vacation recap. part two.

back again! nick and his dad are outside finishing up the deck... and here i am, bloggin away.

thursday june 5.
check out all the photos from this day here.
another early morning. fingers crossed we would be able to do the hot air balloon. was not going to get up early on our anniversary and saturday we were checking out and moving on...
got the okay for lift off! exciting!
took a zillion pictures. my silly self deleted half of them though. sigh. i cannot believe i did that. wish it was any other day. but seriously, the one thing i wanted to do and was hoping to have 38745 pictures from. oh well. we were reluctant to pay their photographer for pictures but decided to do it any way. so glad that we did otherwise we would have no pictures from the beginning of our trip. had some really cool ones too. wah...
k. enough whining. onto the fun pictures.
really glad we paid the guy. i mean, i can't imagine not having something like this and there would be no other way to have this view. so fun.
i had some reservations about this flight. thought it would be uber scary. but it wasn't. was more quiet than i expected and really quite peaceful.

the one picture that i deleted, that i miss the most is the one with the balloon next to a building. it just showed it's size. i never really realized how huge they were!

so how did i delete all the pictures? because i'm blonde at heart. so we came back to the hotel after the flight and i uploaded everything to the computer. when we came back to the hotel after going out again, i uploaded again and clicked replace instead of add {regarding the duplicate numbers} and poof, the beginning of the hot air balloon pictures were deleted.
nick tried and tried to find them. no such luck. and once i realized why they weren't there, all hope was lost. my mom's theory is that we just need to go on another hot air balloon ride.
after the balloon ride, we hit the wineries again! had to stop for lunch first. stopped at taylor's. i loved that every where we went was so earth friendly. i swear, i've never seen more hybrids in my life. a lot of the restaurants had recycling which was so cool. taylor's had this nifty little cups.

hess was our first stop of the day.
nick was excited because they had dragons on their flags! if only we were as impressed with the wines. maybe it was just that we killed our taste buds! who knows. they did have some super cool displays. that funky little tree? an old vine.
loved the brick walls they had. made nick stop for a photo op! just have to edit out that right side of the photo....
had a koi pond with some lily pads. and i, apparently, was in macro mode for this vacation...

second stop was artesa.
not sure how we heard about this place. think it was in most of the brochures we had picked up along the way. had some super neat architecture. was built into a mountain!

were not impressed with the service. oy. the guy sucked. so i'm sure even if the wines were good, we would have been put off on the place anyway.
had the tripod in the car with us {thanks colleen!} and decided to use it for the first time this trip! oh and yay remotes!

then it was off to domaine carneros.
had some questionable service here too. the dude was more focused on the bimbos at the table next to us. we almost got up and left. it was that bad.
had a little visitor while we were waiting on the patio...
even though we had some bad service, we decided to give them more of our money and order a cheese tray. it was sooo good! nick was even a fan of the goat cheese which he swears he doesn't like. ;o)
the rest of our evening was spent in the hotel room. nick passed out while i watched some mindless tv {food network, nba finals}. once nick woke up, we ordered a pizza and then watched national treasure two. kinda. i fell asleep so it was to be continued!

friday june 6. our 5 year anniversary! see all the photos here.
woke up at our leisure. ate breakfast downstairs. just had a nice, lazy morning. weren't really sure what we wanted to do. were shockingly not in the mood for wine...
hit up cosentino first.

came highly recommended from one of nick's doctors. were really impressed. and they had a reasonably priced wine club. decisions, decisions. thought we should head off and could always come back if we needed to.
what says romantic anniversary date? jelly belly of course! ha.
headed over there and took their free tour. was pretty neat. had some awesome jelly belly artwork. check out george clooney.

after the tour we thought we should hit up some more wineries. st. supery it was.

they had some learning tools above the tasting room. it was about smells you would find in certain wines.

we decided that we did want to join cosentino's club, so we went back. and once we signed up, that meant more tastings. and no, nick cannot spit or pour out the rest of his wine if he doesn't like it. i, however, had no problem doing so. which is why most days i because the designated driver! see below:
and guess what? nick went back to the hotel and took a nap. then we walked to our anniversary dinner. ate at cuvee. way yummy!

