With only a few months under my belt now, I’m still warming up to this blogging thing. Sharing details of my life on the internet is a tiny bit nerve-wracking. But, one of my goals when starting Hello Friday was to just be myself. (Easy enough, right?) That being said, to know and really understand me, you must first meet a group of ladies that I’m lucky to call some of my best friends.
Can I get a little sappy for a hot second? While writing, and then rewriting this post, I couldn’t help but go over in my mind, just how much these ladies mean to me. We all met in college and since then have shared some of the best years. We don’t all live in the same city and unfortunately, that probably won’t ever change, but our bond stays strong. We always pick up where we left off and during all that time in between, there’s no pressure—we don’t have to force it, it’s just there. In life, we meet people who we deeply connect with. We make friends who love and support us without question—without expectation. They celebrate our successes and encourage us to keep on keepin’ on when we face set-backs. These bonds help shape who we are as individuals and help us realize our potential. I’m a better person simply for knowing these ladies, who are really more like family than just friends.
We had been thinking about an exciting way to commemorate our 30th birthdays. Since we were highly anticipating the milestone year, we knew we needed to do something big to ring in a new decade of life, friendship and fun. Jenny had a co-worker who planned a similar trip for the same reason, and after hearing about it, suggested it to the group. We began planning.
Admittedly, it can be hard making travel plans for a group. I think we all had moments where we weren’t sure this trip would actually happen. Combined, we live in 3 different cities and have jobs and lives that keep us busy. But we became determined to make this happen. So, in the months leading up to June, we secured a rental home through Airbnb, booked flights and a car, and coordinated a day of guided, winery tours.
Dani, Jenny, Jessie and I flew into San Francisco. Tara, who lives in Los Angeles, planned to drive and meet us at the house. We picked up our rental car and then, because we always have our priorities in order, we went straight to In-N-Out. First things first.
Truth be told, I haven’t met many burgers or fries that I didn’t like. Regardless, I can definitely get behind the In-N-Out hype. I went with a cheeseburger (animal style: add pickle, extra spread and grilled onions) and fries (not animal style, although that’s an option too). I liked the burger more than the fries, but after the long flight they both hit the spot.
As we drove from San Francisco to Vacaville, where our house was located, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. (Cue the Full House theme song. No really, we played it…twice.) It’s a pretty impressive sight. And although it was windy and foggy (which we later came to discover is on par for SF), we couldn’t resist pulling over for a closer look. Now, please prepare yourself. This has become our signature pose—you will see it more than once during this post.
At the wise suggestion of our Airbnb host, we made one last stop at the grocery store—to stock up on a few essentials for the weekend. I debated long and hard if I should share this picture of our shopping cart at checkout. To truly understand the seriousness and sophistication of this grown, girl’s getaway, I decided it would only be right. I swear there was a salad and fruit somewhere in there…just use your imagination. (Also, I understand that the Barefoot wine may seem alarming considering this was a trip to Napa. Let me clarify—we just didn’t want to shock our very refined palates, so we decided to ease into the wine thing.)
From there, the drive to our house—very appropriately named “Girl on the Hill” can only be described as an adventure. Think winding, narrow, mountainous roads—minus guard rails or cell service. I give Jenny all the credit in the world for navigating that little SUV around those bends and turns. She truly did an exceptional job. And, as we finally cleared the top of the mountain and the house came into view, it made the trek well worth it. Girl on the Hill is located at the highest elevation in Solano County, just under 3000 feet. Situated on 46 acres, it overlooks picturesque mountains and is surrounded by lavender fields, a boutique vineyard, and a salt water pool.Our first night, we opted for a low-key evening in—making dinner, sharing a birthday cake and a few drinks, which then led to a selfie stick photoshoot (those photos will not make this post, trust me, it’s for the best), a lot of laughing and catching up.
