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Napa, CA

July 21, 2011

My first visit to Napa was a brief one. My parents have lived 1.5 – 2 hours south of there for the last 30 years, so how I’ve never been before is a mystery to me! At long last, I drove up last week with my youngest brother and my mom to look at a couple of venues for my brother’s wedding next April. It was an efficient, speedy one-day trip, but still a very enjoyable one. I definitely look forward to spending more time in the area for their wedding, and hopefully weekend trips in the future.

I don’t know much about wine, but nonetheless I enjoyed the casual yet classy wine barrel decor several places we went. I also loved driving north on Highway 29 through Calistoga, surrounded by vineyards and rolling California hills. Overall, the people and towns struck a balance between down-to-earth/easygoing and sophisticated/beautiful. It seemed like everyone from free spirited hippies to elegant, cosmopolitan wine snobs would fit right in.

The foodie in me was jumping at the chance to see if Napa would live up to the amazing wine country fare in my imagination. I’d heard tales of delicious horta (rainbow chard with dill and garlic) at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, for example. But, our main focus for the day was the venue visits, so we kept lunch easy and efficient at Downtown Joe’s Brewery & Restaurant.

There were salads, and vegetarian options for all the burgers on the menu. But I almost fell off my chair when my mom discovered a gem hiding among the meaty brewhouse favorites: grilled rosemary polenta with vegetables and organic marinara sauce.

It was outstanding, and without a doubt the best polenta I’ve ever had. Even the marinara was something special. Who’d have thought we’d find such a thing at a brewhouse?!

Wish I’d been able to take more picture of the scenery and vineyards for you, but like I said, it was a quick trip without much sightseeing. Stay tuned for more when my husband and I return for my brother’s wedding next April, though!

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