Vignettes of Yountville, Day Two

Day two in Yountville didn’t start out well for us. We came out to one of the vineyards up on the hills early Saturday morning with Napa Valley Aloft for a hot air balloon ride (and a champaign breakfast after), but the weather had other plans. We were hoping it would clear up, spending our time taking photos of the fog-covered vineyards and half blown-up balloons while waiting. But the fog just got thicker by the minute.

Our guides were very apologetic though (although it’s hard to blame them, the weather can be unpredictable), and they made up for it by having unbelievably delicious Bouchon chocolate cupcakes waiting for us when we got back. And we still enjoyed the view.

Hot Air Ballooning with Napa Valley Aloft (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hot Air Ballooning with Napa Valley Aloft (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hot Air Ballooning with Napa Valley Aloft (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hot Air Ballooning with Napa Valley Aloft (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hot Air Ballooning with Napa Valley Aloft (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hot Air Ballooning with Napa Valley Aloft (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Bicycle Ride Around Yountville

With our hot air ballon ride canceled and it being too late to go back to bed, we had to find another way to spend our Saturday morning. Luckily our hotel (North Block Hotel) lets guests use their cruiser bikes for free, so we decided to explore the town on them.

We rode our borrowed bicycles along Washington Street past the main strip and the town limit to where the vineyards are, and then on the bike path along St. Helena. The bike ride was a lovely experience, and certainly a good way to see the rest of Yountville.

Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yountville (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bouchon Bistro (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bouchon Bistro (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
French Laundry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
French Laundry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Richard Reddington’s Redd Wood

The bike ride was also a fantastic way to work up an appetite. Afterwards, we had a light but super tasty breakfast at Chef Richard Reddington’s Redd Wood, complimentary of North Block Hotel: eggs (sunny side up and an omelet), bacon, roasted rosemary potatoes and toast. And the arugula was amazing and fresh.

Redd Wood at North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood at North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood at North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood at North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

We also had supper there that evening; and unsurprisingly, the restaurant serves amazing dishes for dinner (much like most of the restaurants in this town… I seriously think they have a ban on bad food and bad chefs in Yountville). For starters, we had the crispy Fritto Misto that I couldn’t get enough of. We followed it up with the super light Prosciutto Crudo Pizza and amazing Shrimp Linquine. And for desert we had their yummy Pot De Creme Coffee Espuma Whip and Biscotti.

Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Redd Wood (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Bardessono

Before heading off to the Taste of Yountville festival, which we had tickets for, we simply had to stop by Bardessono, one of the greenest hotels in the country (that’s no exaggeration, mind you! This hotel goes out of their way to be eco-friendly, which gained them the hard-to-acheive LEEDS Platinum certification. I talk more about this in my recently published piece on eco-friendly trip ideas for Earth Day…).

Anyway, the hotel is not only very friendly to the environment, it is also beautifully designed. We had a quick tour of its grounds and buildings that blended modern simplicity with natural touches, which I absolutely loved. And they have a spa onsite too. It was smaller than the spas I’ve been too, but Yountville is all about relaxation so we simply had to squeeze in massages before we joined the festivities.

Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Bardessono (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

After our lovely massages at the Spa at Bardessono, we walked over to Washington Street, which was bustling with people. We were in town on the same weekend as the town’s annual Taste of Yountville and Yountville Live!, and having obtained complimentary tickets to both festivals (thanks to the kind folks at Fuller & Sander and the Yountville Chamber of Commerce) we decided to spend lunchtime sampling wine and food from many of the local restaurants and wineries that were participating. There were out of town participants as well.

It was a fun experience, going from one tent to another. We spent a couple of hours walking up and down the main strip, tasting different wine and samples of delectable food (even the firefighters’ tent served amazing barbecue), and chatting with some the locals.

This is day two of our Yountville adventures. Vignettes from Yountville, Day Three is coming soon. Stay tuned!

 

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Vignettes of Yountville, Day One

I’ve been living in California for a long time now; and while I have seen many of the Golden State’s most beautiful places (Yosemite and Big Sur come to mind), I have to admit that I haven’t  fully explored it yet. To me, that’s a good thing because there’s still a lot in my state that pleasantly surprise me.

