotel- I’m sure I don’t need to say how excited I was. Of course I also took over the remainder of the planning, booking our flight and deciding what activities we were going to attempt. By the time the trip came around I couldn’t wait to go!

Day 1: We were up early on Sunday morning to drive to Milwaukee. Fortunately we were able to get direct flights on Southwest but that came with the 2.5 hour drive to that airport. Flying out of WI is really always a challenge but at least we didn’t have to connect! I managed to do a lot of reading on the 3.5 hour flight getting close to finishing One Plus One by JoJo Moyes. Will review that with a book club menu next!

Once we landed at SFO we discovered that the reason our rental car was cheaper than most was due to the fact that is was offsite. One tram and shuttle later we finally got our Mazda Z5 for the next few days. She was like a mini mini-van with the sliding side doors but small enough that it felt like a car with a hatchback. Our first stop was the glorious Golden Gate Bridge. I mean you have to go there first right? We drove through town and over the bridge before heading into the national park on the left. It was pretty crowded but we managed to find a parking spot and take a few photos (because again, you have to!). Then we decided to go on to Napa to check in to the Bel Apri– our home away from home- for a few nights. 

Let’s just start off with- Napa is beautiful. We were only driving in and the hills and greenery were so nice to see. Especially after being in white wintry Wisconsin these last few months. We pulled right in to downtown Napa and our hotel was right there! Easy walking distance to wineries, restaurants, the works. And lucky us we got there just in time for wine and cheese happy hour. Did I mention yet how much I like Napa? We got everything unpacked (free Ghirardelli chocolates in our room!) and then headed for a walk down to the river. We wandered around a bit (the river is there but drying up since CA is running out of water) before heading to dinner at City Winery. It’s located in historic opera house and with outdoor seating I couldn’t say no. I had a yummy poached pear salad and a side of roasted sweet and spicy brussel sprouts. And of course a first glass of Napa wine. So good. Jon went with a burger and had some beer (he did have wine later, promise). Oh and we finished off everything with some olive oil cake and caramel ice cream. Delicious. We headed over to Atlas Social after to buy a bottle of wine and relax. Our poison of choice was a Luna Sangiovese. I had never had Luna but I do like Sangiovese so we thought why not? It was also delicious and finished out our first night in Napa there. 

Day 2: San Francisco Day. We were up super early to get in a run- who says you can’t exercise on vacation?! Like so early, we watched the sunrise on our way back to the hotel. But we had big plans for the day and wanted to make sure we could fit everything in. Breakfast at Bel Apri is simply divine. They consider themselves a French Country inn so breakfast matched that sentiment. We had warm croissants with jam, fresh fruit, granola and yogurt, hard boiled eggs, and cheeses! LOVE. You’re welcome to eat in the lobby or you can take it back to your room as there are a set of chairs and little table to sit at. From breakfast we headed out to spend the day in San Fran. First stop was Muir Woods. I had heard the redwoods were beautiful and this was definitely true. We walked the well trodden paths and took lots of photos before deciding to head up the ridge to get a panoramic view. Holy up hill climb batman! I was sore for days after this. Lots and lots of wooden stairs to get us up that slope but we made it and the treescape was really really nice. After a much faster descent and a quick change of clothes we drove into downtown San Fran to spend the rest of the day.

Day 3: Napa! After the previous day of hiking, hills and walking we decided to hold off our run which was good since we were both super sore. After the once again delicious breakfast, I looked over the Napa map, consulted our wine pass discounts and plotted out of plan of action for the day. We had big goals and made it most places. Starting off on the Silverado Trail we were first at Black Stallion where we tasted some really nice wines but being that it was our first stop we didn’t want to purchase right then. Next up was Hagafen Cellars– we purchased a bottle of Clarinet for Jon’s dad. It is a tasty Tempranillo and it had a clarinet on the label- we couldn’t resist. After there we entered into what felt like a Greek spa at Darioush to split a tasting. The atmosphere was really nice at this winery. Our final stop on the trail was up to Stag’s Leap. I didn’t originally have it on my list, but we were told to drive just a bit farther up the trail. And wow, what a view came with this place. We loved the view and we loved their wine so a few purchases were made! Our next stop took us to Luna. We had enjoyed their wine the previous evening and thought we should see what else they had to offer. We spent quite a bit of time here enjoying breadsticks, tasting good wine and chatting with our lovely Bartender who being from Wisconsin could commiserate with us. In my research I had discovered there was a Caldwell Winery– and the owner’s name was John. What are the odds?!! Unfortunately it was by appointment only, so we just stopped by to visit. Next time this will be on our list for sure! Our final stop of the day was to Falcor Winery where we had ‘green’ wine courtesy of Saint Patrick’s Day. After all of that, a nap was in order for me! A few hours rest and some In ‘N’ Out for dinner and I was back on track. Fantastic day in Napa!!

