Napa Valley COVID Escape
We were lucky to travel to Napa Valley June 27-July 1, 2020. We had originally planned the trip to visit The French Laundry, Thomas Keller's nine course dining experience. The restaurant was not yet open following COVID closing, but we decided to come anyways and visit everything else that was open. I love warm weather, good wine and great food. This is definitely the place for all of that! My new happy place. When we arrived in Yountville on Saturday afternoon it was 85 degrees with a slight breeze. We headed straight to Ad Hoc + Addendum. Thomas Keller’s “casual dining venue for showcasing the American comfort food of his childhood”. When he opened the restaurant in 2006 it was planned that it would fill a temporary space while Chef Keller’s team developed a different restaurant. Apparently, it was loved by many because it is still thriving and I can see why.
We ordered the famous fried chicken and lobster roll, some rosé and headed to our picnic table in their beautiful garden. You can order online and pick up at the side of the restaurant. We weren't sure if we could make it on time so I stood in line to order (which was 10 minutes) while Jim stood in line to get a table in the garden (15 minutes). They are doing a great job of cleaning tables before you are seated and then they bring your food out to your table. And of course you must mask until you are seated. The fried chicken was delicious (perfectly crispy and flavors of rosemary), but I am still dreaming of the lobster roll. It was on this amazing brioche roll that was perfectly toasted with more butter I think. The lobster was plentiful and so tasty, perfectly paired with the rosé.
World Famous The French Laundry
The gardens of The French Laundry
After lunch we walked down to Handwritten Wines. They were unable to offer a tasting, but their courtyard was open for purchase of wine. So we made our own tasting. We ordered glasses of their 2018 Chardonnay Carneros and 3 of their Cabernet Sauvignon offerings. The wines were delicious and their patio is gorgeous for a warm afternoon. At the time they were offering private tastings inside the tasting room by reservation only, but I believe that now they are only able to do outside tasting experiences.
We then got notice that our room was ready at the Napa Valley Lodge. We cruised down to the hotel and checked in. They are definitely taking Covid precautions seriously. Mask required while checking in even though they have a ceiling to desk plexiglass covering. No room cleaning service unless you request it and must leave the room. No regular continental breakfast buffet, but you fill out an order form for each day and pick up at the breakfast room. We had a room with a small patio overlooking their onsite vineyard of cabernet. Unfortunately the pool was under construction, but next time we will definitely enjoy some time relaxing poolside. Highly recommended the hotel due to its proximity to all the wonderful restaurants in Yountville (walking distance to most), Bouchon bakery for morning deliciousness and of course, Pancha’s (a cash only dive bar) across the street for a late night cocktail.
The view from our patio at Napa Valley Lodge
Ciccio pizza (we didn't get to visit) and Pancha's Bar
We didn’t make a reservation for dinner Saturday night thinking we could just get a spot at the bar somewhere, but it was a little more difficult than that. Due to restaurants not operating at full capacity and limited seating at the bar, I got on several waiting lists through Open Table and Resy. We were able to get a table at Rutherford Grill a few miles down the road. They have a lovely patio with fire pits and outdoor bar. At the time, they were not serving dinner outdoors, but now they are only able to serve on the outdoor patio. We sat in a booth and taking COVID very seriously, I was asked to move to the other side of the booth next to Jim to be further away from the guests in the booth behind me. Instant romantic date night-I’m in! We had their Deviled Eggs, Chopped Salad and a Marinated Teriyaki Rib Eye. One thing I love about Napa Valley is all the amazing wines by the glass in every restaurant. We tasted the Duckhorn and Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc both from 2018. Loved this restaurant for the casual vibe, outdoor patio and simple yet delicious food! Another thing I noticed everywhere we went was the professionalism of all the servers and staff in the restaurants. They truly provided an elevated experience.
The next morning after our continental breakfast on the patio we headed to St. Helena for some shopping. There are several cute boutiques and home/gift stores. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed to our tasting at Nickel & Nickel in Oakville, CA. We were greeted in their rose garden with a tasting of the Sauvignon Blanc and given a history of the owners and winery. We were then seated in their courtyard and guided through the wines and history of Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel by our wine professional, Kendra.
They paired the tasting with artisanal cheeses and the tastiest breadstick ever! (I actually emailed them later to get the name of these breadsticks)
Nickel & Nickel makes Single-Vineyard Wines, no blends of multiple sites.
After a little rest, we headed to dinner at Angéle restaurant in Napa. They have a lovely patio for dining and the weather was perfect at 7pm. I had the Roasted Heritage Half Chicken. I rarely order chicken when I go out to eat, but I was so glad I did! This chicken was perfectly crispy served in a cast iron skillet with delicious potatoes and a Fig Port Sauce. The table ordered Escargots. I heard they were good, but my bite was too small to tell.
The next morning we got up early to walk down to Bouchon Bakery to get in the line for breakfast. This bakery has a constant line, even without COVID spacing. We got coffee, croissants and tuna salad and treats for wine tasting lunch later. Definitely worth the time in line which was only about 20 minutes and a nice 15 minute walk from our hotel.
The line at Bouchon Bakery at 7:45am
Our wine tasting outing for the day was at Charles Krug, Napa Valley’s oldest wine estate, 1861. It was interesting to learn the history of Charles Krug and then the transition to the Mondavi Family in 1943. I was in for the Cabana we reserved for wine tasting, but I love the history so that was a bonus. They had you check in with your mask and asked to sanitize before entering the facility, we even signed a waiver. It was a hot afternoon (90 degrees), but we were in the shade of the cabana on a comfy outdoor couch. We tasted through their Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and red blends. We were able to purchase bottles and food to enjoy for a few hours of relaxation. Our wine expert gave us a tour of the original estate that Charles Krug had built and Peter Mondavi, Sr. had lived in until 2016. We brought in some charcuterie and our goodies from Bouchon. On the phone we were told we could bring in items, but when we got there we were discouraged from flaunting it, so I’m not sure on this one. It was a fabulous way to spend a Tuesday afternoon.
We made a fun stop at Gary’s Wine & Marketplace. A fancy grocery store with a huge wine selection, gift items and deli cafe. This used to be Dean and Deluca. There are some similarities between the two shops. Definitely worth a stop!
A nap was needed following our afternoon of fun and then we walked to dinner at Bottega.
We had a table inside, but they also had a great patio and I kinda wished I was sitting outside.
I had the Bucatini Aglio e Olio con Frutti de Mare-a delicious saffron citrus pasta with Wood Fired Gulf Prawns. We had my favorite wine, Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, but Jim had a delicious fancy cocktail, the Italian Gin and Tonic with Limoncello. We were too stuffed for dessert so we took a walk. We were able to later get a table for dessert at RH Yountville. “An integration of food, wine, art & design”. A beautiful indoor and outdoor restaurant that we could only try to get a reservation for 3:45pm the whole time we were there. So when we walked up and could get a table as they were closing, we jumped at the chance. We had their chocolate chip cookies and some red wine. We enjoyed the beauty of the restaurant which was adorned with chandeliers on indoor trees. Even if you cannot get a reservation, stop by and view their show rooms.
We had such a wonderful time on this little get-away that I want to make it an annual trip. Restaurants, hotels and wineries are doing their very best to keep patrons safe and well taken care of. We had a little trouble getting Ubers and Lyfts, but only got stuck one time at Charles Krug when we called a taxi company. Most Ubers were fully masked and one even had a plastic shield separating them from us in the back seat. The only thing I would have liked to do was a spa day and none of the spas were open yet. But even with all the COVID madness, this was a very relaxing trip with all of my favorite things--food, wine and warm weather.