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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

The perfect combination!

Do you remember going to rock concerts? You know, rock concerts when you were a teenager or in your early 20’s? You probably heard it on the radio that your favourite group or artist was coming to town, and you knew you need to either be on the phone, or lined up with a wrist band (or these days, the computer) to get your tickets, because you did not want to be disappointed and miss the show. Once you finally got your tickets there was that anticipation that happens once you’ve secured the tickets and you’re waiting for the concert date to occur. The date of the concert arrives and you’re so excited that you’re finally going to see the band or artist of your dreams….well last night was kind of like that because we haven’t been able to see a live concert in forever because of Covid. We love live music but its not been available to us, so being able to see a live concert was a real treat for us both!

Walking to downtown Napa, from our RV Park. We really lucked out with this RV Park in Napa. We are literally a 13 minute walk to downtown through the back of the RV park. The RV park is called the Napa Valley RV Park & Expo. Imagine a very small scale Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, with an RV park tacked alongside it. That’s where we are staying.

We walked into downtown Napa after we had set up Newman. We thought an early dinner/late lunch would work for us, before we headed to our concert downtown Napa.

We walked around downtown Napa and found this nice Tapas restaurant that had a great patio with gas heaters! The tables were well spaced apart too, so we decided we would get a table and order some food and wine.

Studying the menu, because Richard relinquished his responsibilities with the food last night!

We decided to order a Sonoma Pinot Noir, since we were in wine country.

We got a carafe of this wine from Sonoma. A bottle at the liquor store would sell for $35. What a smooth, delightful wine! Just what we wanted after our long drive from hillbilly country!

Olives, almonds and bread to start. Perfect with our Pinot Noir.

Hard goat cheese with quince jam and peppers.

I forgot to take pictures of the main course, but we had a delightful flat iron steak, with a jalapeño chimichurri and roasted Brussel sprouts with caramelized onion, bacon and pine


We had to have dessert of course, since we shared our meal and tapas is not really a large meal. Richard had the homemade apple empanadas. The owner’s mother makes them for the restaurant!

I had the triple dark chocolate mousse with no sugar whipped cream. What a delightful, no sweet dessert!

The perfect combination of food, wine and a delightful location to have our meal before our concert!

ZuZu tapas restaurant downtown Napa. The heater was amazing for keeping us warm outdoors last evening.

After dinner we walked 2 blocks to the Blue Note, Napa for our concert. The doors opened at 5pm for a 6:30pm show. The seats were not reserved, just the section we were in, was reserved for us, and lucky for us, the entire section only had 2 other ladies sitting in it. The ladies we found out were from Sacramento and they were huge music fans. We started talking to them about all of the concerts they had seen over their lifetime and what was their favourite concert was. Richard said his favourite concert was Roxy Music the Avalon Album Tour, in the Ottawa Civic Centre. I said my favourite concert was Sting at the Molson Amphitheatre with the London Philharmonic about 11 years ago. Some of the concerts these girls had seen were amazing. Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan! That’s what living in ‘The Bay’ area as they call Sacramento/San Francisco Is like for music. These girls would think nothing of driving down to L.A. for a concert. It must have been nice growing up to have so much musical talent putting on concerts so close to home! One of the ladies had seen Tower of Power 10 times - one of my all time favourite bands that I only got the chance to see once in Toronto at the Phoenix when I was already in my 30’s!

The concert by Blood, Sweat and Tears was amazing! When you know all of the songs and the band is so ‘tight’, its a beautiful thing!

Blood Sweat and Tears has had many different members over the years, but they still play the songs, just like when David Clayton Thomas was the lead singer, when I was growing up. The current lead singer of Blood, Sweat and Tears was on ‘The Voice’ TV show in 2018, on Team Blake’s team. The lead singer’s name is Keith Paluso, and he is originally from Tennessee. He did a great job fronting the band. The horn section was amazing and I really enjoyed watching the trombone player. I really should dig out my trombone and start playing again!

After the concert we enjoyed our short 13 minute walk back to the RV park.

Isn’t downtown Napa looking beautiful, all decked out for Christmas!!?

This morning Richard woke up bright and early, because he had to walk 15 minutes to Enterprise Rent-a-Car, to pick up our rental car. While Richard was out getting our car, I decided to have a big workout in Newman. I put some ‘Tower of Power’ on the boom box and did my hour work out!

Elaine the Elantra! Richard picked up an Elantra because we both like the ease of using ‘Apple Car Play’ for the navigation system to my phone. At $44 for the day, Elaine was a great, affordable, comfortable ride!

Since we were getting a bit overwhelmed with how to see Napa in one day, we decided to visit the Napa Valley Welcome Centre in downtown Napa. We drove over to the welcome centre and parked out front.

