Photo by Randy Bonnell
The Wappo Indians who once inhabited the Napa Valley clearly understood the rich fertile ground they lived on; Napa literally means “Land of Plenty”.
With the exception of my non air-conditioned rental car, I would have to say that the drive from Sacramento to the Napa Valley was spectacular. I traveled from East to West on the curvy back road of Highway 128. The geographical diversity went from the hot dry grassy flat lands of the Sacramento Valley to warm, golden, hilly, studded oak country, to a more temperate climate where redwoods thrive and finally drop down into lush vineyard country where distant ocean breezes meet the warm interior.
Duckhorn Vineyards invited me to speak at a multi-course dinner that featured White House meals paired with Duckhorn wines. Guests at this suave affair were treated to a "3 level" dining experience that included the inside of the winery, the veranda, and a short walk to the gardens. The event was a beautiful success.
While I was in the area I also had a chance to dine at Bouchon for a light dinner of small plates. Bouchon was surprisingly half empty for a Friday night. Regardless, I was delighted to be able to sit in the outdoor courtyard under the wafting aroma of fresh baked goods from the Bouchon Bakery. The staff was very friendly and the service was excellent. I tried several dishes including a chilled corn soup, the Salad de Poulpe – a grilled octopus and fresh bean salad, Dungeness crab with seasonal melons, and a rabbit dish . Overall, I would say that the dishes were technically executed very well. However, they didn’t truly “sing” as I thought they should have.
One Napa Valley restaurant that did sing was a hopping little burger joint called Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. This place was packed to the the rafters with all kinds of people. I waited 45 minutes to grab a Niman Ranch beef burger and garlic fries. Wow! The flavor was exceptional; it was well worth the wait.