Monday, July 4, 2011

Honeymoon Day 30 – June 30, 2011 – Napa, CA and San Francisco, CA

Thursday was the last day of our honeymoon. We slept in, enjoyed our last gourmet breakfast in bed – by the fourth day, we were both convinced that the quiche of the day was the best option. Drank coffee and chatted, and then finally got around to doing the packing.

When we were finished packing, we left the hotel to go to a tour we’d booked at Schramsberg. It’s a Napa valley winery that specializes in sparkling wine made in the French style. Their label actually used to read “California Champagne,” until they decided to remove “champagne” from the label in deference to the French, where it’s against the law for French sparkling wine-makers to use the term if they aren’t actually located in the Champagne region.

The tour was a bit expensive (about $45), but it had been recommended by some of Jeff’s relatives that live in the area, and we thought that a champagne tour and tasting on the last day of our honeymoon might be really nice. The tour took about 45 minutes, and it was really interesting. Schramsberg was one of the first wineries in Napa, founded in 1863, by Jacob Schram. It stopped producing wine shortly after he died (in 1912), and eventually became abandoned and overgrown. In the mid-1960’s, the Davies family purchased the winery, fixed it up, and started making wine again. They decided to focus on French-style champagne, which wasn’t being done at all in the U.S. yet.

In 1972, the White House called and asked Jack Davies to deliver a few cases of the Blanc de Blanc to a nearby Air Force base. They were later informed that the wine was served during Nixon’s visit to China, and used for the “Toast to Peace” between President Richard Nixon and Permier Chou En-lai. They had a really cool picture of the toast up on the wall.

They took us on a tour through the caves – they’d been dug into the mountain by hand (using chisels) when it had first opened. It always stays about 55 degrees inside, which is perfect for keeping the wine. All of the wine is still kept there while it’s being made and aging. They showed us the process, including the hand turning-process they still use to get the sediment out of the wine.

At the end of the tour, they brought us to a tasting room, and we tried five different sparkling wines. All of them were really great – some of the nicest sparkling wine I’ve ever had. And looking at the price list, I could see that a couple of the ones we tried sell for $100 per bottle at the winery, which would probably be twice that at a restaurant – definitely above my usual level.

Also on our tour was a couple from Missouri and a couple of women from Texas whose kids were just going off to college. They were all really nice – especially the two women from Texas – they were really friendly. Everybody was congratulating us on our marriage, and we were telling them about our honeymoon trip. It was a really cute group. Jeff and I ended up buying a couple of bottles of the sparkling wines we really liked – maybe we’ll keep them to celebrate our anniversary!

Just down the road from Schramsberg was Beringer winery. Jeff and I served Beringer wine at our wedding, so we thought it would be cute to stop there. It turns out Beringer is the oldest continuously-operated winery in Napa Valley. It was founded in 1875, and apparently survived prohibition by producing sacramental wine and “medicinal” products. Jeff and I had a good time at our tasting – they gave really big pours, though, and after just visiting Schramsberg, we decided that Jeff would just take a sip and I’d do the heavy lifting here. I’m very helpful in that way.

After our tastings, we were ready for a late lunch, so we stopped at Gott’s Roadside Diner just off Highway 29. It looked like a really cute place with a window to order and an old-timey outdoor metal counter. Jeff and I ordered cheeseburgers and garlic fries, and enjoyed them on our long drive back into town. The burgers were great, and the garlic fries were awesome – they had some kind of green herb on them, too – almost like pesto fries.

We had hoped to stop by Dave and Taylor’s new apartment in San Francisco to visit for a while, but the traffic was worse than we’d expected (maybe people leaving early for the Fourth of July weekend?), so we only ended up having a couple of minutes to say hi. Luckily, we did get to see their new place. It’s a really cool apartment in the Mission area of San Francisco. Their windows look out over city streets that really make you feel like you’re in the middle of everything, which is a really cool feeling. And they’ve got an awesome neighborhood to explore.

Our dinner was only a couple blocks away, at Foreign Cinema. This is actually the restaurant where Dan proposed to Janet a couple years ago. It’s a nice place with all out-door seating. In some ways, it feels like its indoors – it has a front door and four walls, but there is no ceiling on the building. They play a movie every night on the back wall of the restaurant, though there is no sound (but there are sub-titles, because it’s foreign!). The food is really great, too. Jeff and I were not too hungry since it hadn’t been all that long since the burgers, so we decided to just get one full meal and share it. We had fresh oysters and then baked brie as appetizers, shared sliced zucchini, and then had duck for our main course. We finished with a crème brule and sparkling wine. It was a very romantic last dinner for the honeymoon.

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