Take Napa Valley for example. I have avoided it for so long because of several reasons, including the fact that it just seemed to me very predictable, just another tourist destination that’s bland and trite. But during a recent weekend visit to Yountville, California—Napa Valley’s culinary center—I am not ashamed to admit that I was proven wrong…

There’s a reason—or rather a few remarkable reasons—why Yountville is considered Napa’s culinary capital. This idyllic haven is home to some of the most stunning sceneries you’ll ever see in California as well as many of the most amazing restaurants and wineries not just in California but also in the country.

M(a)isonry

M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Our first stop during our visit was M(a)isonry, a wine collective and art gallery that not only offers tastings of the best wines produced in the region but is also home to an eclectic collection, all for sale, of cool and eccentric art pieces. We very much enjoyed our tasting paired with Redd Wood’s cheese and charcuterie board, but we LOVED exploring its gorgeously decorated rooms and garden.

M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
M(a)isonry (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

North Block Hotel

North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

I’ve stayed at a number of hotels and resorts over the years, some of them simply fantastic, luxurious and award winning. I have to say, however, that North Block Hotel has officially made it to my top 10 favorites.

Staying at this lovely boutique hotel during our Yountville weekend, we were able experience and take advantage of most of its complimentary offerings (we had to skip their spa because we were scheduled for treatments at Bardessono—more on that later). These include a glass of wine upon check in and cruiser bikes that you can pretty much use anywhere around town. The staff is also super friendly and always happy for a nice chat during non-busy times.

North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Our gorgeous, newly-renovated room boasted an intimate furnished patio; a luxurious bed with oversized pillows and a pretty chandelier overhead; mood lighting everywhere; a massive bathroom that has a separate shower, a big tub and yummy toiletries; free WiFi; and complimentary filtered water and espresso.

North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

We also enjoyed the surprisingly spacious pool and whirlpool area, which has a big heated pool, several lounge chairs and free Cabana-style seating with Moroccan decor.

North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

Insider Tip: North Block Hotel also offers complimentary use of their all-new Volvo XC90 SUVs. See guest services or call ahead to schedule your preferred time.

North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
North Block Hotel (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

ad hoc

It doesn’t take long for Yountville to unravel its many charming qualities. Our first day there not only included cheese and charcuterie tasting at M(a)isonry, but also an unforgettable dinner at one of Chef Thomas Keller’s highly-rated restaurants. Bearing in mind the fact that I travel all the time and have had the pleasure of eating at some of the most wonderful restaurants, it’s definitely saying something when I say that our dinner at ad hoc is one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life.

ad hoc (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
ad hoc (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

ad hoc has a four-course, family style, prix fixe menu that changes daily, and it just so happens that the restaurant was serving their legendary Buttermilk Fried Chicken the night we dined there. The chicken was addictive, and so were the other items on the menu—Endive Salad (yummy), Clam Bake (more spinach please and how is that corn so very juicy?), Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam (best preserve, cheese and biscuit combo ever!),  Butterscotch Pudding, and the cheesy grits and greens as slides. Even their cocktails were amazing.

ad hoc (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
ad hoc (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
ad hoc (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
ad hoc (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
ad hoc (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
ad hoc (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

It’s no surprise that every single item on the menu here is amazing, considering that the kitchen staff work like a well-oiled machine (General Manager Elias Mandilaras was kind enough to show us the behind-the-scenes action.) The kitchen was basically an obsessive-compulsive person’s (like me!) dream—clean, neat and super organized.

Insider’s Tip: ad hoc’s daily menu is available at around 9 am every day. Check their website to see what’s on the menu that day or let them surprise you. The restaurant also hosts Sunday brunch at addendum, its garden-slash-outdoor space.

ad hoc (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
ad hoc (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
ad hoc (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
ad hoc (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

This is only day one of our Yountville adventures. We have a ton more to share so stay tuned for Vignettes from Yountville, Day Two.

 

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.