I love friends who are reliable. I don’t have a whole lot of time set aside in my somewhat insane schedule for fickleness, so when Abby, Diana and I were emailing back and forth in June, and one of them was all, “hey we should continue this over wine!” and the other was all, “sounds good to me!” and then 24 hours later, they both were in possession of plane tickets to San Francisco, I wondered why everyone in my life can’t be so efficient.
I’ve known Abby since 2005 when we both worked in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey at the headquarters for In Touch Weekly (hey, we all have to start somewhere). Three years later, I re-found her on Twitter, and we’ve been following each other’s travels ever since (and met for a quick drink and bite of sushi when she was in town for a night last fall). I hadn’t actually met Diana in person, though we have so many mutual friends (and so much in common), it already felt like we’d been pals a lifetime. Both live in Las Vegas, where Abby sits at the helm of Vegas Magazine and Diana does PR for some of the fanciest restaurants in town (and writes and blogs for a living, too).
July was the most illogical time for the three of us to try and plan a getaway. I had all of 17 days to get my act together between returning from two months away and packing up my life to move to the other side of the country, Abby had an insane work schedule including a week-long trip to New York the Monday following our weekend together, and Diana was preparing for a grand trip to Thailand. Still, I was leaving the West Coast for good, and we all wanted a rendezvous before that happened, so we made it work.
And we did what any upstanding young women let loose in Napa Valley would do for a weekend…
The night Abby and Diana arrived was a particularly chilly one—you know the famous quote about San Francisco in July (which Mark Twain never actually said, FYI)—but these desert gals (wo)manned up after a quick cocktail at the Tonga Room, threw on some clothes and we met Spence, SVV and Steve at Off the Grid, San Francisco’s weekly food truck extravaganza. I gave them a few hours to sleep in their amazing room at the Fairmont on Nob Hill before picking them up and driving over the Golden Gate Bridge en route to Napa Valley.
But first things first: A girl can’t start her Saturday (or any day really) without brunch. I’d done a quick Yelp search to find a delicious breakfast spot just off Highway 101 that wouldn’t throw us too far off course. As always, Yelp delivered, this time in the form of Pier 15 in San Rafael. Don’t tell me you could see chocolate cinnamon French toast—that would be Swedish Cinnamon French Toast, drizzled with Chocolate and topped with seasonal fruit (like the ones at Shari’s berries) and bananas—on the menu and not stop. It was every bit as delicious as it looked, too.
Mid-afternoon we made our next culinary stop in the form of a snack at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher—which has been renamed Gott’s Roadside (what is up with that?!) and is my favorite meal in the Valley as it’s a gourmet answer to Sonic—in lieu of a full-on lunch, then for dinner, we headed to Oxbow Public Market, which I’ve been wanting to try for ages. Abby and Diana sampled the oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company—I wish I liked shellfish, but I just can’t—and then we shared a cheese plate and some wine across the way at Oxbow Cheese Plate.
Naturally, when I saw there was a Three Twins Organic Ice Cream booth just down the way, I had to indulge. If you’ve never had Three Twins, don’t walk, SPRINT to the nearest location that carries it and try their signature flavor, the lemon cookie. I don’t particularly like lemon-flavored anything, but by God, I would baby-step across a bed of hot coals for another scoop of this creamy goodness. And if you really want to burst an artery and you’re in the Bay Area, check out Chili Pies where they blend Three Twins ice cream with pie for one amazingly caloric milkshake. Yeah, I said it … PIE + ICE CREAM = PIE MILKSHAKE (aka a heart attack in a glass).
On the way back out of town to take them to the airport that Sunday, I Yelped again for a brunch on our route and came across the Boon Fly Cafe at Carneros Inn, lodging option of choice for many a celebrity. Everything about this place was perfect, from the barn decor to the service to the food.
Oh, and there was even a Bloody Mary WITH BACON on the menu, so Diana and I just had to try them. Don’t lie: You totally would have done the same.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert. We stopped at some random pink facade hoping that pink meant cupcakes (it did, in fact), and Abby and Diana returned with the most amazing bounty of beautiful baked goodness.
In vino veritas. (Yes, we drank, too. Duh.)
We didn’t really have a schedule of vineyard where we wanted to stop. We kind of just drove and…went with it. My absolute favorite winery in California is Domaine Chandon, both because I love their champagne (I’m a sucker for the bubbly) and because they have one of the most beautiful tasting rooms. This time, however, we soaked up the sun and drank our flight of three sparklers out on the back patio.
From there, we drove from Yountville up the road in the direction of St. Helena, when Diana spotted Peju and mentioned they were supposed to have great wine. How could we pass without testing out that theory ourselves? (Actually, since I was driving, I took it easy at this stop and watched the girls in envy.)
Lastly, we hit up Caymus in Rutherford, where Diana’s boss had arranged us a private tasting. We sampled several different cabs, and while I can’t recall at the moment what all they were, I will say they were delicious!
Aaaand we slept (albeit briefly).
Diana had done some PR work long ago for a darling roadside motel-turned-inn, Chardonnay Lodge, right near downtown Napa, and the owner offered to let us stay in a room for a night (for free). This was awesome because the location was convenient and we didn’t have to pay for lodging, and would you just take a look at how beautiful the inside of our room was?
Kiran, the owner, is an artist and hand-painted it herself. Of course, there was just one king-sized bed and three of us, and while we could have squeezed onto it, Diana took one for the team and slept on the ground (such a trouper!). After all that eating and drinking and, most tiresome, ceaseless chatting, that bed was calling my name.
All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend with more fun, like-minded friends. I’m ready for round two when they are.