Napa is Open and Needs You!

A toast to great friends at Frog's Leap Winery!
A toast to great friends at Frog's Leap Winery!
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If you have watched the news over the last few weeks, you probably saw some footage of the horrific wildfires that swept through Santa Rosa, California and the nearby Sonoma and Napa Valleys. If you have a trip planned in the next few months, you might be tempted to cancel your trip and stay at home, but as someone who just recently returned from a trip thru northern California’s wine country, we are definitively telling you to keep your plans and take that trip to Napa (in fact, check out various social media platforms for the hashtag #napaisopen) Want to help Wine Country recover? Go visit!

Frog's Leap Winery rolled out the red carpet to welcome us to a wonderful tasting experience.
Frog’s Leap Winery rolled out the red carpet to welcome us to a wonderful tasting experience.

This post contains sponsored content brought to you by Frog’s Leap Winery and Benessere Vineyards  We were provided a complimentary tasting experiences in exchange for coverage on social media and this blog, but all opinions and views presented here are 100% our own. For further information, or if you are interested in working with us please see our Disclaimer page.

While lots of people plan their trips to places like Disneyland, we plan our trips by where we can have an amazing meal or drink! With delicious goals like this in mind, our version of Disneyland tends to be culinary hot spots like Las Vegas, Chicago, or San Fransisco. One of our absolute favorite such spots might be Wine Country in California, where amazing vineyards and restaurants are scattered all over the lush valleys of Napa and Sonoma Counties!

Rows of grapes at Benessere Vineyards
Some of the vines at Benessere Vineyards in St. Helena, CA in the Napa Valley.

Traveling with Napa as a couple can be a great trip, with lots of opportunities for romantic getaways, be it sipping wine at beautifully scenic vineyards, enjoying meals in some of the best restaurants, or exploring some wonderfully cute towns and cities. However, traveling to Wine Country with a group of friends is an awesome experience as well, and one that should not be missed!

We have a group of really close friends we regularly get together with to enjoy lots of laughter, a dinner and maybe a few cocktails (these folks are regularly our test dummies for our cocktail development!) as well as working with us at the wine tent at a local wine tasting event here in Omaha. We are always talking about how much fun we would have taking a trip to enjoy some wine and before we knew it, we were planning a group vacation to Wine Country for 6 months later!

Some of the evidence of the wildfires that swept through Santa Rosa, CA.
Some of the evidence of the wildfires that swept through Santa Rosa, CA.

As we were getting the final steps ready for our trip, we heard the news that there had been a number of huge wildfires overnight that swept through the hills above the Napa Valley and down into Sonoma and Santa Rosa. We watched with rapt attention as the firefighters battled to contain the fires and were all on the phones with each other and our contacts about what we should do.  As the week progressed and the firefighters had more success containing the fires, we heard from our contacts out in California that we should be good to come visit. With some consultation between all of our friends, we decided that our visit was still a go and we headed out to Wine Country (and are we ever glad we did!).

We got to northern California about a week after the fires had broken out and headed up towards our vacation rental near Guerneville, which is a small town to the west of Santa Rosa along the Russian River. Guerneville was west of the areas of Sonoma County that had burned, tucked away in the Russian River valley among huge California Redwoods and vineyards.

A flight of wines at Frog's Leap in the tasting room in Napa.
A flight of wines at Frog’s Leap in the tasting room in Napa.

With a big group like we had, getting a limo for the day is a great (and safe!) way to go try lots of great wineries, especially when you have a driver that knows lots of small boutique wineries and can help customize a tour to fit your tastes. We were lucky and had a great driver named Hector from Mr. Napa Limo for both of our wine tasting days who has been driving in Wine Country for over 10 years. Hector was super attentive and flexible, and knows his way around the whole region, which was handy with all the fire related road closures! As of 11/1 all major roads have been opened and you can get around to most areas with no problems (especially if you have a great guy like Hector to drive you around!) Getting a limo or a van is a great way to be able to responsibly enjoy a day of wine tasting, and one that we highly recommend!

