Friday, July 24, 2009

Our last day in Napa dawned blue and a little cooler than the last few days. Our agenda was pretty free this day. We had a 11:00AM tour at Opus One with the rest of the day open for improv.

We strolled though Yountville in the morning and stopped in front on Michael Chiarello's new restaurant Bottega. We stopped to read the menu and was quickly approached by a young guy. He asked us if we've eaten there yet. We told him no and he proceeded to tell us his tale. He and his girlfriend saw Chef Chiarello win on Top Chef Masters last night. That launched a decision to drive about 3 hours to eat at his place. That's dedication. The least we could do was call and make a reservation for a late lunch.

Opus One's winery is hard to miss. Even though it is set off from the highway, its position on top of a hill and unique architecture made it quite noticeable. We checked in with the concierge, their term not ours, and was introduced to our tour guide. The tour guide introduced herself and escorted us into another room to wait for the other members of the tour. The room we were waiting in was not some rustic paean to the agricultural roots of wine. Instead, we were surrounded by art and antiques not usually seen outside of museums. There were Miros and Braques on the wall along with a mirror that belonged to King Lois VIII of France. Wow. No wonder it was so difficult to book a tour here, they probably do background checks.

The tour guide did a wonderful job telling the history of Opus One, a joint project of Robert Mondavi and Baron Phillipe de Rothschild. Opus One only makes one wine, a Bordeaux blend with a California accent. The highlight of the tour for me was the barrel room. There in a totally climate controlled room are aging wines and new barrels stretching out in graceful arcs.

We finally got a chance to try the latest release of Opus One after about a 90 minute tour. It was a pretty spectacular wine that somehow did taste French and Californian at the same time.

Since it was just across the road, we stopped by the Robert Mondavi winery. It was a nice series of buildings, but after the Opus One, the regular Mondavis tasted a bit pedestrian. It could have just been that the wines were past their peak, we opted to taste some of the older Cabernets. One did surprise me with a mouthful of sediment. That was hard to deal with and retain a modicum of decorum.

It was now time for our lunch at Bottega. We entered and were seated at our table. The server approached and we had a moment of deja vu. Then it hit both us and the server, she waited on us at Auberge du Soleil! Well, it is kind of a small valley. Lunch was very good and boasted probably the best dish of the entire trip. The dish was an appetizer called bacon and eggs. This was a piece of crispy pork belly served with a breaded soft boiled egg, some preserved peppers and a slice of heirloom tomato. Every part of this dish was wonderful on its own and the sum was greater than the parts. The rest of the meal was a standout as well. At least it will be worth the drive for the young Top Chef fan!

Our last stop in Napa was Domaine Carneros. Domaine Carneros is the American cousin of Taittinger Champagne ensconced in its very own chateau. Even if their sparkling wine and piont noirs were not great, having a glass of wine on the veranda overlooking the vineyards would be worth the stop.

With the last sip of bubbly, our Napa trip was over. We turned the rent-a-car towards Danville and E's parent's house with not a little sadness. We had some really wonderful wines and some truly memorable meals. Time to get some pork belly to see if I can recreate bacon and eggs at home.

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