When in doubt…visit the Welcome Centre.

While Richard was getting his mask from the car, I walked in and found a Napa valley guide to help me. I said ”We have 1 day to do Napa and we’re not interested in paying $30 each to do wine tastings up and down the Valley! I am interested in photographic opportunities too.”

Our guide gave us a ‘Visit Napa Valley‘ Map and marked the wineries that had interesting things to photograph, as well as delightful places to stop for food and wine. The perfection combination of a great day! Food, Wine and Photography!

There are over 375 wineries open for tastings in the Napa Valley and 90 urban tasting rooms spread out throughout the Valley. 95% of the wineries are family owned and operated. Napa Valley has the perfect combination of climate, soil and terrain ideally equipped for growing wine grapes. Napa Valley’s climate is very rare - the summers are warm and the winters are mild and it only rains for a few months a year. This gives the vines a long growing season. The warm days allow the grape to ripen and develop deep flavour and sugar. The cool morning fogs allow the vines to rest and preserve acid in the fruit. The soils in Napa Valley are extremely diverse with 100+ types of soil - about half of the soil types that exist on earth. Half of the world’s 12 recognized soil orders and 33 different soil series are found in the region. Napa Valley is also unique because it contains volcanic soils- offering these wines a flavour that is entirely unique to this region. Relatively speaking Napa Valley is a small winemaking region - it is just 30 miles long and 5 miles wide. In contrast, Bordeaux in France is 8 times larger than Napa Valley. Despite the small size of Napa Valley, its topographical diversity more than makes up for it in the wines it produces. Napa Valley is home to mountain terrain, valley floors and bench lands- flat terrain surrounded by high slopes. The Napa Valley landscapes allow vineyards to produce a variety of grapes, including: Cabenet Sauvigon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese and Zinfandel. With so much information on the Napa Valley, we couldn’t wait to get started on our day of touring Napa Valley in Elaine, the Elantra.

Our first stop was at the ’Oakville Grocery’ so Richard could get an Espresso, and so I could check out this amazing grocery store!

The temperature was only 49F today and it was not very warm without a coat!

I had so much fun looking around this little grocery store!

All the wine you would ever want, all in one store!

This little grocery store would be the perfect place to pick up a picnic lunch to take to a winery, or a charcuterie board to pair with some amazing Napa Valley wines. It was only 10:30am when we stopped at Oakville Grocery though, so we weren’t really thinking about lunch when we stopped.

Since a tasting was $30 a person at every winery in Napa, and there were no ‘double vaccinated status to go inside a tasting room, we decided we would enjoy the day looking at the scenery and getting a ‘lay of the land’ to understand what wineries were in Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga; all of the towns that make up the Napa Valley. I was going to have a ’field day’ photographing the unique, beautiful wineries today!

Peju in Rutherford has a 2017 Reserve Cab Sauv for $245 a bottle. Most of their wines were in the ‘expensive’ range. There were no cars in their parking lot today, but the winery was very ‘over the top’ extravagant with sculptures everywhere in their beautiful gardens!

Peju. Are we in Napa or Italy?

Beautiful fountains at Peju winter in Rutherford.


Over the top extravagant with sculptures everywhere at Paju winery in Rutherford.

We were advised that all tasting rooms now only accept people who have reservations for tastings. That meant that we also couldn’t go into the gift shop to buy wine, without having a tasting reservation. The practise of having a reservation is how the wineries have been able to manage their Covid protocols and not have too many people in the gift shop/tasting room at the same time. Because of the reservation policy at the various wineries in Napa, we decided to drive the Napa Valley instead of stopping at wineries.

What a unique Christmas tree made out of stacked up wine barrels in St. Helena, Napa Valley.

St. Helena is a really funky town. The little boutiques were gorgeous, but very pricy as you could imagine. We wanted to check out the Orin Swift tasting room because we are big fans of this winery’s Zinfandel blend called ‘8 Years in the desert’. Unfortunately the tasting rooms was closed and the winery does not accept visitors anymore.

The Prisoner wine which is also a red blend was made by Orin Swift’s winemaker Dave Phinney in 2000 with a production of only 385 cases. We were turned onto this wine by Tim the F&B Manager at Lone Palm (our golf club in Florida). At $49 a bottle retail, the Prisoner is not for the ’faint of heart’, but the wine never fails to disappoint.

In St. Helena, Christmas decorations were all about decorating wine casks! It’s hard to believe in 19 more sleeps we should be in Plant City, Florida!

We decided that Gillwoods Cafe looked like a good spot to get takeout lunch from. The place was very busy, so we went in and ordered and Richard waited for the food while I continued poking around in the stores in St. Helena.

