Friday, January 9, 2009

Last Day In Napa - Buehler and St. Helena

It was Tuesday morning, our last full day in Napa. Scheduled was a wine and cheese pairing at Buehler Vineyards, up Howell Mountain Road - way, way, way up Howell Mountain Road - wait, not that far. After missing the turn off from a narrow road to a narrower road, we finally arrived, a little queasy from the drive. Our host, John Buehler, Jr. confessed that when his (grown) children were teens, he had the body shop programmed for direct dial.

We came to Napa post-harvest, when most grapes were going through the stages of processing prior to being barrelled. John gave us a wonderful tour of the working mechanisms of a winery; the presses, the filtering, the bottling operation. Located in the Conn Valley, a remote, rolling hills area where agriculture meets the natural land, the silence and natural beauty provided a feeling of comfort and peace.

Poured for our pleasure was their 2007 Napa Valley Zinfandel, their 2005 Estate Cabernet and the 2006 Papa's Knoll Cabernet. How do I remember this? It's on the receipt - had some shipped back to the house for more enjoyment later. Winemaker David Cronin has been working with Buehler since 1993 after having developed Dolce for Far Niente. They are open by appointment only, but it's worth a call to set up a time, and it's worth the drive - just watch out for that turn off.

After the tasting, the Cattle Baron's "group of eight" headed off to the airport. We had an open invitation to visit Gundlach Bundschu, but the ladies had been patiently awaiting some shopping time. So the boys went one way, the girls headed to St. Helena, a small-town-main-street-All-American kind of place. And the shopping was great - multiple types of stores and not just high end merchandise. Don't miss Sunshine Foods, part market, mostly gourmet shop. I purchased crackers and tapenades there that were made by local producers and hauled them all the way back to Dallas. The boys must have done a little shopping as well, a week later a case of Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay appeared at our door.

None of us are shop-a-holics, so we were done in less than 2 hours. Taylor's Automatic Refresher beckoned (not a drive in, you eat at tables and counters outside) always with a line of people waiting to order at the window. Known for their milkshakes (Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, Espresso Bean, White Pistachio, Mint Chip, Black & White), they also have an extensive list of wines by the glass. We stayed until it was time to meet the chefs for our final dinner in Napa, at Darioush Winery.

This is post #7 of the "series" written about our trip to Napa for the Cattle Baron's dinner. If you've missed any of the others, you can link to them: THE Dinner at Markham , Luncheon at Nickel & Nickel , Cooking In Napa , One Evening In San Francisco , Destination: San Francisco's Ferry Market , and Speaking of Napa - Another Cattle Baron's Dinner . Bon appetit!

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