Category: napa valley

Book #4 of The Elemental Clan Series is now available for pre-order!

This is Tempest’s story, the Wind Elemental, and the book takes place in Napa and San Francisco.

Read more here.

Wow. I am so content right now, I don’t know if I can convey it with words alone. Since I do deem myself a writer, I shall try :)

Today was our full day in Napa, for tomorrow we have to fly to Anaheim for our writer’s conference to begin, so today was the big day when we wanted to see lots of wineries, take tours, and remember this little slice of heaven that is etched into the Earth over here on the West Coast.

We began the day with complementary breakfast from the hotel – again, this place is great. It’s called the Wine Valley Lodge. Nothing super or spectacular about the rooms–it’s very basic though they do have a fridge, microwave, and TV–but the included breakfast, the many rose blooms on the property, and the service make the place very worthwhile. I also like that we are at the South end of Napa, and not in the middle of Napa itself. Gives it a quiet feel.

After breakfast (and of course we woke up super early because we are used to East Coast time), and getting some basic prep done, we began our journey. For those of you who haven’t been to Napa, wineries typically are open 10 am – 5pm, so after our 8am breakfast, we had time to kill. We took a ride through historic Napa and then arrived at Mumm Winery at 10am precisely.

Now hear this: Anyone going to Napa should be at Mumm Winery at 10am on any given day. They offer 10am only, free tours through the property and it includes a history of the wine, the vineyard, the winemaking process, and it is a wealth of knowledge and fun information for anyone. Very, very worthwhile.

Right now, the grapes in Napa are about 3 weeks away from the harvest season, so we were able to see several vines of grapes that were changing color from green to red. Very, very cool.

After our tour of Mumm, we went to their patio (which overlooks the gorgeous vineyard and mountains) for a tasting. Mumm makes sparkling wines (think stuff like Asti Spumante or Brut) and I got the July special – the red, white, and blue. I was completely amazed at the sweetness of the red sparkling wine. It was the Cuvee Red and was absolutely wonderful. In fact, I may order some. Who knew red wine could be sweet, and also be sparkling?

The server also gave me a freebie of Santana sparkling wine, which is, yes, for those of you old rockers like me, IS indeed blended and managed by Carlos Santana, the musician. He apparently became fond of wines and now blends his own. The Santana sparkling wine is some of the best I ever tasted. The man knew how to play guitar, and the man knows how to blend wine.

After a wonderful morning at Mumm, we headed down the road to Silver Oak Winery. It was nice, and I mainly went there because someone from the winery messaged me on Twitter and invited me by for a tasting. The place had an old lighthouse-looking structure out in front, with statues of men reading books, and inside was an interesting set of wines. They had several Cabernets, which honestly I don’t typically like – but they age their Cabernets longer than the standard and that made the taste incredibly smooth.

This is where the lesson in writing comes in: don’t rush things. Items of high quality take time.

I did like that the woman at Silver Oak did take us on a free tour, and there was an entire table and chair set made from old wine barrels. There seems to be a great recycling philosophy here in Napa. Leftover items are churned back into something, be it the Earth, contribution to another product, or something new entirely. Seeing the stained red wood on the homemade chairs out of old barrels was satisfying in more ways than one. My husband is a carpenter, and I took photos to share with him this little tidbit of how things can always change shape and form to create something new :)

After Silver Oak, we went to V Sattui Winery. My parents used to order wines from them, so I was familiar with their selection, but the place is great for lunch, picnicking, and wine tasting.

A warning: do not go on the weekend. I found Monday (today) to be too busy for my taste, but the guy pouring wine said it was a slow day. But they did have amazing sandwiches, salads, etc. and we sat outside in the garden having lunch before tasting some amazing wines.

V Sattui is also family friendly, for anyone traveling with kids.

After that, we went to an old Castle that has been turned into a winery. Very interesting place, with stone structures and dragons carved everywhere. Below is a pic of one of the ornate rooms:

Pic of dragon decor:

My wonderful buddy and writing friend CJ is the one who drove, as she didn’t drink, and I drank happily and didn’t have to worry about driving. I thought often of Casablanca during our Napa day trip today: “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” She is the best writing buddy and vacation colleague I could ask for :)

Toward the end, we went to Andretti Winery. Yes, you read that correctly. Not only does Carlos Santana, ex-musician, make wines, but Mario Andretti, retired race car driver, is into wines as well. He and another Italian friend of his purchased a winery and redid the architecture to resemble a Tuscan villa. I must admit, it was beautiful and I was really impressed. I figured there would be a Ferrari in the back. Instead, there are tables with mosaic tiles where people can sit and sip wine with ornate fountains nearby. Wonderful and relaxing place.

