Monday, July 8, 2013

Wine Weekend: A Getaway to the Inn at Meadowood

Although father's day was a few weekends ago, we gifted our father a weekend trip to Napa Valley and a stay at the Inn at Meadowood.....okay, okay.....it was kinda a gift to ourselves as well, but let's ignore that part for now. Two weekends ago my brother and I went with my Dad to his belated father's day getaway and it was SO fun. I'll write a broad overview of our experience in this post, but there are some things (such as the phenomenal 3 Michelin Star meal we had at the Restaurant at Meadowood) that warrant their own post.
The Destination: St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA. Although the Inn at Meadowood is technically in St. Helena, the entire region is generally thought of as the Napa Valley. Geography was never my strong point.....but I think that Napa Valley is the entire region, and within it there is Napa County, Sonoma County, Yountville, St. Helena, Carneros, Calistoga, Healdsburg, and some other counties. All of these regions are known for producing great wines, and some are known for a specific type of wine. The valley itself is actually quite beautiful; even if you aren't a big wine person, it is an amazing place to stay.
View from our cottage.
(Click on images to enlarge them)
The architecture is quite varied, and is a mixture of rustic farmhouse meets tuscan meets craftsman style.....that probably makes no sense, but I'm no pulitzer prize winner so that will have to do. There is also a gorgeous river that runs through the valley, and wine train that allows guests to dine while taking in the various sites the valley has to offer. There are vineyards everywhere (surprise surprise), but there are also a surprising amount of fruit and vegetable farms and gardens. In addition, there are quite a few art galleries, museums, and specialty shops. There is never shortage of things to do in the valley, even for someone like me who has activity ADHD (which is a term I made up that just means I get bored if I'm doing the same activity for a long time.......watch, it's going to catch on). I may be stating the obvious here, but food itself is kinda a big deal in the Napa Valley....in case the fact that there are two 3 Michelin starred restaurants within 10 miles of each other didn't make that obvious enough. Every thing is all about artisinal foods, in season produce, organic/biodynamic foods, and specialty items; even there run of the mill grocery stores carry artisanal cheese, breads, jams, and local produce that those same chain store don't carry in the neighboring city of San Francisco (sorry to bum out all the San Franciscans, but the REAL artisinal stuff tends to stay within the valley).

Our little deck 
The Inn at Meadowood: This is a truly unique property, and I hope to be able to go back again soon. The property is huge, and it is at the base of a small hill covered in lush oak and evergreen trees. It almost has the feel of staying at a cabin in the woods, except that it is very well maintained, has maid service, and a 3 Michelin star restaurant. It is unique in that although it is extremely lush and comfortable, and provides all of the amenities and luxuries that a 5 star resort would, it's spread out over quite a large area of (borderline) forest.
The rooms, suites, and cottages are spread out all over the property, with a centrally located gym, pools, reception building, restaurant, tennis courts, cricket field,  and spa. Some of the cottages are high up on the hill tops overlooking the entire property, others line the beautiful golf course and tennis courts, and many more are hidden amongst the lush forest. All of the rooms/cottages are accesible by car, and each one has a parking spot nearby for the residents. You don't have to deal with any valet parking, which is always nice. The Inn (more of a resort if you ask me) is equipped with a stunning fleet of new mercedes SUVs that they use to shuttle guests around from their rooms/cottages to other parts of the property if desired.
Taking a walk around the massive property
Funny story: one of the staff members saw me walking around and offered to give me a ride back to wherever I needed to go, and I jokingly said I would take him up on that in a few days when I head back to LA since I hate driving on the I-5; he just smiled politely, laughed at my horrible, unfunny joke, and drove away (let me be clear that he didn't do anything wrong or rude.....this stor merely points out how much of a social genius I am). The property is quite espansive, so it is definitely nice to know that we have the option of being driven to/from places, although we never actually ended up using said option; it's so gorgeous that we just preferred walking everywhere. There are also lots of hiking trails and patches of forest throughout the property, and there is also a stream and a lake surrounded by lots of wild berries and fruit trees. Some parts of the property are much higher in elevation than others, and there is a beutiful 3 mile path that circles most of the property and has some stunning views. Although it is misleadingly labeled an "Inn" it is probably one of the most comfortable and luxurious places I have had the pleasure of staying; I honestly didn't want to leave. It almost feels like an uber-cool country club; it's decorated in a modern, luxurious, california cottage style......the decor is hard to describe but it's kinda of a blend of cape cod meets modern california luxury meets a french cottage......so basically awesome on all fronts.
Still on our walk around meadowood.....gorgeous
The staff are all so helpful and accommodating  and the depth to which they personalized our stay at the Inn was so heartwarming. This place is just ridiculous; they have a beautiful cricket field as well as great instructors, an immaculate gym and spa, many areas throughout the property such as meadows and indoor spaces that are perfect for weddings or special ocasions, multiple restaurants (all of them delicious), great tennis courts, gorgeous swimming pools, hiking trails with stunning views, a first class golf course, amazing in room dining 24 hours a day, a 3 Michelin starred restaurant, and they are willing to do anything and everything to make your stay amazing. If you ever have the opportunity to stay here you should do it in a heartbeat.....I would sacrifice my first born child to return here ASAP, so get yourself over there.

