Just a bit north of San Francisco, California’s Napa Valley is a Golden State must-see, and wine tasting is an absolute must-do in this beautiful area. The number of vineyards, vintners, and tasting rooms is vast. Where to sip? What’s the best? Red, white, or rosé?
Hello from San Francisco #SanFrancisco #travel pic.twitter.com/1E2B9WuKwA
— Ann Tran (@AnnTran_) December 4, 2021
Take it from me: You must visit these three vineyards the next time you’re in Napa Valley: Castell Di Amorosa, Cakebread Cellars, and Chatueau Montelena.
Tasting in a Castle — Castello Di Amorosa
Castello Di Amorosa (Castle of Love) is a must-visit. Not only is the vineyard extraordinary, but their wines are also incredible. I am pretty sure you will find a few amazing choices here. The Castle is in the town of Calistoga.
Why is Castello Di Amorosa my favorite vineyard? Let me count the ways. One, not to be too obvious, it’s a castle. Made from an estimated 1 million antique bricks from Europe along with something like 200 containers of furnishings and embellishments for the interior. Locally, 8,000-plus tons of stones were used in the castle’s construction, which took 15 years. The vaulted wine cellars are stunning, as one would expect.
Staying true to the medieval architecture, Castello Di Amorosa has high ramparts, a moat, drawbridge, and five towers. There are courtyards, loggias, stables for horses, and a chapel. And there’s a torture chamber. The number of rooms, no two alike, adds up to 107.
Don’t believe me? See for yourself on this virtual tour.
Don’t Let the Name Fool You — Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars is my go-to winery, and I visited here years ago. Consistently excellent, this family-owned and operated winery never disappoints. BTW, the family name is Cakebread. Their first Sauvignon Blanc grapes were planted in the early 1970s. Cakebread Cellars is in the town of Rutherford.
Bottle Shock — Chateau Montelena
You’ve heard of Chateau Montelena but maybe don’t know it. Chateau Montelena is the winery that won the Judgement of Paris, a blind tasting, in 1976. This was immortalized in the movie “Bottle Shock.” They have a beautiful vineyard, but I was not keen on the wine tasting. Worth the visit for photo ops. “Bottle Shock” is worth a watch, too. Chateau Montelena is located in Calistoga.
Back to San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge
Visiting San Francisco is a natural complement to Napa Valley given their proximity. I’ve visited this gem of a city a few times but never took the time to take photos from these vantage points: Battery Spencer and the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. Does that happen to you, too? Visit a world-class destination and still have a number of must-see’s/must-do’s still on your list.
Battery Spencer is across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County and offers city skyline and panoramic views. Wear good walking shoes as parking is very tight and more than likely you’ll have to hoof it for the best view. So worth it, though.
Back in San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. The Center tells the history of the Golden Gate Bridge and shares its architectural magnificence. There are many lookout points and vista spots. I suggest getting here at the beginning of the day and being prepared to walk.
Even on an overcast December day, the views are spectacular as you can see here.
The Crookedest Street in the World
The first time I visited Lombard Street, we drove down this curvy road’s eight hairpin turns. This time, we parked on top of the hill and walked through the neighborhood. Can you imagine living here? It would be super cool, but you would have tourists constantly crossing your flower beds. #sanfranciscocalifornia
The first time I visited #LombardStreet, we drove down this curvy road. This time, we parked on top of the hill & walked through the neighborhood. Can you imagine living here? It would be super cool but you would have tourists constantly crossing your flower beds. #SanFrancisco pic.twitter.com/aG17lKLGui
— Ann Tran (@AnnTran_) December 30, 2021
We visited San Francisco for two days and then headed to wine country. You can’t visit wine country without stopping by San Francisco, and it really doesn’t matter which one you do first.
From the Golden State we visited our 50th state for more wine and sunshine in Maui. Here’s a virtual postcard. Aloha!