Visiting Napa Valley wineries…and definitely breathing lighter!

It took me by surprise to realize it’s been almost a month since I last posted. I seem to have taken this encouragement to heart!


I have acute spring fever!

It’s true our Southern California climate allows for year-round outdoor activity, but after a lengthy period of dormancy it seems that all living things have decided it’s time to put on their finest display and I am happy to be witness.

The color on this Bougainvillea is so riotous I had trouble photographing it. I took several photos trying to tone down the “noise” and then decided if she wants to be a show-off, I’d just let her!

I’m working in the garden and preparing a new vegetable patch, but at times I just sit and watch the birds as they return to the feeders.

Where have they been for the past few months? Were they hanging around and just not hungry?

Just a few weeks ago we visited Napa Valley and although still winter, certainly enjoyed the beauty of the area. Previous to this latest trip we had always visited in the fall when the grapes are harvested and wine production kicks in–the Crush.

But at the end of February it was still quite cold, the vines were dormant, and the winery tours extremely hospitable and welcoming. And we didn’t have the summer crowds to contend with–always a nice surprise!

Our primary purpose for traveling so far north was to spend time with our grandson and his parents in total relaxation in Calistoga at Indian Springs resort. Β 

But in between soaks in the thermal pools we took advantage of visiting a couple of local wineries. We chose to walk to August Briggs Winery, a small family owned and operated Napa/Sonoma producer with a tasting room in downtown Calistoga.

There are SO MANY wineries and tasting rooms, so we primarily make a choice based on recommendation. August Briggs was initially introduced through a friend.

The tasting was well worth the time! This stop was a treat not just for the delicious wine, but also for the stories and a bit of history, which always pleases me.

We were introduced to an Italian varietal, Charbono, rarely found in Napa wineries because there are less than 100 acres of this varietal planted in the entire state.

August Briggs also introduced us to another varietal somewhat rare in its availability, Pinot meunier which is a close relative of the Pinot noir grape.It is normally grown in France and used as a sparkling wine varietal.

In complete contrast to the small boutique winery, we also visited Sterling Vineyards.

How about tasting with a view?

This was quite literally a breathtaking experience.

From our little gondola I snapped a photo of my son, daughter-in-law and infant grandson ascending ahead of us on Sterling’s one of a kind (in Napa Valley) aerial tram. Gulp!

The views are stunning and it is part of the experience! The winery planners needed a way to transport visitors and staff to the hilltop winery, and I must admit to being quite impressed.

Time of year dictated that we didn’t witness any of the wine production in progress, but the beautiful winery also includes several rooms open to the public for exploration and I’d be very interested in visiting in the fall as witness to the business end.

However, there is something really nice about the off-peak season.

A very beautiful environment, minimal crowds…definitely breathing lighter!

47 thoughts on “Visiting Napa Valley wineries…and definitely breathing lighter!

  1. aFrankAngle April 9, 2018 / 6:58 pm

    Sometime in the 90s, we vacationed in SF for a week. Wonderful as we got around on the bus and walking. Rented a car for my first-ever visit to Napa, and that started my wine experience that I continue today. πŸ™‚

    Returned to Napa (I think twice) … although I like Sonoma better. Nonetheless, I recall going to Sterling on our first trip. Other favorites are Storybook Mountain & Rombauer.

    Cheers to your visit … and thanks for introducing me to August Briggs.

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 7:14 pm

      August Briggs was really a very nice experience for us. I do enjoy the smaller, boutique wineries and only wish they distributed their product in Southern California. I suppose that makes a good excuse for us to travel north more often, perhaps? Previous to this trip we’ve also concentrated more on the Sonoma side and some of our favorites are there. Next trip I’m going to check out Storybook Mountain & Rombauer. That would be fun!

      • aFrankAngle April 11, 2018 / 7:26 pm

        I’m not a Chard enthusiast, but the Rombauer Chardonnay is like biting into a stick of butter! Yum!!!

        • Debra April 11, 2018 / 8:30 pm

          I do like Chard, so thanks for the endorsement. Sometimes I can find really interesting labels in the Bay Area that we can’t find in SoCal, and right in the grocery store. I’m making a note! πŸ™‚

          • aFrankAngle April 11, 2018 / 8:44 pm

            I imagine you can find it … Not cheap mid to upper 30s

          • aFrankAngle April 11, 2018 / 8:50 pm

            PS: I hope you see the Lead and Follow post because I think you will greatly enjoy it.

  2. nrhatch April 9, 2018 / 7:58 pm

    YOU have been even ZEN-er than me! Glad you had fun on your wine tasting and grandson visiting adventure. Love the idea of a gondola sightseeing ride!