saturday june 7. see all the pictures here.
our last day in napa. so sad. went by so quickly.
started the day off at sterling.

were told that it was a must stop. had to take a tram to get to the tasting area. pretty nifty!

there was a self guided tour and there were random areas where you could do some tastings. the views were insane. maybe it's just that we are impressed with anything hilly and non cornfield-y. ;o)
had some pretty good wine. our favorite was the malvasia bianca.
the nice tram lady took our picture.

were hoping to take one on the way up to the tasting room but these two crazy ladies sat opposite of one another. what is that? i mean, you came together. i assume you like one another. so sit next to each other dagnabit.
right next door was clos pegase. i guess it could be considered next door...
had some really strange artwork throughout the grounds.
see this ninja tree...

yeah, not really a ninja tree. just some strangely placed wind thingies... still funny though.
and how about these guys?!

is a thumb really artwork?
but they did have a cute dog inside. his owner painted amongst the barrels. the dog, luke, was super friendly and made us miss guinnea pig a bit.

as we were leaving, nick thought it would be a good idea to taste a grape fresh off the vine. which is so not close to being ripe. but whatever. it's his mouth!

next stop: clos du bois.

crowded. darn wine tasting festival. however, the lady was super generous with sharing her labels. side note: if you ever head to a winery, you can ask for old labels. my coworker is now making me a serving dish with all the labels we collected. k. back to the regularly scheduled topic.
stopped at geyser peak.

blech. darn taste of the valley. only had a select few wines out if you weren't with the tour.
best part of that stop... this picture. yes, it's me in the bathroom!

left that place in record time.
then hit bear republic for lunch.
don't remember the beers we had. i'm sure mine was a stout. nick was kinda miffed. our waitress didn't tell us that there were flights available. um, hello, that is seriously pertinent info!
food wasn't too bad.
our next stop. gas. the first purchase of the trip.

almost $65 later, we were ready to roll.
nick saw a billboard when we were driving around for a dessert winery. found it. and were sooo glad we stopped.
trentadue = yum.

didn't taste anything other than dessert wines. they have a chocolate, cherry port that was absolutely delicious!
then we stumbled across these funny glasses!

went to our next hotel. which was such a downgrade compared to our kick ass one.
the dude at the front desk offered us their 'best' room. um, no thanks. so glad we were only there for one evening.
got situated and then headed to one of guy fieri's restaurants. tex wasabi.

loud atmosphere. can totally see it being a crazy fun night spot. nick had real sushi. i had the gringo stuff. i don't like cooked fish. not sure i would be a fan of raw fish!

that's the end of part two. stay tunned for part three....


vacation recap. part one.

k. finally!
nick's outside power washing the deck. i'm in here watching the cubs and sox play... go sox! figured i could sneak in some blog time too!

monday june 2. travel day. see all photos from this day here.
love flying out early so we have a whole day at our destination. just do not like getting up early! had the limo pick us up and take us to the airport. soooo much easier than trying to pay and park in the lots near the airports.
our pilot's name was captain kirk. heehee. had some great flight attendants too. helped nick and i plot to get a row of three to ourselves. was a pretty uneventful flight. i was able to sleep most of the way.
had no troubles at the rent a car place. hertz. normally, we use another company. and every time we arrive, they 'upgrade' us to a shittier car. not this time. thank goodness. not sure i would have wanted that upgrade to a gas guzzler with gas so darn expensive.
first stop of the trip: jack in the box. sigh. why can't we have some around here? i would take an in and out burger too. nick had to try some ginormo burger. below photo is me attempting to take the first bite!

