The Flora Springs Release Party on the first Saturday in February has become a tradition for a great group friends from San Antonio. It’s always a treat for me to see my SA peeps and the weekend is filled with laughs, great conversations, and lots of wine! Some years we have fabulous weather and some years are like this one with rain and/or cold. We took the rain in stride and enjoyed a great weekend in wine country.
This year I flew in on Friday morning and grabbed an Uber to Napa. Travel Tip – Uber is super easy to do at SFO and is way cheaper than a transportation company. I landed at 9:20am and by 10:40am was at the Archer Hotel in Napa to meet my friends for merriment. A few minutes after I arrived we headed off to Clos du Val in the legendary Stags Leap District. It was gray and drizzly, but that added to the beauty of the vineyard. A Napa friend of our group, Scott greeted us and the wines started to flow. This winery has an incredible history. Founded in 1972 by a descendant of the famous Bourdeaux wine merchant Barton & Guestier, John Goelet had a dream to produce a Cabernet Sauvignon to rival the world’s best. The inaugural wine, the 1972 Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon, was part of the group from California that shocked the world in the legendary 1976 Judgment of Paris blind tasting. In the Judgement of Paris rematch ten years later, Clos du Val’s Cabernet Sauvignon won. As I was walking through the newly updated tasting room, I was intrigued by the walls. They are reclaimed wood from old French tank penchants used at the winery. Over the years Clos du Val has “reduced volume to emphasize quality,” as Scott told us while we sipped Chardonnay on the terrace. As we toured we sipped a pinot noir which I would describe as a dusty pinot or one that’s more earthy, more Bordeau-esque. We made our way to a private tasting room and enjoyed sipping other wines as we noshed on boxed lunches from Bouchon Bakery in Yountville.
Our split up for the rest of the afternoon and I went with a small group to Allora Vineyards, a small production winery. Allora is an Italian word that loosely translates to “whatever.” In a small tasting cave, owner Terry Klein, poured us some of the chablis style Chardonnay. He told us they only have one employee because the rest is family. This is one of those great “word of month” wineries. The scenery is spectacular and so is the wine even though Terry exudes a “whatever” attitude with his wines saying, “you can like them or not.” I thoroughly enjoyed experience this gem of winery. It’s always fun to find one that’s off the beaten path and then share it. My favorite was their Cielo, a super tuscan with an Italian name meaning heavens or sky, until I tasted the Lusso, a cabernet sauvignon. Lusso means “luxury” in Italian. I was intrigued not only by the wine but also the label. Terry went on to tell us Margaret Keane, the artist known for her Big Eyes creations. She’s a longtime friend of their family and painted the image of the three ladies with big eyes sipping wine. When you look closely at the label you see there’s another glass in the forefront. It’s why the painting is called “The Fourth Glass.”
That evening we just had dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak, the restaurant in the Archer Hotel. For our group the dinner had mixed reviews. I had the petite county line lettuces salad and seared sea scallops with zucchini, squash and shishito peppers. We’d hoped to enjoy drinks on the rooftop but with the rain it was closed. The folks in our group who did get to go the night before said it was fabulous.
Saturday morning, my friend Christy and I walk walked to Model Bakery. We laughed as we quickened our pace when the chilly drizzle intensified. Model is a must in Napa. There’s usually a line on weekend morning. We didn’t mind though as it gave us a chance to warm up. The coffee is great, the baked goods look delicious, and the breakfast sandwiches hit the spot that morning.
The bulk of the day was at the Trilogy Release Party at Flora Springs. Every year is fun but this year just seemed over-the-top despite the rain. It was right before Lunar New Year and I loved the colorful lion dance shortly after we arrived.
As the wine flowed and the rain drops fell, we had a ball. There was an incredible cheese carver in the cave and a guy on stilts who was a hoot. We all loved the music of David Luning as we danced in a tipsy state of mind. Just as the party was ending a stunning rainbow crossed the sky over the vineyards. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
Once back in town, five of us went for a tasting while others went shopping or just the revelry going in the lobby of the hotel. We went to Robert Craig Winery’s tasting room in Napa named called Bar Craig. The wines are good but the tasting was just okay compared to the others we had been to on this trip. I’d give them another shot on another trip to Napa. The evening was filled with more fun after a quick bite in downtown Napa, some of us enjoyed cocktails and stories at the bar in the hotel. It was a night of many laughs for sure!
We slowed the pace a little on Sunday morning and went for champagne in a unique tasting room. JCB Collection tasting salon in Yountville. We sat in the animal print nook, complete with leopard print drapes, sipping bubbly enjoying the stunning room complete with mirrors artfully done on the ceiling. This places just oozes French glamour and decadence.
We went from tres chic to the bar scene and had a blast watching the Super Bowl in Downtown Joe’s Brewery and Restaurant. The game may have been boring but the eclectic mix of people in the bar was entertaining. As we drove back to San Francisco early Monday morning to catch our flights, as we sat in traffic, we kept seeing rainbow and rainbow. What a way to end three days in rainy Napa!
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