30th Birthday – Pt. 2 – Napa Valley
April 23, 2019
Following a brilliant first day in San Francisco, I woke up the next morning to a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Eddie who instantly put me in phenomenal spirits!
We headed to Plow for brunch and I was met with a massive surprise: My brother (Jonno), his girlfriend (Natalie) and our friend (Ian) AT the restaurant! I had no idea this was happening and this is the first time in my life I’ve been surprised by something. It’s the best feeling in the world to know my friends flew in to celebrate with me – and boy was there still plenty in store for the day ahead.
The lads enjoyed a full breakfast with pancakes, bacon, eggs, and the yummiest breakfast potatoes. Whilst I had a jalepeño sandwich that was scrumptious.
It was all finger-licking good!
Next, we piled in our rental car and drove north. I wasn’t supposed to know where we were driving (as they were dropping hints of a 4-hour long drive ahead) but I had my suspicions and hopes that we were heading towards wine country as I’d never been before!
Sure enough, we stopped in Napa at our first wine tasting venue called Davis Estates and holy moly! This place was stunning. We got a private tour with detailed explanations on how the estate came to be, the process for making their wine, and an inside look into all hidden rooms behind vaulted doors. I’ve never seen anything like it. My only experience with a wine tour was in Burgundy, France for our honeymoon and that was incredibly quaint compared to this.
Whilst it was incredibly overcast, we still thoroughly enjoyed the view of the rolling hillsides where we learned about the devastating 2017 Napa fires that almost destroyed the property.
Next up was the wine tasting and food pairing. Not shown on this menu was my vegan pairing option that was the envy of the group. In particular, the leek bisque was replaced with a lentil soup that was deliciously “creamy” and flavourful.
We wrapped up at Davis Estates and then headed to our next wine tour which was at Chateau Boswell. I was teleported back to France for an hour.
The acoustics of the room where we did our tasting was designed in a way such that you could stand at one specific point, whisper, and somebody standing on the other end could hear you perfectly. After a few glasses of wine (and a very patient tour guide) we were having a lot of fun with this feature. 🙂
We speedily wrapped up our tasting in an effort to make it to our hotel and dinner reservations in time. Our stay was at Meadowood and I was completely blown away by the compound. There was a full golf course, croquet lawn, spa, and other hidden areas where any type of celebration could occur on the premises. Our room was at the end of the grounds (which required a car to get to) and, absentmindedly, I didn’t get any pictures of our room which was just exquisite. Regardless, we had to rush in, freshen up, change, and head straight to the hotel’s 3 Michelin Star restaurant for dinner.
This experience started and ended absolutely perfectly. I was welcomed with a personalized birthday message when I sat down which immediately made me feel so special. And then the wait staff (every. single. one. of. them.) knew that I was the vegan in the group and made sure to cater to my every need throughout the duration of the meal.
We began the meal with an introduction to the produce sourced from local farms which the kitchen staff visit daily to ensure the freshness and excellence of every vegetable.
I couldn’t begin to remember every single dish as we had 16 of them over the course of 3 hours but I can tell you that everything was delicious. My vegan options were not a compromise in flavour or texture compared. I shared my dishes with everyone so they could taste my option, and for about half the meal, my dishes were chosen as the preferred over the meat-based options. This is speaks volumes to the creativity and expertise involved in creating such dishes.
This mushroom risotto was probably one of my favourites!
After our meal was done, we were taken back into the kitchen to see how it operated and were welcomed enthusiastically by the friendly (and surprisingly unstressed) kitchen staff. I envisioned a madhouse in the back as the staff ensured our dishes were delivered on time, but the calmness that we walked into completely took me by surprise. The head chef stood at the last station with multiple stopwatches to ensure each dish was delivered so that the experience felt seamless and perfectly paced. You were neither rushed nor waiting on your meal. The team’s timing was impeccable and executed with militant precision.
With full bellies and even fuller hearts, we headed to our respective rooms, drew the blackout curtains, turned our alarms off, and went into a deep slumber.
I woke up wonderfully refreshed and not wanting to leave my deliciously plush bed, BUT I somehow had an appetite and was ready for breakfast. Take a stab at what I ordered…
Avo toast, of course. With shaved fennel! Adding that to my newest rotation of avo toasts at home.
We packed our bags and headed back to San Francisco to do a tiny bit more exploring before heading to the airport. I can confidently say that this was the best birthday I’ve ever had.
The older I get the more I value experiences and quality friends who know how to make me feel loved and special. I do not take either of these for granted and feel wonderfully lucky.
Thank you to everyone (near and far) for making my 30th so memorable. I love you all dearly and hope I can repay the love.