All in all, Napa is fantastic. I couldn’t imagine spending more than 3 days here, as there isn’t much to do other than see wineries and I’ve had my fill after a few days, but the land is gorgeous, the wine is wonderful, and life is extremely, extremely good.

I will leave you all with this note: slow down and enjoy life a little.

Being the inquisitive writer I am, I asked many of the wine tasting reps about their jobs, what it’s like to work in the industry, etc. Many of them gave good answers. But my favorite came from a young woman at the Andretti winery. She said that when she began learning about wine–all its palette pleasing sensations–it forced her to slow down and really relax, enjoy the taste, enjoy the TIME spent relaxing.

I love that.

So go, enjoy yourself no matter what fills your glass. Smell the roses. Here in Napa, they are beautiful beyond belief.


Hello all!

As I sit here, in the 65 degree wonderfully chilled hotel room in northern California’s Napa Valley, I am quite content. Figured I would write a blog about it, even!

For those who don’t know, vacation started officially today. The flight to San Fran was about 4 hours and 15 minutes. Surprisingly, I did well. Normally I go a bit wiggy after about 3 hours, but for some reason, this time I was fine. Delta has certainly expanded their service since I last flew them across-country. They have extra goody snacks for sale, along with recent movies and headsets that are a fraction of a movie theater ticket.

No, I didn’t watch one, though I was tempted to watch “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” once again. Instead, I read on my Kindle and worked on my writing notes. A good flight, overall.

That was the plane part.

Then we take the “air train.” This is a welcome experience because it is only about 60 degrees in San Fran, and it’s the first spot where there is cool air. It winds us around the airport to the car rental place, and looks like a giant snake curling its way between stops around SFO. 

That was the train part.

The automobile part? A bit more complicated. May I just ask this 1 question of the car rental world – WHY do you rent out cars that are blocked by other cars and can’t be driven? Even if you tell a customer “your car is in space 950”, that doesn’t mean that when you get there, it will be AVAILABLE in space 950.

I swear– I wanted to channel Steve Martin in “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” Click here for the video. And warning – bad language for those of you with sensitive ears :)

After much confusion and playing elevator hop for about 30 minutes, we finally got to a replacement car. I suppose our original car is still blocked by 20 others. Who knows? Since our flight had landed 30 minutes early, this helped because by the time we left the San Fran airport, it was probably an hour and a half after we landed. Luggage plus car rental plus delays = ugh.

Then YAY! We go out on 101, head up on 80 North, and make our way to Sonoma Valley Highway – Hwy 29. Then we kind of got lost, but found our way back.

Napa itself, as we entered, was quite a cute little place. Gothic cathedrals, historic town squares, little shopping plazas. Even the Wal-mart building was charming.

We check into our Napa Valley hotel (note: this is 3 hours after we landed) and then go out for some tastings around Napa. And we promptly get lost as we try to find our way to a winery. Even though grapes and vineyards surround us on both sides, we can’t seem to find the right road we are looking for! 

Eventually we find our way back, and head toward some recommended wineries. THIS is the good part!  Before we reach the first one, I look to the left and see a beautiful Southwestern-looking building with tile roofing and Mayan Sun ironwork in the front (who wouldn’t like Mayan Sun stuff?) and I say with a happy glee, “Oooh, that one!”

Carol swerves left and we go to our first winery. It’s called Luna winery, which I find cool because Luna is also the name of one of my granddogs, so there’s a hidden meaning there. It is the first winery we walk into, it’s the first experience of Napa, and it is the highlight of my day. Most wine tastings charge a modest fee for tasting a variety of wines, and because it was my first winery, they gave me 7 tastes for the price of 5. Not only that, but they answered my questions about what it’s like to work in the business (ahhh, book research. It’s a wonderful thing!) and I found the place beautiful.

View from the balcony (with a taste of Merlot)

Around taste #4 of a Merlot, she recommends we take our wine upstairs to their tower balcony, which overlooks the vineyard. We do. It is beautiful. This is when my breath is taken away and I realize how glad I am to be here.

Yes, all the travel and hustle and bustle was worth it. To drink from the fruit on the vine, while overlooking the vines shadowed by gorgeous mountains – – yes, this is great.

We do try a few more but they close at 5p so we pick up snacks and head back to the hotel. Tomorrow, Monday, is a full day of seeing things, and we plan to do a special lunch at one of the local fave wineries.

Hope you and yours are doing well, and if you have any wine in your fridge, raise a glass and enjoy!