Day Trip to Napa

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I visited the San Francisco Bay Area on official travel, but that doesn’t mean some fun can’t be interwoven in, right? The week was chock-full of meetings and interesting discussions, but the weekends were free for us to get to know the members of our geographically dispersed teams and develop friendly working relationships. Nothing facilitates that better than a trip to a winery for wine tasting 😉 .

We left Sunnyvale bright and early and whizzed off to Napa (about a 90-min drive). Our directions directed us to the Napa visitor center where we picked up a map and some pointers on the places to visit.

Simplified Napa Valley map showing all the winery locations

Simplified Napa Valley map showing all the winery locations

Armed with map, we proceeded to visit the wineries. Our first stop was the Domain Chandon. What a beautiful place! I was just blown away by the beautiful colors of the trees reflected in the water.

Beauty

Beauty

Love the reflections on the water

Love the reflections on the water

We sampled, ok, we drank a whole bottle of the Chandon Rosé, a light and fruity bubbly. This was my first time trying this wine and I realized while I liked it very much, I much prefer less bubbly stuff.

We then made our way to Opus One wineries – a very famous winery here. This place offered wine tastings by appointment only and while there did seem to be place for us, we realized it was priced too high for our comfort levels. Instead of moping, we took some lovely photos of the building (which has a very unique architecture), and left.

Posing on the pristine green lawns

Posing before the pristine green lawns

Time to break for lunch and we randomly walked into a restaurant called Cook, and it turned out to be a total hit. The menu is simple – a single sheet of paper listing the food available, but even if the menu looked a lot like what we get offered in airplanes, the taste wasn’t. We simply inhaled in all the great food, accompanied by some yummy wine.

I was too hungry to photograph the food – a shame as the presentation was really beautiful, but I did manage to have enough self-control to photograph the desserts before digging in.

Delicious panna cotta

Delicious panna cotta

I just have to make a mention of this flourless chocolate cake. Some of the ingredients going into it are caramel, whipped cream, and grey salt. The unusual combination of sweet and salt made my taste buds sing – one of the best desserts ever.

I totally dug into this flourless chocolate cake

I totally dug into this flourless chocolate cake

Another great thing about Cook was the reasonable portion sizes. I left the restaurant feeling satisfied but not stuffed (a very rare thing when you eat Italian food in America).

We then decided to visit the last vineyard for the day – Sterling Vineyards. This vineyard is located almost at the very end of the Napa valley near Calistoga city. Perched on top of a hill, this vineyard offers lovely views of the surrounding valley. To get to the top of the hill, there is a gondola (what they called it, in my language, it’s a cable car). We needed to pay a fee for the gondola, the vine tour, and the wine sampling together, and I have to say that though I hesitated at the price at first, the vineyard visit was totally worth it and I highly recommend the experience.

The view from the gondola

The view from the gondola

We went on the cable car to the top of the hill and were welcomed by the first sample of a white wine. We then went on a self-paced wine tasting and making tour. The samples were generous, and I was pleasantly giddy by the end of the experience.

Once we were done with all the wine tasting, we lounged on the terrace for some time enjoying the last rays of the sunlight and trying to catch some photos of the valley below.

Trying to capture the Culinary Institute of America in the shot

Trying to capture the Culinary Institute of America in the shot

Another shot of the Culinary Institute of America and a farmstead in the foreground

Another shot of the Culinary Institute of America and a farmstead in the foreground

During this trip, I realized the deficiencies of my camera. Mine is a good point and shoot one, but when it comes to motion, and long-range photography, it was a struggle to frame the shots and capture the light the way I wanted to. My friend let me try out his Canon DSLR, and it was so user-friendly and just so all-round awesome that I am seriously thinking a camera upgrade may be in order. Do you have any suggestions on DSLR camera models? I am really a novice so I am looking for something simple and easy to use.

So, that was our trip to Napa! We had such a great time. We braved the freezing cold (it’s sunny in the pics, but there was ice on the roads, and by evening, we were seriously shivering in our shoes) but the experience was so much fun that all the discomfort was totally worth it :).

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  • Leslie

    What a nice break from a busy week. I’ve never been to Napa but someday I’ll get there.

    Camera suggestions: I use an older Canon Rebel XSi and a 55-250mm zoom lens. It’s a great introductory DSLR, easy to use and versatile. You can go fully automatic, partial by setting aperture or shutter priority, or fully manual. The T4i is the latest model, but if you don’t want to spend a lot of money go with one of the older models. Or one of the new mirrorless cameras. If you really want to confuse yourself, check out http://www.dpreview.com/ which has more info and reviews on cameras than you will ever want!

    • Nishita

      @disqus_i6yD8dkxUt:disqus whoa, that site sure is informative, and confusing. I like the idea of the Canon Rebel XSi and the fully automatic option. I am really a novice, and until I catch up, it would be great to be able to go fully automatic.

      Thanks a lot for the recommendation 🙂

  • Stefanie

    How wonderful that even though you were on a business trip you still got to do something fun! I haven’t been to the Napa area for a really long time so I enjoyed your photos. It’s still as beautiful as ever!

    • Nishita

      @Stefanie: Yes, it was pure chance that we got to spend this time. Weekend flight tickets were priced very exorbitantly, and it made better sense to stay the weekend and take the first flight out on Monday. We were lucky to get this weekend 🙂

  • veens

    sSO envious 🙂

    • Nishita

      @veens:disqus Well, if it makes you feel better, I’d like to add that the flight was horrible, the jetlag was terrible, and the workload unbelievable. We still managed to carve out some time though.

      • veens

        🙂 A little – very very little 😉

        • Nishita

          @veens:disqus 😀

  • avada kedavra

    Napa is great right? I love all the vineyards there. Want to make another trip.
    You can choose Nikon or Canon. If you are choosing canon, then T4i seems like a good choice right now. Rebel series is good for starters. You should get a DSLR. They are so much better.

    • Nishita

      @avada kedavra: Napa was super-awesome. I only have two regrets now:

      * I really should have sucked it up and bought the Malvasia Blanca wine at Sterling Vineyards. It was so delicious.
      * I would have loved to try the restaurant in the train that runs through Napa valley.

      Maybe next time. Magical day nevertheless

      Thanks for the camera reccos. I really should try out your reccos in the shops and see what suits me :).

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