Napa….sadly…most underwhelming :-(

Napa, CA

Sunday 30th

From Yosemite to The Westin Verasa Napa

Our accommodation was ‘Yosemite Lodge at the Falls’ and I considered our trip incomplete without a walk to said Falls. The restaurant where we had dined for the last two nights was located near the Falls and offered good views but this wasn’t enough for me. So, Mark and I set out early on our final morning to take the short walk out to the Yosemite Falls. We bumped into Bambi again and I was pleased to see that Bambi had a friend this time.

We were on the road to Napa by about 8.30 am after another check for Mark’s hat and a few final photos. Sadly for us, many lost items had been turned in but Mark’s hat must have decided to stay ‘sight-seeing’ on the Yosemite shuttle.

We were looking forward to Napa for both the wine and the comfort of a larger bed. ‘Yosemite Lodge at the Falls’ was wonderful accommodation for our short trip but the room size only afforded two standard double beds. This was the only compromise for us though. The rooms are well appointed and very comfortable. No a/c but the ceiling fans coped very well given the heat we had experienced. The supporting resort amenities make this an ideal location to holiday whilst in Yosemite and I would highly recommend this Lodge to any traveler.

Driving out of the National Park eventually brought us to an area that resembled Goulburn of NSW. The area had a similar parched landscape and vegetation and we even passed a Correctional Facility to cap off the parallel ! I think the area was ‘Copperopolis’ and I can only assume that a source of Copper might have been the original appeal of this region.

One noteworthy item at this point is that, for all the rural landscape we driven through during the last week, we’d barely seen any livestock. Just a few cows at one point back near Lone Pine……most odd. We’d seen more Churches than cows!

The landscape opened up after Copperpolis to a vast and gently rolling, but still rather barren and dry, landscape. We did eventually sight some cattle though but not too many! It clearly must be too dry out here for cropping of any sort. There seemed to be an awful lot of land that wasn’t doing too much. It wasn’t that much further on from this dry landscape though that it changed to mixed agriculture with various fruit trees and vineyards appearing. The quick transition of land use was quite amazing!

We eventually made it to our Napa hotel and had a quick bite to eat there before Mark and I headed out to visit some vineyards. Tom was happy to stay back in the cool of the hotel. I had researched lower Napa vineyards and been helped along the way to find a few boutique vineyards that didn’t require appointments or tasting fees. We only lasted two hours though before giving up and heading home. The first vineyard, Black Stallion, did provide free tastings but the wines were so expensive that we didn’t want to waste their time. Prices ranged from $60 – $160 with their ‘plain wrap’ kind of wine was at $30+. We tasted a $75 red and a $30 red and they were not as good as Mark’s $12 quaffing wines from Dan Murphy’s back home! We have clearly been very spoilt in Australia with high quality wine at most reasonable prices. Undeterred at this stage though, we pressed on to search out the other few vineyards on our ‘short list’. The remainder of them though ended up being fee paying tastings ($20 +) and the wines were all around $60 +++! Mark was not happy as he had been looking forward to this excursion as part of our holiday.

So, empty handed and very unimpressed, we headed home via Downtown Napa and the Oxbow Markets where we picked up some breakfast items. We still don’t know where all the tourists were. You would have had trouble doing a drive by shooting in Napa…there was nothing to aim at. I had been warned how busy this period of the year would be but there was no sign of this anywhere we’d been today. Our hotel offered free wine tasting between 5-7pm so, that seemed the more appealing option at that stage.

The hotel wine tasting turned out to be the sampling of just two wines…a Chardonnay at $50 and a Cab Sav at $60. The white was ok but not the red. By this time it was close to 6pm and, feeling very disillusioned, we decided to walk the 10 min down to Napa and to the ‘Bounty Hunter’ restaurant/wine bar for dinner. This had also been recommended to me so, at this stage with our current Napa experience, I wasn’t getting too excited. The food was great though but, again, the wines were just too pricey. We got chatting to our waiter, Mark, who was ‘into wine’ and told him about our great Aussie varieties. In particular we mentioned the great Mudgee vineyard and wines of ‘Bunnamagoo’ He now has my e-mail address, this vineyard name and some other info about various Aussie vineyards that he intends to chase up.

We were back to our hotel by 7.30 pm feeling a bit like Joni Mitchell with her ‘Big Yellow Taxi’. We didn’t know how good we had it back home with our vineyards and the likes of those in Mudgee! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94bdMSCd w20

So, my parting words, yeah…come and check this region out for yourself BUT…maybe stock up on some great Aussie wines before you get here!

We had planned to drive through Sonoma tomorrow morning and visit some vineyards there before arriving into San Francisco but Mark has just checked their online prices too and we now think we’ll give them a miss.


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