hotel is awesomeness.
huge room with a balcony. cute view of the napa river. super big two person bath tub and dual head shower. free dvd player and flat panel tv. even have free dvd rentals at the front desk. free wifi. way nice. oh and it only took me about four days of staying here to realize that the greenery in front of the building... grape vines. doh.
our plan for the trip was to not really have a plan. we had a list of wineries that were recommended to us but nothing about the trip {except hot air balloon and alcatraz} was set in stone.
so we got to the room and decided to try and make a tentative plan. after thinking so hard, it was decided we need to eat! headed to downtown joe's, a brewery. kind of strange that we are growing into beer and wine lovers. a few years ago i would have laughed if you told me i would be taking a wine tasting trip! but i'm off topic...
so downtown joe's. had quite a selection of their specialty brews.
i believe nick had the tail waggin amber ale and porter. i enjoyed the stout. yum.
also had some garlic fries. so tasty. and apparently, they are on almost every menu in the area! called it a night early and ordered some food to go. but once we walked outside, thought we should walk around the downtown area a bit. there was a little area near the brew pub that was near the river... took some self photos:

then headed back to the hotel and nick watched the golden compass while i passed out! nick wasn't too impressed with the movie. so i'm glad i didn't try to stay awake for it!

tuesday june 3: see all photos here!
the day was supposed to start with free in room breakfast delivery at 8:30am. no go. had to call by a certain time for their wine tasting tour. thankfully, they offered the tour th around 9 and find out where it was. a bit nervous about the delay since we were to be at mondavi by a certain time for a wine tasting and tour. thankfully, they offered them throughout the day which wasn't mentioned in our trusty little travel guide!
the grounds were amazing. so beautiful. but i think i said that about a lot of the wineries. just such a pretty area...

since we were able to book the tour for a later time, we walked around and took a lot of pcitures. okay, i took most of the pictures. darn digital. then you can delete and compare settings. so i got a bit carried away. oh well!
learned a lot on the tour. about growing grapes, how they make and store wine, and even got to do a tasting and learned the proper techniques for smelling and tasting. so worth it. a really nice start to the trip. then we kinda knew what to do the rest of the time. ;o)
they had HUGE barrels for their wine. each held 5,000 gallons. they were serious.

then we saw where they were stored. and they talked about how they only stacked them two high due to earthquakes. the barrels were so pretty. they actually used grapes to stain the outer, middle sections of the barrels.

then it was onto wine tasting 101. fun! nick jotted down notes about everything we tasted. he compiled it into one big notebook at the end of the trip. then we knew if we wanted to order certain ones when we arrived home.
mr. mondavi passed away a few weeks before our visit. they were planning a birthday party for him right before he passed. they turned it into a celebration of his life and it was set to be a huge gathering a few weeks after our trip. thought this picture was pretty nifty. his coat is made entirely of wine corks.
after mondavi, we went to oakville grocery and got some snackies. holy crap is that little building packed! had free samples of everything... everywhere! nabbed some pretty tasty olives then ordered our sandwich and headed to our next stop.
v. sattui. was supposed to be free tastings. not so much. those free ones are pretty darn hard to come by.... but they did have a picnic area which we took our oakville grocery purchases too. only to read a sign that said you could only eat food purchased at v. sattui. well, we were rebels and ate it there anyway. ;oP

the winery came highly recommended from the hotel. eh. i don't think either one of us was impressed. i guess the thing about them, is that you can only purchase the wines there. they don't distribute to retailers. however, the tasting lady offered to take our picture, so yay!
headed to mumm napa for a wine break. wanted to try some bubblies. and we learned that just because there are vines on their property, it doesn't mean those are their grapes. they grow in multiple areas throughout northern california.
um, how can nick be sick of pictures already? it's only the first day! actually, i have no idea what this picture is about. but makes me giggle thinking he has had enough of my camera.
trying to get creative with the tasting lists. so many freaking choices.

they had a tour that we heard was fabulous but we didn't take. looking back, maybe we should have done the tour. might have made us appreciate the sparklings more.
hung around on their patio waiting for time to pass. had to have a reservation for our next stop...

had heard nothing but good things about this winery from multiple people. we weren't really sure if it was worth it to actually try to schedule our visit. but decided to give it a go. i mean if the four people that gave us detailed information on which wineries to visit, all had cakebread on their list, thought we should do it.
so worth it. nick and i were not big fans of 'reds' before our trip. we are huge 'whites' people. i think it was good to go to someplace that was well known for the 'reds' to try em. i guess it's the super dry, merlot type drinks that just don't do it for us. cakebread wines. not so dry! they even handed out recipes for dishes to pair with each of the tastings we had. pretty cool! we even got them to pour us some specialty wines that weren't on the tasting menus.
and they have a photography contest. how could i not like them?! they had some pretty great pictures. i guess the catch is, there has to be a cakebread bottle in the picture.

