Prior to arriving in Napa, we planned to bring wine home, but also to purchase a couple bottles to have during the evenings after we had dinner and returned to the hotel. As it turned out, our hotel was uniquely prepared for this purpose. They had a daily wine reception from 5 to 6 p.m., wine glasses that you could borrow and return, and three self-service fire pit areas in the back for relaxing. To our amazement, hardly anyone was using the fire pits, so it was like having our own private patio to enjoy.
We had a lot of fantastic meals in Napa at Zuzu, Carpe Diem Wine Bar, and Napkins Bar & Grill, but the last night we decided to walk to the grocery store and pick up some items for our own “happy hour” at the hotel. It was the perfect way to round out our trip: relaxing at the fire pit as the temperature cooled into the lower 60s, while staying warm with a wonderful Robledo “El Rey” Cabernet. It made the transition away from “vacation” mode even harder when we stepped off the plane in Texas the next day and were greeted with temperatures in the upper 90’s. I think that just means that we will need to make a return trip sometime in the near future, because of the weather, but mostly so we can bring home more fantastic wine.
California wine country can be an overwhelming experience for a novice. Between the growing regions, varietals, and the sheer number of wineries, there are thousands of options for a person who just wants to drink some wine. When we decided to honeymoon in Napa and San Francisco, we were still new to wine appreciation. Rather than take our chances on our own, we ended up booking two Platypus Wine Tours and had a great experience in both Napa and Sonoma. For our return trip years later, we decided to go the “choose your own adventure” route, and picked a few wineries to return to and new ones whose wine we had discovered since. Since we weren’t with a tour group, we had the freedom to call an audible and visit unplanned locations that we spotted driving by. And that’s how we ended up at Sebastiani.
Sebastiani Cabernet used to be our go-to ‘expensive’ ($12) bottle of wine. Three jobs ago, I had to spend two and a half weeks in South Texas for work. One of those weekends, Mike flew down to visit and after a fantastic dinner at House Wine and Bistro (one of my favorite places to eat when I needed a break from eating fabulous Mexican food at every meal), we decided we needed to continue drinking wine and stopped by the local grocery store to pick up a couple bottles. That’s when we noticed that our dusty bottle of Cabernet was actually a 2007. We were new to wine, but knew enough to know that 2007 was an excellent year for California wines, and there were none left on the shelves at home. Naturally, we bought the five they had, but without a plan on how we were getting them home. We solved part of the problem by drinking one bottle immediately, but Mike couldn’t take them on the plane back with him without proper packaging. Thus, they had to stay with me for the rest of my trip so I could drive them back. This normally would not be a problem, except I was changing hotels twice, and heat spoils wine. Specifically, South Texas heat in September.
I did what I had to do: those four bottles of wine went everywhere I did. They were pretty easy to hide in all my materials, except for the last place where I stopped, a small Catholic high school. When Brother Herrick asked me why I was bringing so many materials in for so few students, I explained the perilous situation my 2007 Cabernet was in by leaving it in the car. He approved.
After hauling that wine across South Texas, when we drove past Sebastiani I knew we had to stop for a tasting. The winery is gorgeous, and we were visiting midweek, so the crowds were non-existent. I jokingly recounted the story above to the lady who was pouring our wine, and before I realized she was gone, she reappeared with another bottle of wine. While it wasn’t a 2007, she opened up a 2005 for us to try that had aged perfectly and was as good if not better. It was a reasonable price, so it was a easy decision to purchase one and have it be one of twelve wines we brought home. And unlike the trip to South Texas, we had the proper shipping container to get our wines home as a (free) checked bag (thanks, Southwest)! Because I would definitely cry over spoiled wine.