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 7:35 pm

      I enjoy my days to the fullest and then expect to have the energy in the evening for blogging and a few other pastimes I enjoy. I hate to admit it, but I find the energy doesn’t hold out quite as long as it used to. LOL! I’m looking for a new balance, but suspect it’s instead finding me! The gondola was so unexpected! I’d definitely enjoy a trip “up that way” again! Hope you’re holding to your own Zen pace! πŸ™‚

  3. Ray Laskowitz April 9, 2018 / 9:52 pm

    Your pictures. πŸ“· There you go…🎈🎈🎈

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 7:36 pm

      Thank you SO much, Ray. From you that means so much!!

  4. restlessjo April 10, 2018 / 1:17 am

    Always quietly envious of you, Debbie. Especially on a day like today when the rain bounces, and then bounces some more, and the skies don’t lighten. Spring WILL get here eventually πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Enjoy!

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 7:46 pm

      So often, Jo, your photos from the Algarve remind me of our home climate–at least in terms of sunny days! I’m sure you’re going to soak up the warmth just as soon as you relocate! We had several days of “cold for us” weather, and when the sunshine reappeared I did nothing but take long walks. Some of us just need that, don’t we? πŸ™‚

  5. Chatter Master April 10, 2018 / 2:33 am

    Debra thank you for taking us along! Though I don’t drink I enjoy going to wineries and distilleries. I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe it’s the other people’s passions about such things or maybe it’s the colors and activity surrounding all of it. But I enjoy it. Cheers!!! πŸ˜‰

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 7:51 pm

      I’m so glad you mention that even without enjoying alcohol, you have an appreciation for wineries and distilleries. I think sometimes people miss out on some really cool environments, both in natural beauty and for some, a view of very interesting technical behind-the-scenes action. Thank you, Colleen.

      • Chatter Master April 12, 2018 / 2:34 pm

        You’re very welcome Debra. πŸ™‚ I do love the ‘how it’s made’ information in life.

  6. nonsmokingladybug April 10, 2018 / 5:46 am

    I lived in California for about 5 years…way back then and loved it. Great pictures! I wish I could have joined you at the wine tasting.

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 7:52 pm

      We would definitely have fun together at the tasting! Maybe you’ll visit California again. πŸ™‚

  7. thefolia April 10, 2018 / 6:00 am

    So glad to hear you have been enjoying your new Zen speed! I’m trying desperately to put on our brakes in our nest but there’s always racing to some place. Summer is around the corner so there’s hope for me then and more life for you to explore. Happy Zen cruising!

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 8:04 pm

      So nice to hear from you Cristina! I don’t ever want to discourage anyone from attempts at slowing down the pace, but with a busy family it’s sure difficult! Sometimes when I feel like maybe I should be doing more, but don’t really want to, I remind myself of all those years with the children at home when everything was so accelerated, and then I just tell myself I’ve earned a break. LOL! I know you’re so eager for summer to get here and to have the kiddos all to yourself–and some well-earned freedom! πŸ™‚

  8. Cathy April 10, 2018 / 6:16 am

    Lovely photos Debra. I have taken tours of vineyards in France, but must admit I have never taken to wine or even Champagne. Give me a glass of water any day! (Or maybe a German beer if I’m really thirsty!) Winter trips do have that advantage of avoiding crowds, so I am flad you had a chance to unwind and enjoy the company of your little grandson too. πŸ™‚

    • Cathy April 10, 2018 / 6:17 am

      Oops. That should read ‘I am glad…’ πŸ™‚

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 8:08 pm

      I love these tours, Cathy, and there are hundreds more waiting for me. πŸ™‚ I’m completely captivated by the unique architecture found in most, and the general beauty of the settings. As soon as possible I’d like to share about one last winery we visited–and it’s the grand-daddy of them all! It’s quite the destination. Stay tuned. LOL!

  9. philipstrange April 10, 2018 / 8:09 am

    What a lovely trip round the vineyards, Debra. The bougainvillea, I presume in your garden, looks very beautiful, the flowers always remind me of the mediterranean.

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 8:15 pm

      Yes, Philip, the bougainvillea is in our garden and I don’t think it’s ever been this abundant! The color was so bright I really did have trouble photographing it! The vineyards were beautiful even in their dormancy. I am hoping we might return later this year when everything is leafy! And we’ll just brave the crowds, I suppose! πŸ™‚

  10. Kate Crimmins April 10, 2018 / 8:45 am

    Looks gorgeous! I need a dose of outdoor beauty and flower power! Our winter was awful but soon…..

