Saturday, January 8, 2011

California Day #4 (Continued)

After an amazing lunch at Fish in Sausalito, we continued our journey north to wine country. The drive took around an hour, but went by pretty quick. Our first stop in wine country was Napa, Sonoma's big brother. Home of hundreds of wineries, world class restaurants, and beautiful landscapes--Napa is a must-see destination.

We started our Napa experience at the Mondavi Estate as Robert Mondavi was one of the pioneer winemakers who brought Napa worldwide recognition. With new technological advances in winemaking and new marketing campaignes, Mondavi created a standard to New World Wines. I would definitely recommend taking a tour of the estate. You will taste some great wines including some reserve vintages and you will get a first hand glimpse of the winemaking process from viticulture to vinification. The tour starts off with an overview of the winery and a brief history of Robert Mondavi. The tour then moved out into the vineyard where the grapes were harvested. We then got a chance to see the winemaking process from the pressing of the grapes to the aging process. The tour ended with a private tasting of some really awesome wines. We got to try a 2008 Fume Blanc Reserve, 2008 Pinot Noir Reserve, 2007 Stags Leap district Cabernet Sauvignon, and some other world-class wines. They even paired a lovely piece of duck prosciutto to taste with our Pinot Noir. Duck and Pinot Noir are a magical pairing. The duck prosciutto was garnished with cherry, arugula, and pistachio which not only gave the dish a great texture, but it worked well with the great layers of flavors
found in the Pinot.

We then hit up Brennans in Calistoga for dinner. Calistoga is probably the most laid-back, homey town in Napa so this is where we decided to stay. The concierge at our Hotel bragged about Brennans, so we figured we'd give it a try. The service was on-point as I would expect from a Napa restaurant. The server was very knowledgeable--an aspiring chef taking classes at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

We started off the meal with a great bottle of wine--a 2006 Bennet Lane Maximus which is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, and Syrah. The wine was delicious by itself, but was even better when we got to our entrees. The wine had a long fresh fruit finish allowing it to pair well with a variety of food.

The appetizer we started off was the Thai Curry Mussels recommended to us by our server. The mussels were pretty good as they were cooked in coconut milk, tomatoes, and a some other spices creating a pretty unique dish. For an entree, I got a burger, which might seem like an unusual dinner choice; but I couldn't have been happier with my choice. Burgers are one of my favorite foods if cooked right. This burger was made with high quality ground meat and was cooked perfectly, medium-rare. It was great burger with great flavor-- more delicious than Nadine's filet mignon in my opinion.

Nadine would probably argue as she LOVED her filet mignon with blue cheese crusted potatoes. The filet was cooked perfectly and paired very well with the wine as the velvet tannins and meat sang in perfect harmony. Nadine also ordered a side of brussel sprouts and mushrooms that she thoroughly enjoyed. We ended the meal by splitting a Chocolate Cream Pie-- chocolate pudding pie with whipped cream. Chocolate pudding pie is such a simple dessert for a restaurant, so I was surprised to see it on the menu; but we got down with it!

Napa has a ton of restaurants from world-renowned restaurants such as French Laundry to more casual, laid-back restaurants such as Brennans. I would recommend Brennans as we had a good meal, however; Napa has some many choices that you could definitely do a lot better. As far as value is concerned, I think Brennans is a great lunch/dinner spot that won't kill your wallet.

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