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A Saturday Waiting to Eat at the French Laundry and Tasting on Top of a Mountain at Schweiger

Where Friday morning was sunny, Saturday morning was foggy.  I took no pictures of the fog though because I was too obsessed with trying to write my blog post about Friday and fighting with mountain wifi bandwidth. Boo me for missing the opportunity to be present.  Also, the instigator of this whole affair of travel to Napa to eat at the French Laundry got sick – and with a reservation looming at the famous restaurant that evening we had to rethink the plans we set in place the day before to ensure everyone could get the most out of the experience.  


To rest up for the French Laundry and sleep off illness two of our party stayed to enjoy the day in the mountain cottage – and myself and another went off on the winding mountain roads to find our wine tasting reservations and what another day in Napa could hold.  We went to Schweiger Winery to catch our private tasting appointment.  It took over an hour on twisty tiny roads to get there – but it was worth the drive as the view was spectacular and the wines were quite yummy.  The chardonnay in the photo above even had coconut flavors in it.



We met Hannah here, winery dog extraordinaire, and learned that Mr. Schwieger had no idea what he was going to do with the forested land he purchased on top of the mountain when he originally bought it. In the early 1970's he decided to just take a couple classes at UC Davis and plant some grapes.  He had his construction crew come and clear it for trade to take the timber and use to develop the valley. The land was just $250.00 an acre when he bought it, it is now priced at least a million per acre. Retired from the construction business the founder lives in his house on the vineyard (you can see it in my photo above) and has a thriving wine club and following.  It is officially too late, unless you are a millionaire already, to buy into the Napa dream.


As much as the view was magnificent at Schweiger we needed to move on to get a small bite for lunch to make it until our 9pm reservation at the French Laundry.  My friend had a recommendation to go to this view-focused bistro inside of a hotel that was in the neighborhood. It shall remain nameless.


The view of the valley, the people watching and the olives were good.


The food, although we ordered very simple things – like salad and a cup of soup – was not. 


It did keep us from overeating though.  


We made our way down the mountain and back to the valley proper and into the belly of the beast to go to BV for our historical tour.  As luck would have it there was a gas leak and all tours were cancelled so I got a full refund for 4 people (as we were going to have to eat the cost of 2 previously) and we got a free tasting in the Reserve Room. The reserve wines were not actually that good, even when you climbed into the $150 price point, they lacked soul and anything other than syrupy bold grape flavor.  Sadly though, it did not appear that the people around us noticed this.  

We did however learn why BV is the oldest continuously producing winery of Napa Valley.  What stopped most of the old wineries from continuing from the turn of the century was prohibition – it was not illegal to produce wine during it, but it was illegal to sell it, and you cannot keep a business going without a market. BV's founder saw prohibition coming and being a very smart Catholic, he made a deal with the Archdiocese to produce wine for The Church's holy communion. BV supplied the wine for all Catholic churches in the United States. Thus, giving it the means to buy up the land of all the producers going out of business during prohibition and making it into the largest land holder and the oldest continuously producing winery.  


Gas leak aside we really needed to be done tasting if only to solve our wine bottle shipping problem.  We went to the source, an actual wine shipper in St. Helena – he informed us that we were facing Sunday (i.e. all shipping closed) AND we didn't have any of our wine with us AND there was no way to go back and get it and bring it back to the shipper before close.  Conundrum. We thought we reached resolution by purchasing the materials and a UPS shipping label and were going to happily go about our business of internet-ing up a UPS store to drop everything off at on the way back SFO the next day – but something pushed me to go inside the slightly random strip mall wine tasting room right next door to the shipper.  


We were immediately greeted by this guy. Romero, I believe his name was, and his mom Terri.  She immediately sat us down and comped us one tasting fee to chat with her.


The wine featured was the companion label for her and her husband's winery Trujillo.  It features these lovely jean embossed labels and one was presented as a "pool" wine, i.e. you drink it at the pool and it doesn't challenge you, i.e. its good and not meant to be taken seriously.  Through the process of our tasting and chatting we covered such subjects as the place that shall not be named where we ate a bad lunch with a good view, the French Laundry, dogs, and wine shipping problems.  We learned our wine shipping problem was not solved by dropping our wine at a UPS on a Sunday because it was going to be ruined in the heat before it got to us in Seattle. Not something Seattlites think about. Terri volunteered to take our wine the next morning and babysit it until Monday, and send it on its way with the appropriate safeguards and solve our problem. Yay! Listening to my intuition wins! And we made a new friend in the process.  As a last favor she recommended we go check out Yao Ming's winery down the street. Because it is posh and totally a winery started by a Chinese professional basketball player.


Yes, Yao Ming, the basketball player is really into wine and opened a winery and tasting room in Napa Valley.  Here I am standing next to a life-size cut-out of Yao prominently featured in the posh tasting room (where all the employees had matching accent colored clothing on).


The employees all match this crazy chandelier and the other accents in the room.  As they were about to close we didn't do a full tasting, we just took the free sample and photo opportunity. But the little bit of wine we did have was solid – go Yao.


We started our long drive back to the mountain cabin to see how our fellows fared with sleeping away the inconvenient illness with cold like symptoms. We also needed to relax a little bit before the main event of the trip – dinner at The French Laundry.




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