A Napa Valley Birthday Getaway
Time of Year
- Early March, Friday to Monday
Where we stayed
- Auberge Du Soleil
Where we ate
- Bistro Jeanty
- Auberge Du Soleil Restaurant
Where we wine tasted
- Colgin Cellars
- Mumm Napa
- Miner Family Winery
- Black Stallion Estate Winery
To begin my birthday weekend in Napa Valley, we left Windsor at around noon to make it to our brunch reservation at Archetype in Calistoga at 1:00 pm. When I made the reservation I mentioned we were celebrating my birthday and before we started our brunch, the server brought us their signature donut holes with sugar and a little birthday candle, which was such a nice touch. We then ordered some sparkling wine to share with some oysters. Other food items that we enjoyed were the fish tacos, breakfast sandwich, and the zucchini noodle bolognese.
The interior of this adorable restaurant was the highlight of our brunch here. It was so charming on the inside. Our table was in the center of the restaurant, but I much rather would have preferred to be seated either by the huge fireplace inside or the front porch that had tons of natural light. Regardless I definitely would recommend this restaurant and I can't wait to come back.
After brunch we stopped in at Colgin Cellars for a private wine tasting. One of my girlfriends knew the owners personally and arranged this private tasting experience for us before we checked into the hotel. Getting to Colgin is a little bit of a drive from the main highway but so very worth it. Their main property is on top of a hill and has breathtaking views that overlook Henessey Lake. Even though they only offer two wines to taste, this was an exceptional wine tasting. Our tasting concierge was very knowledgeable and passionate about the wine and the winery and we even got to chat with the owners for a bit.
After our private tasting at Colgin Cellars we made our way to The Auberge Du Soleil Hotel for our weekend stay which just so happened to be down the road from Colgin Cellars so it took all but 5 minutes to get there after our private tasting.
We took our time waking up the next morning. We ordered some coffee and some pastries to the room, as well as a couple breakfast items. I wanted to make sure that we had some food in our stomachs before we started our day of wine tasting.
We then met our chauffeur in the parking lot of the hotel at 11:00 am. Our driver was referred to us by the concierge of the hotel. I had called them two days before we arrived and they were able to reserve him for us and communicate with him our itinerary for the day.
I had reserved all our private wine tastings a couple of weeks prior to our arrival. I made reservations for three tastings, two of which had cheese and charcuterie plates to go along with the tasting. I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time for each tasting so I spread out the reservations about 2 hours apart. Our first tasting was at 11:15, our second one was at 1:30, and our final tasting was at 3:30.
Our first stop was at Mumm Napa for a sparkling wine tasting. What better way to kick off our day of wine tasting then with some bubbles! This was a very popular idea apparently because they were extremely busy already at 11:00 am on a Saturday. I am so thankful I made our reservation here ahead of time because when we arrived, it was an absolute zoo. There was already so many people there and those who were walking in hoping to do a tasting without a reservation were being told to wait for a while or to come back later.
The weather was a little cloudy and rainy so they had a huge tent set up on their outdoor patio where they were holding all their tastings. It was comfortable and warm in the tent but it was so loud, it was as if everyone's voice were echoing and reverberating off the tent walls. We could barely hear our poor wine concierge who was trying desperately to give us more information on the sparkling wine we were tasting.
There are several different flights you can choose from for your tasting at Mumm Napa. We decided to try the "Classic Spotlight" tasting; our favorites were the Brut Reserve Rose and the Santana Brut. As you can see from the photo above, the pourings at Mumm Napa are pretty hefty, which is great, but I was thankful that we didn't go into this tasting on an empty stomach, and that our next tasting included a cheese board.
Besides the excessive noise, we did have a good time tasting at Mumm Napa. We took home a couple bottles of the Brut Reserve Rose, and I regret not taking home the Santana Brut.
Our next tasting was at Miner Family Winery. When we first arrived I got a little nervous because they were also pretty packed. They had us first check in at one of the tables right by the door and I was afraid that that was where we were going to be doing our private tasting. Our wine concierge quickly reassured me that we were not sticking around in the main tasting room, and that we were going on a quick tour before actually starting our tasting.
We each were given a glass of their Chardonnay then we got a tour of their production facility before heading into their underground wine cave for our "Library Tasting".
We walked through the wine cave and even got to taste some of their wine that they use for their flagship red blend strait from the barrel. We then enjoyed our private tasting in a room just off of the wine cave behind two massive wrought iron doors and with a huge rustic wooden table. Each of us had our own cheese plate to pair with each wine we were tasting.
We tasted five different wines during our private tasting at Minor Family Winery, and our favorite by far was their flagship red blend called "The Oracle". This is a single vineyard Bordeaux style red blend made from grapes grown in the eastern hills of Napa Valley.
This wine is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. It is fermented in 60% new French oak and is full-bofied, silky, and incredible well balanced. Not to mention, the bottle is stunning with the gold detail. It was a little pricey at $125 but well worth it as a souvenir to enjoy later and reminisce about our time here.
I can't wait to be able to come back to this winery. The "Library Tasting" really was a highlight of our day and I constantly regret not bring home more than just the one bottle of "The Oracle". Our wine concierge was so knowledgeable and easy to talk with while we were tasting, and it really was a treat that we each got our own cheese board to enjoy with our tasting.
Our next tasting was as Black Stallion Estate Winery. They accept walk-in tastings but I am glad we made a reservation for a private tasting because this place was also pretty busy. Moral of the story, if you're planning on doing a tasting during the weekend, make a reservation ahead of time, otherwise you risk not having a quality experience or even being able to taste at all.