Barrels at Opus One
Wine Tasting: We only went to two wineries but they were definitely the best ones to go to. First we went to St. Helena Winery, where I tasted the BEST wine I have tasted in my entire life (which I guess isn't saying much since I've only been drinking wine for a few years.....but still). The winemaker there was just named winemaker of the year, and they only produce about 2000 bottles of wine per year. They make an amazing chardonnay that is true to the classic french burgundies, not too buttery or too alcoholic like the newer stuff coming out of a lot of California wineries.
The designated driver + me
This particular wine was the best one of the entire trip (and my entire life) in my opinion. I am and always have been a white wine person, but I found myself taken aback by how much I actually enjoyed their red wine (called "Scandal"). It  was a little fruity, but still on the drier side, and very lightly oaked. The best part about all of their wines is that they all were perfectly balanced. They were so round in mouthfeel and flavor, and they were smooth all the way through. I still feel like I could live the rest of my life only drinking this wine and be completely happy.
However, we also went to Opus One, a world famous winery which was started as a collaboration between Robert Mondavi (the guy who basically started Napa Valley) and Baron Rothschild (one of the greatest french winemakers).
This is an art piece at Opus One
that is mean to represent the
way shoots of some varieties are
grafted onto roots of a different
variety in order to produce a
pest resistent, high quality grape
The bottle are quite expensive, and they start at $250 each, but we just did a tour and tasting which is much more reasonable as far as price goes. The tour was awesome; the facilities are beyond state of the art, they are immaculate. Everything is a work of art in itself, and then when you consider the fact that they actually use these facilities to make wine it is pretty crazy.
Here comes the downer: I didn't really like the wine that much. Opus One usually makes just one varietal every year, which consists mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon with a few other grapes thrown in for good measure. I have to be honest and say that both of the Cabs I tasted at St. Helena Winery were far more balanced, smooth, and pleasant than Opus One.  Obviously, I do have to admit that this may just be due to my own taste preferences; the wine was pretty oaky and had some big tannins, and that is just not my thing. There was less blackberry (what I tend to like about red wine) and more licorice and oak (what I tend to NOT enjoy about red wine); I do enjoy some oak, and even that faint leather or tobacco that comes along with a good read wine, but the tannins and oak on this one were just too much for me. However, my dad, who is a red wine guy through and through also preferred the St. Helena Cab to this one.....and it is far more affordable. So there.

A shot of part of the Oxbow Public Market
Oxbow Public Market: This is a relatively new market that sits near a part of the river called Oxbow (hence the name). It has some restaurants, some specialty food shops, and some other types of retail as well There was a cute little market in the corner that made fresh juice and had lots of produce. There is also an Italian place called Ca'Momi Enoteca and a latin food place called Pica Pica that looked particularly good.
However, we ended up eating at Gott's Roadside since my dad and brother had never been before and I was pretty sure that they'd really enjoy it. We spent less than an hour there so I didn't really get to thoroughly see each vendor, but I wish I could go back and spend more time there. They have a spice vendor, a patisserie, a cupcakery, a chocolatier, a cheese merchant, an awesome looking coffee place, a vendor that focuses entirely on selling fine ingredients for cocktails (think bitters, essences, and all that good stuff) and much, much more.

Mushroom Statue Garden in Yountville
Yountville: We also spent some time walking around the main street of Yountville. It was quite charming and had lots of little specialty shops, restaurants, and art galleries. There was a particularly cool antique gallery/wine tasting room whose name I don't remember, but it was awesome. Yountville is also home to the world famous, 3 Michelin Star restaurant "The French Laundry" as well as michelin starred restaurant "Bottega". Both of these restaurants sit along the main street in Yountville. The weekend we chose to go up to Yountville was really hot, so we didn't walk around much outside, but I wish we had explored a bit more before returning to the oasis of our air-conditioned car. Yountville is definitely a must see; I would also highly recommend dining there (there are lots of great places other than the two that I mentioned) because we didn't do so and I wish that we had.

Little did we know as we walked through
these doors that we were about to have
the experience of a lifetime!
The Restaurant at Meadowood: Simply put, this was the meal of my life. This restaurant has had 3 Michelin stars for a few years, which is a pretty big deal. As far as food goes, this is pretty much the highest honor one can hope to achieve. The meal and experience were so mind-blowingly phenomenal that they deserve their own blog post, but I just wanted to include a little snippet of it in this post because it was too awesome to forego mentioning. Lets just say that as a vegan, I had come to terms with the fact that I would never be able to experience a 3 Michelin Star meal in my life, and I was proven wrong in the best possible way! Come back soon for a write up of our awesome ands surprise filled evening here!


The Trip: Overall this little trip was great. We spent a lot of our time relaxing/lounging at the Inn, because the property and amenities were so great that we really wanted to enjoy them fully. We also got a good amount of the wine country experience into our short stay, and I think we managed to strike the perfect balance between going out and exploring what the Napa Valley has to offer and relaxing in our wonderful haven called Meadowood.

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