last stop of the day... peju.

were a bit wineried out. but thought why not? it was right next door to cakebread and was open an hour later than the rest of the wineries. turned out to be worth it.
the wineries all have wine clubs. and if you are a wine club member they ship you wines and you get free tastings at the winery. well, lucky us, happened to be in a group with some members, so we got extra free wine! but that meant drunk nick!
he so loved the big bottles.

some nifty little gadgets we learned about. the vinturi, the co2 bottle opener, the purpose of a decantur, and a real wine opener!
nick met some lady outside on the grounds...

apparently, she wore him out. ;o)
needless to say, we crashed when we made it back to the hotel. nick took a nap. needed to sleep it off! went to a hole in the wall mexican restaurant for dinner. called it a night early since we had to be up at 4:30 for hot air ballooning...

wednesday june 4. all pictures here.
our hot air balloon day! was so nervous about this. and wasn't sure it would be worth the money. hauled our butts out of bed early. had to be at this restaurant at 5something. whoa. early for a vacation. managed to make it there on time!
pulled into the parking lot and saw this sign:
and my smart self said, holl-a. not hola. i am sorry but that a is just not in line with the rest of the letters. and it was 5 in the morning for pete's sake! nick thought it was hilarious and had to go make fun of me.
so we lounged around this crazy mexican restaurant. couldn't figure out what we were waiting for. apparently, there was too much wind. the one guy came in and was like, 'do you see those trees moving outside? well, that means it's too windy.' nick complained. said there was no wind. couldn't see what the guy was talking about. this could be because we are from the chicagoland area. ahem, windy city. the wind was quite mild. so the guy tells us it's a no go. that we can try and come back tomorrow if we're interested. dudes. another early morning wake up call. come on!
we drag ourselves back to the hotel and try to figure out what to do with our time. i mean it's not even 6am and no wineries are open until 10. sigh. decided to watch cloverfield. figured it might be a good idea since nick had taken his antivert! not sure what i was expecting but was hoping for more closure with the ending.
k. now it's a normal time and people are up. decide we are going to give hot air ballooning another try tomorrow. call and thankfully, there are openings. then it's off to more wineries. sonoma today.
gloria ferrar is our first stop of the day.
just thought it was an interesting view. i mean, how do they decide where to stop planting the vines?
absolutely breathtaking views from their tasting patio. all sorts of pretty flowers around the patio as well. the server snapped this for us.
seriously, the amount of vines is insane. but i think we learned that the grapes are only planted on like 4% of the land in napa. crazy. because they are everywhere.
just some pretties...

served our sample with some spicy almonds. so good. sparkly stuff, not so much. but we're gonna keep trying to like the bubbly.
left gloria ferrar and headed to benziger. george, our gps, apparently also wanted us to see this...

because he took us WAY out of our way just to make a u-turn. was quite ridiculous. finally ended up at benziger.

not that exciting. i mean they are a pretty much all green winery, so kudos to them. but the wines... not too impressed.
but they did also have peacocks. so bonus.

and we saw this little guy walking back to our car.

chateau st. jean was our next visit.

had some seriously beautiful grounds. very quiet and peaceful. nick ended up falling asleep in the swing we took a quick pit stop on! wines, again eh. we still aren't big, bold cab lovers. still trying though.

then it was time to visit ledson.

a giant mansion. super funny because there was a prison right next door! grabbed some lunch at their deli and relaxed outside... checking out the inmates.
called it a day and drove back to napa.
checked out a tappas bar for dinner.
was quite tasty but not so filling for mr. nick, so we stopped at a taco truck before we went back to the hotel!

phew. so there it is. our first three days. and it only took me a few hours to recap! promise to be back soon with the rest. ;o)