Overall, I was slightly disappointed in our experience at Black Stallion. The cheese plate that came with out tasting was barely enough for the four of us. Especially coming from our last tasting where we each got our own cheeses to pair with our wine, this was a little disappointing. The private room we had our tasting in felt more like a conference room and wasn't very welcoming, and our wine concierge was friendly but wasn't talking a whole lot about the wine or the winery. Thankfully the wine was quite tasty. We even got to taste some dessert wine which was an added bonus.
After such a great and personalized experience at Miner, we didn't feel that the private tasting at Black Stallion was worth it. If you're looking to taste here, you're better off doing a walk-in tasting. And since it was a little rainy outside we didn't get to really explore the patio or the gardens. Try to come on a nicer day to really take it all in.
Even though there were some slight disappointments in our day of wine tasting, we really did have a fantastic time. I was so thankful the concierge at the hotel helped us reserve our private driver and I am even more thankful that I made the private tasting reservations ahead of time.
My goal was to taste at some wineries I had never heard of before (with the exception of our sparkling wine tasting at Mumm Napa), rather than taste at the more popular and larger wineries in the area. In hindsight however, since our last tasting of the day was lacking all around, I wish I would have chosen another winery to do a private tasting at. Also, if I had known how packed Mumm Napa was going to be, I would have chosen another winery to start our day.
Also, originally I wanted to reserve a more in depth food and wine paring, or a tasting with a picnic lunch included, but the wineries I wanted to do that at didn't have the times available that I was hoping for. So I compromised and made sure we at least had some cheese plates included in our tastings. I knew everyone in our group was going to need some sustenance while tasting, so this was better than nothing.
We finished our day of wine tasting at about 4:45, and we made our way back to the hotel to rest and then get ready for our dinner reservation at 8:00. I wanted to give us plenty of time to regroup as well as maybe snack on a little something after tasting so much wine.
Our dinner reservation this night was at Coqueta, one of Michael Chiarello's restaurants with a menu that has a lot of Spanish influence. The menu is tapas style, so small plates that are meant to be shared. They also prepare paella which looked delicious, however, it takes about 35-45 minutes to prepare so we regrettably decided not to order it. We ordered several tapas items and our favorites (pictured bellow, left to right) were the grilled octopus, the chicken croquetas, and the broccoli.
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast in the hotel restaurant. When you dine in the restaurant for breakfast during your stay at Auberge Du Soleil, your breakfast is complimentary, which was such a nice surprise! I enjoyed the Smoked Salmon Pizza which was a flatbread with creme fraiche, scrambled eggs, then topped with a good amount of smoked salmon.
We didn't want to get too full at breakfast though because we had lunch reservations at one of my favorite spots in Downtown Yountville. Our reservations were at Bistro Jeanty, a French inspired bistro from chef Philippe Jeanty who was born in Champagne, France and started his culinary career by taking a summer job working at Moet & Chandon when he was a teenager. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time, Bistro Jeanty does accept walk-ins but this is quite a popular place, especially on the weekends.
All the food was truly delicious, but some of our favorite items (pictured above, left to right) were the escargot, the mussels steamed in red wine, and the grilled scallops, which were on the daily specials menu.
The last time I had been to this restaurant was over 4 years ago and I was so looking forward to it. Not only is the food exceptional, but the interior of the restaurant is so charming. You really feel like you're being transported to an authentic restaurant in France.
After our lunch reservation we had scheduled a spa day at the hotel. A few days before we arrived I called the spa to see what they suggested in terms of treatments. I also wanted to inquire if we needed to book our treatments ahead of time. Since we were a group and wanted to get our treatments at relatively the same time, they did highly suggest we schedule our appointments beforehand.
We all decided to get the signature massage, and I decided to add a grape seed body scrub. I was having a hard time decided to enhance my massage with either the body scrub or a hair and scalp treatment, but I am so happy with my choice. The grape seed scrub left my skin so hydrated and smooth. After the scrub, my massage therapist had me wash off in the open-air private shower just off of my treatment room while she changed the linens on the massage table. We then continued with my private massage which was so relaxing.
After our treatments we were encouraged to hang around the spa and enjoy the three private pools reserved for spa guests only. Since the staff knew it was my birthday they offered us some sparkling wine to enjoy which was such a treat.
For our last night we decided to have dinner at the restaurant in the Auberge Du Solei. The restaurant has been awarded 13 consecutive Michelin stars and has a sweeping view of the Napa Valley. Sadly, the weather outside was a little too chilly to dine out on the patio with the stunning view, so we had a cozy table inside instead.
The lighting inside was on the darker side so I wasn't able to get any photos of our food and I didn't want to disturb any other guests by using the flash on my camera. But trust me when I say, I can see why they've been awarded so many consecutive Michelin awards. The food was divine. I decided to have three courses, starting with with the scallops, then the sweatbreads, then the duck to finish. I was so full but the restaurant staff was so kind and brought out a slice of their chocolate cake for us to have for my birthday.
We had the absolute best time. I am so thankful I got to ring in my 30th birthday in one of the best places in the world to enjoy food and wine with good company. I hope this blog post inspires you to visit Napa Valley in the future, whether it be for your own birthday celebration, a couples retreat, a solo travel experience, or just because! This getaway to Napa Valley has certainly inspired me to come here more often in the future to explore it further.
*PIN FOR LATER*