This very cool home decor store had an upside down Christmas tree hanging from the ceiling. What a neat idea!

A half BLT sandwich for $6.95. There is no way I could have eaten a whole sandwich, because they really crammed the Applewood smoked bacon, lettuce and tomato on this sandwich!

Richard had an apple, chicken salad with some kind of a curried dressing. It took him a long time to plow through this huge salad!

After we stopped into the local ACE hardware store in St. Helena to pick up some carpet deodorizer and cleaner for our bedroom carpet and a squeegy for our front window in Newman, we headed back to Elaine the Elantra, to continue driving north up to Calistoga. The last time we had visited the Napa Valley, I was on business and had a very short amount of free time, so we only got as far as St. Helena, before we had to turnaround and head back to San Francisco.

We drove to the top of the Napa Valley to visit what our Napa Valley Guide had claimed was one of the ‘most beautiful’ wineries - Chateau Montelena.

Chateau Montelena is north of Calistoga at the top of the Napa Valley.

Swan at Chateau Montelena.

The grounds at Chateau Montelena. Chateau Montelena had a Chardonnay beat out Burgundy’s top whites in a blind tasting involving only French judges . . . 43 years ago at the now-infamous “Judgment of Paris.” And for wine lovers, it’s a given that the honor catapulted Jim Barrett’s castle-housed winery into a Napa icon. The grounds were stunning and it was worth the drive to the top of Napa to see Chateau Montelena.

We had driven up Hwy 29 on our way up the Napa Valley and decided instead of taking the same route as we had already driven, we would instead take the scenic Silverado Trail back down to Napa, which went right by our RV park.

We did stop in for a tasting at this winery as we had heard that their tastings were only $20 a person, only to find out that their tasting person had called in sick today, so we weren’t doing a tasting at Benessere today! The old truck was kind of nice though!

Duck horn Vineyards. The beautiful front porch on this winery would have been a nice place on a warmer day.

Duck horn Vineyards, St Helena, Napa Valley

Chimney Rock is a ‘Napa Green‘ winery certified by the California land Stewardship Institute. 100% solar powered and recycled water for vineyard irrigation is for over a decade.

This winery was ‘over the top’ in terms of its architecture. DARIOUSH! The winemaker emigrated from Iran and the winery is a tribute to his home.

Darioush winery.

Our Napa Valley Guide had said that after we did the drive up the Napa Valley we should come back downtown Napa and visit the Oxbow market as it was an interesting place for ‘foodies’.

The Oxbow Market, downtown Napa.

Gott’s Roadside is a chain of restaurants in the Napa and San Francisco area. The last time we were in Napa, we at at Gott’s outside of St. Helena. We ordered our burgers and then got some wine and went to wait for our burgers. What a great idea to have a burger chain licensed!

Oysters anyone? The oyster bar in Oxbow market was hopping!

A bigger shot of the Oxbow Public Market in Napa. After visiting Pike Place Market in Seattle last Monday, Oxbow was a bit of a let down. It was small and there wasn’t much to see. There were a lot of places to pick up fast food, but after the size of Pike Place, this market was rather small and ordinary.

After visiting Oxbow market I had Richard drive me to the Premium Outlet mall in Napa. After wandering around the mall for about 20 minutes, while Richard napped in Elaine, the Elantra, I realized that the mall was very overpriced and very tired.

Napping in Elaine, the Elantra.

Finally…time to head to Trader Joes and stock up on more great quality food…and wine too!

After visiting Napa today, we enjoyed wandering around the wine section of Trader Joes picking out the names of the wineries that we had driven by today.

We picked up this bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon for $19.99 at Trader Joes. The wine was excellent and rated 3.8/5 in Vivino.

We also picked up 3 bottles of ‘Secco’ at Trader Joes. Trader Joes only stocks this cranberry Prosecco at Christmas time and there have been years where they sell out and I could not get any of it. I know Miss Heather loves this Secco too!

What a good day we had today with Elaine the Elantra being able to tour the entire Napa Valley and get a feel for the area and the wineries. It was disappointing not to do some wine tastings, but we would rather invest in wine, than spend $60 at each tasting. The situation with Covid also made us nervous about doing wine tastings, so we stayed safe and didn’t bother with the wine tastings this time. We liked Napa, but found it a bit over priced and almost like it ‘read its own press’, or got too ‘big for its britches’. The wine is definitely great from Napa Valley though and now that we’ve been here, we have a much greater appreciation for the area. We had a perfect combination of exploring, and entertainment while we were here. Now its time to move on out though, as we have more southern destinations to get to And Christmas is coming in 19 more sleeps!

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