Saturday morning we began the day bright and early. The very knowledgable, very friendly Gordon Larum (aka. Gordy) owner of Eye On Wine, mapped out a day of wine tasting at 4 unique and off-the-beaten path wineries. If you ever find yourself in the Sonoma/Napa area and want an experience that’s a little different from touring the big, mainstream wineries, this is the way to go. We let Gordy know that our wine knowledge was beginner, at best, and he took it from there. He really helped educate us on the landscape and prepped us for the wine we would be tasting. He gave great background on the vineyards and he taught us how to observe the “legs” of the wine by “painting the glass.” (I’m not sure if this is a technical wine-tasting technique, but it’s my new party trick.)
Full disclosure: before I get into the wine tasting portion of the day, I must reiterate that I really don’t know anything about wine. And even after my Napa experience, I can’t give you super-detailed accounts of the wines we tasted. I will say this, there were probably only a few we tried that day that I didn’t really care for. And that’s most likely because I prefer whites over reds. But beyond that, just take my opinions with a grain of salt.
Our first stop was an estate vineyard, Aonair, where we met with the owner’s father, Grant Long, Sr. Aonair means “sole proprietor” in Gaelic, because as both winemaker and customer service of the brand, Grant Long does it all. This vineyard truly set the bar high and looking back, it was probably my favorite stop of the day. It was clear that the Long family’s love of wine runs deep. Grant was warm and personable and he shared great stories with us. I really enjoyed everything we tasted, especially the 2010 Aonair Proprietary White.
Next, we headed to the Jessup Cellars tasting room in Napa Valley. It had a very different feel from Aonair. For all intents and purposes, it just felt like a nice restaurant. Ironically, my favorite sampling here was a Cabernet Chocolate Port Sauce which was amazing. When Gordy mentioned he pours it over ice cream, I was sold. This was my first purchase of the day and technically it was chocolate sauce. Go figure. Jessup offered a nice pairing of cheese, crackers, nuts and chocolate. And if you’ve learned anything about this group yet—it’s that we love a good snack.
Afterwards, we picked up lunch from Yountville Deli on our way to the Frisinger Family Vineyard. This was by far the most beautiful place we visited. Karl Frisinger and his family live in the estate on the vineyard—his parents started the company when they harvested their first vintage in 1985 (so appropriately, they were also celebrating their 30th). Karl and his wife have since revived the winery. Their 2012 Malbec was definitely my favorite.
Karl very kindly played some Beyonce for us and we sat outside eating lunch, tasting wine and enjoying the beautiful weather. (Side note, about food…obviously: with our delicious gourmet sandwiches, we picked up a few bags of chips. Kettle brand makes 2 flavors that you should definitely hunt down and buy: Honey Dijon and Maple Bacon. Best chips I’ve ever had. In fact, I’ve been searching Chicago for them, since I got home. It’s probably for the best that I haven’t found them…yet.)
At this point, we were feeling…good. Or, just drunk. We headed to our last stop of the day, Twenty Rows. This tasting room is part art gallery, part hipster lounge and part winery. I vaguely remember reggae music playing in the background as Tim Nuss, son of proprietors Brian and Lori Nuss, gave us an overview of the Twenty Rows wines. He was pretty generous with his pours, which at this point was completely under-appreciated. The last wine we sampled there, the 2012 Grappler—a mix of mostly Zinfandel and a little Cabernet, was by far the best deal/biggest steal of the day. So, we all brought home a few bottles of the smooth red.Gordy drove us home after Twenty Rows, which was probably best for all parties involved. At this point, he knew all our secrets and had endured multiple, loud renditions of our sorority’s drinking song. (Yes, my sorority has a “drinking” song.) He was such a good sport though—always happy to take a picture or video for us, patient and friendly, and he organized a wonderful day for us. And because there’s always room left for a selfie stick photoshoot, that’s exactly how we ended the day. Well that, and the frozen pizza. I warned you…it’s what we do!
Stop by next week for Part 2 of our trip.
Happy 4th of July, y’all. See you next Friday! xx, Devon