You can ready the first part of our trip here.
Saturday morning we were up reeeeeeaaly early to get picked up by our tour that we booked for the day. They picked us up 6:45am and then we were off to the Domain Chandon to meet the rest of our group for our hot air balloon ride. We used Napa Valley Balloons and really have nothing bad to say. Everyone and everything was fantastic! They gave us the run down of how the trip up was going to go and then we were off in our vans to a nearby country club to meet our hot air balloon "pilot" and have one of the best experiences of our lives!
Hot air ballooning is a very popular thing to do in Napa, so there were several other balloons out with us that morning. It was really amazing to see all the balloons up in the air and really, that was my favorite thing to look at while we were up there. Oh and someone proposed to his girlfriend in our basket while we were in the air! Such a sweet moment :)
And how freaking cool is this.... they have a camera attached to the balloons to take pictures of everyone up there! And they didn't charge us for the pics!
After our hot air balloon ride, we got back in our vans and they took us back to Domain Chandon where we had a big breakfast with mimosas, with Chandon champagne of course! We booked another tour that day and then they came and picked us from there to start the rest of our day. We used Platypus tours for that tour and it was great too!! We visited 4 different wineries, had a great lunch and then they dropped us back off at our hotel - perfect way to see Napa so there was no driving involved!
One of the things I liked about the Platypus tour was that the driver took us to wineries that are off the main road. They aren't ones that you would pick out of a magazine and go visit. They were all very personalized to us too. We told them what types of wines we liked and they made sure we atleast tried one of them. And a perk was that most of them waived your tasting fee if you bought a bottle of wine. Most of the tasting fees were $15/each and the bottles of wine weren't much more than that so we ended up with alot of wine to bring home!
Our first stop was to Tedeschi Family Winery in Calistoga. This was definitely one that was off the beaten path and really not much of a tour. The wine was good though and the lady doing the tasting was very nice. We ended up buying a Rose' and Merlot from here.
Our next stop was to Maldonado Vineyards, also in Calistoga. This was my favorite of the day. The winery was actually in a cave! We walked through all of the barrels and then they had a table set up for us to sit and have a tasting. They lady doing the tour was very knowledgeable and had a heavy pour ;) Something I liked about this tour is that she let us taste the differences between years. We tried a red wine that was from 2 different harvest seasons and there was a real difference. I guess I never knew (even though DUH, it makes sense), just because it's the same winery and type of wine, they aren't going to taste the same every year because the grapes might be different. We bought a a bottle of dessert wine and bottle of Chardonnay from here. I think this dessert wine was my favorite, other than the La Fantasia we had bought the day before at the Castle. This is where our tour guide from Platypus served us lunch too. We had croissant sandwiches, quinoa salad, and muffins for dessert. Perfect lunch for our day.
Another favorite of this tour - we're all tourists right? Right. Well, the tour driver stopped at the Napa Valley sign on the side of the road and took all our pictures there!
Our next stop was to Ballentine Vineyards in St. Helena. I was not impressed with this stop just because we all had to stand around a very small bar to do our tasting, the person doing the tour gave us no background about the winery and didn't know the answers when we asked questions. The wine was ok here, but nothing special and we ended up not buying any from this place. Because there was little conversation, we were really only here for maybe 20 minutes so I have no pictures other than the one as we entered!
Our last stop of the day was to Hill Wine Company in St. Helena. I loved this winery but not really for the wine. The property was gorgeous. The winery was like a house and we sat out on the back porch at an old farm table for our tasting. It was the perfect setting to me. I wasn't too thrilled with the wine even though I really wanted to love it. They just didn't have anything really sweet which is what I like. John liked it though and we ended up with a bottle of Cab and Pinot Noir. Not only did they have a gorgeous property, notice the dog on their sign? Well, that's on all of their bottles too. They love animals and donate a percentage of every sale to the ASPCA. Now you know why I realllllly wanted to love their wine! And they sell it at Specs here in Houston.
After our last winery, the tour driver dropped us all back off at our hotel and it was nap time. A full day of downing wine wears you out ;) We ended up waking up from our nap well past dinner time especially since there wasn't much around our hotel. We ended up driving in to downtown Napa and ate a small Italian place that was good, but I don't remember the name and I took no pictures! Then it was to our hotel for another cozy night by our fire place :) And I grabbed a pic of all of our wine from the day!
Sunday our flight didn't leave until late in the day so we had some time before we had to be back on the road to San Francisco. We decided to go back to Domain Chandon and do their tasting since we didn't get to do it the day before when we were there for our breakfast after our balloon ride. And it was right across the street from hotel! I'm all about bubbly, but drinking 4 full glasses of it pretty fast did not mesh well with my stomach. I didn't take any pictures other than outside because I was miserable after the tasting and all the carbonation! But we did buy 2 bottles of champagne from there which we have already drank. We got the holiday bottle we drank on Christmas morning and another bottle we drank on New Years Eve with our friends.
Then it was off to the airport. We decided to take a different way back to San Fran and got to go over the Golden Gate Bridge. I loved it! I really want to go back to San Fran one day and actually spend time there.
Wondering how we got all of those wine bottles home? I wish I would have taken a picture, but the tour we were on sold boxes that had an insert in it that held the bottles. It was $10 for the box and because of the United credit card we have, we get free checked bags. We stopped at Target on the way to the airport and bought packing tape and sharpies, packed the wine in the box, taped it up and wrote fragile all over the box. We checked it like a bag and it made it out fine! John was prepared though to leave it on the luggage drop though if he noticed it was wet or had red stains all over it! haha. So, basically we got all the wine home for $10 :) So easy!
It was a perfect trip and perfect way to spend our anniversary. It was relaxing but we still got to sight see and do things around Napa. I loved it and will definitely be back to visit!