Another pass over the Golden Gate, maneuvering thru traffic and finding parking and we made it to the waterfront area! First stop (restroom) but then the seal lions at Pier 39. Very funny and so talkative! We decided on lunch at Boudin Bakery (home of delicious sourdough). We were starving from our hike and so plowed into the bread basket as soon as it arrived. I went with fish tacos (sourdough tacos!) and Jon had a crab cake sandwich. Super fresh seafood. We also tried out some local beer- Anchor Steam Beer for me and Red Trolley Ale for Jon. After lunch we walked down the waterfront and over to Ghirardelli Square. So much chocolate and so many people waiting in line! We got a free sample and then headed for the door (I would later redeem myself and grab some mini-chocolates at the airport). Then it was on to ride the cable car! Of course this line was also super long but definitely worth the wait. I got to ride on the outside holding on tight as we headed up the steep hill. We got off near the top before it turned so we could walk by the twisty turning Lombard Street. So many hills to walk up and down. And the crazy parking- I don’t envy those folks at all with parking. We made it back to our car (to move it out of the deck since it closed early) and then it was time for a nighttime Alcatraz cruise. Beautiful views and an out of this world sunset made for many many photos from me. Also Alcatraz is super creepy in the dark. The coolest part about the island currently is the Ai Wei Wei @Large art exhibit. I took a few photos of the different sections but between legos, kites and porcelain flowers it did not disappoint. Our final stop for the night was in Chinatown to have dinner. Potstickers, wontons and cashew chicken and I was a happy girl. Thanks San Fran for a great day!

Day 4: Sonoma (our last day). We decided to take Sonoma at a leisurely pace starting with a drive up the Silverado Trail. It was recommended and absolutely beautiful. To get to Sonoma we had to cut across the ridge but our little mini mini-van made it through all the twists and turns. First stop was over to Chateau St. Jean. We had gotten all our recommendations from Luna and decided to try everything he said. The chateau was beautiful and we were able to purchase wine skins for our journey home! Next up was Kunde. They had wine caves- that hopefully next time we’ll get to explore. We had a lot of really really good wines here. We ended up being good and only purchased one bottle- a cabernet sauvignon and syrah blend. SO GOOD. Our final stop before lunch was to Sebastiani Winery. It was near downtown Sonoma and had some of the largest wine barrels that I’ve ever seen. Lunch was over at the Girl and the Fig (another recommendation). We had some delicious cheeses and then of course I had a tasty grilled cheese and tomato sandwich for lunch. Jon finally got to taste Pliny the Elder, the Russian River Brewing Company beer that I had heard so many great things about. He loved it. 

After lunch we headed over to Gundlach Bundshu for more tastings. We got a cool pourer/aerator with a ram head for UNC. And the views outside of this winery were sooooo nice. Then we headed over to the Larson Family Winery (where there were lots of labs!) and more yummy wine. Buena Vista was up next- where we discovered they have a sister winery in Wisconsin- who knew?! Our final stop was Roche Winery in downtown Sonoma. Jon had been there before and wanted to stop by- it was a nice final note to our winery tour. For dinner we had to do Mexican and found a nice local place called La Casa. We had some bean and cheese fundido to start and then for dinner I had Avocado relleno. I hope I can recreate this at home because it was delicious. Whole avocado, surrounded by black beans and stuffed with shredded chicken. LOVED IT. We headed back to Bel Apri to get everything packed up to get it WI in one piece. Sonoma you were awesome. 

What an amazing amazing trip. So glad Jon gifted this to me for xmas. Would go back in a heartbeat. 

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