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 8:21 pm

      I have been rooting for you to get that warm weather, Kate! One of my closest friends lives in MA and has been sharing photos of snow for months now! I shiver just looking at her photos, so I will be happy for you ALL when we’re confident spring is going to stick around. Your tomatoes need some consistency! πŸ™‚

      • Kate Crimmins April 12, 2018 / 5:57 am

        I’m pretty sure the seedlings saw the snow and said no way I’m coming out!

  11. Andrew Reynolds April 10, 2018 / 9:19 am

    Sounds wonderful – I’ve got to get up that way this year.

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 8:22 pm

      I have one more winery I will share with you soon, Andrew…and if it doesn’t tempt you, I’ll be surprised. πŸ™‚

  12. Dee Ready April 10, 2018 / 11:03 am

    Dear Debra, one of the reasons–among many–that I so enjoy your blog and your postings is that I always learn things. Like you, I find history enthralling and you always provide either background or a tidbit of history that whets my appetite for more. So I go googling! thank you. Peace.

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 8:25 pm

      What a wonderful comment, Dee. I work so hard at cutting my blog posts down to readable size. LOL! I typically have so much more that I would enjoy sharing than I suspect anyone has time to read. So you’re an encouragement, my friend. πŸ™‚

  13. colonialist April 11, 2018 / 12:13 pm

    A really rowdy bougainvillea and some stunning views to hic over!

    • Debra April 11, 2018 / 8:27 pm

      She sure was rowdy, Col! I’m glad you shared appreciation for her audacity! She sure isn’t modest. πŸ™‚

  14. clinock April 14, 2018 / 12:59 am

    Hot springs and vino, heaven, especially when combined…sipping a deeply chilled Chardonnay in the steaming pool under the stars, breathing pine scented night air, breathing lighter…

    • Debra April 17, 2018 / 4:10 pm

      It is really exceptional, John. I think if I lived up that way the temptations would be great. πŸ™‚

  15. hotlyspiced April 14, 2018 / 1:32 pm

    I love the gondola! I’m glad you’re relaxing and enjoying the time outdoors. Your bougainvillaea is stunning. Spring is a wonderful time of year. Lovely to be back in touch xx

    • Debra April 17, 2018 / 4:08 pm

      It’s really nice to hear from you Charlie. You’ve been missed!! I’m glad to share with you, and hope you’ll be back with us more often. πŸ™‚ You and your family are very special and I love hearing what’s happening in your corner of the world. πŸ™‚

  16. lifeonthecutoff April 16, 2018 / 3:49 pm

    Oh, dear Debra, this was absolutely delightful. From your awakening garden to the vineyards, it was a sweet reprieve for me at an especially busy time in a particularly stubborn spring.
    We cannot grow bougainvillea here, expect for perhaps a greenhouse or, if lucky, as a houseplant. I haven’t had any luck, so, appreciate yours in nature.
    One of the first of your blogs that I read was one of your visits to a winery. It is nice to see one again.

    • lifeonthecutoff April 16, 2018 / 3:51 pm

      Me, again. I just saw you posted about Dee Ready. I’m going to save reading your post and commenting until I finish it. I’m about halfway through and can say it is a delight to read. I’ll be back soon.

      • Debra April 17, 2018 / 4:01 pm

        Dee has a fascinating story–a BIG life–doesn’t she? Enjoy!

    • Debra April 17, 2018 / 4:04 pm

      The Napa area just calls to me, Penny. It’s very different from where we live in Southern California and through the years we have only visited a few times. Now that we have reason to visit our family up that way on a more regular basis I’m sure we’ll be visiting more often. It’s not really as much about the wine for me as it is about the beautiful vineyards. I just connect to all things growing and thriving…you get that. LOL!

  17. Donald Wilden April 16, 2018 / 4:14 pm

    How Lovely Love the Pictures and looks delightful! Love Debi Wilden

    • Debra April 17, 2018 / 4:01 pm

      Thank you, Deb! So nice to share them with you. ox

  18. Born To Organize May 17, 2018 / 6:55 am

    I have ridden that gondola twice, and agree that it is quite the experience. We took this tour when we were first dating, then later took a friend visiting from Australia. Thanks for the resurfaced memories, Debra.

    • Debra May 20, 2018 / 8:05 pm

      Aww! I’m so glad I could rekindle happy memories! It’s such a gorgeous part of the state, isn’t it? We live so far south, but I look for opportunities! πŸ™‚

      • Born To Organize May 23, 2018 / 9:01 am

        My son is attending college this fall in Orange. If you are anywhere near there, I would love to visit.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.