Whenever we talked to folks about heading to Napa, a universal comment we heard was “Didn’t it all burn up?” We can categorically say no! While the fires that swept through Santa Rosa was genuinely horrific, most of the fires burned areas high above the vineyards where tourists are likely to roam, and in many cases the vines actually acted as firebreaks and kept the fires from spreading further!  These same vineyards are now revealing their fall colors of gold and red, creating a beautiful tapestry spread across the valley floor!

Part of the original historic frog ponds that is where Frog's Leap gets their name! Ribbit!
Part of the original historic frog ponds that is where Frog’s Leap gets their name! Ribbit!

We rolled over the mountain between Santa Rosa and Napa, and headed into our first winery stop in the Napa Valley, Frog’s Leap Winery. Frog’s Leap is located in Rutherford, near the heart of heart of the Napa Valley. Founded in 1981 by John Williams on the site of a former frog farm, John and his partner Larry Turley used their experience gained from working at the famous Stag’s Leap Vineyard to launch their own venture. Fast forward to 2017, and Frog’s Leap has become one of the best known vineyards in the Napa Valley, with beautiful vines, a spectacular tasting room and grounds and a beautiful garden.

Group of friends enjoy the grounds and gardens at Frog's Leap Winery in Napa Valley
Our friends enjoying their wine while on the beautiful grounds at Frog’s Leap Winery in the Napa Valley.

Guests at Frog’s Leap can expect a great tasting experience, with 3 different levels of tasting, from their garden tasting all the way up to a guided tasting and tour. Our tasting featured a flight of 4 of their wines which was accompanied by a little sampler of crackers, cheese and fruit jams made with fruit from their gardens. We also had an opportunity to enjoy a stroll through the gardens and look at the beautiful vistas that surround Frog’s Leap! If we hadn’t known about the fires, you never would have known there had been fires raging just mere miles from this vineyard!

The historic barn at Frog's Leap Winery in Napa Valley.
Some of the beautiful grounds at Frog’s Leap Winery in Napa Valley.
A little nuts, cheese, crackers and fresh fruit preserves from the gardens at Frog's Leap Vineyard in Napa.
A little nuts, cheese, crackers and fresh fruit preserves from the gardens at Frog’s Leap Vineyard in Napa.
A complimentary gourmet soda flight is available for those who don’t drink wine!

After a successful first vineyard visit, we headed for a quick lunch at the adorable and delicious Oakville Grocery and then turned north to head up to our second vineyard of the day, Benessere Vineyards, an Italian inspired vineyard on the gravely, volcanic soil near St. Helena. This gravelly soil proved to be perfect for growing the classic Italian varietals like Sangiovese and Moscato di Canelli as well as Napa the stars Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Owned by the Benish family since 1994 and named by the Italian word meaning “living the good life,” Benessere was the first vineyard that we fell in love with on our very first trip to Napa!

Micheal, the tasting room manager at Benessere leads us on a tour of the vineyard.
Micheal, the tasting room manager at Benessere leads us on a tour of the vineyard.

We were super excited to share this experience with our friends who are lovers of great red wines, and with us having fallen in love with their reds on our first trip, we absolutely knew they would love Benessere! Our guide for the day Micheal took us on a spectacular private tour of the property while tasting their wines.

Enjoying the grounds with friends at Benessere Vineyards.

We got to head out into the vineyard and taste grapes right off the vines, see the tennis court where Luciano Pavarotti shot his “spectacular” movie Yes, Giorgio, and more importantly the crush pad and fermentation tanks where the wines are born before ending up back in the tasting room (where the the old stables used to be!) Getting a chance to taste wines while touring the property was a great experience (especially with wonderful wines to sip on) was a top notch experience and one that we would highly recommend getting a hold of the folks at Benessere to reserve your chance to visit!

Fresh juice right out of the grape press at Benessere Vineyards.
Juice fresh out of the grape press at Benessere Vineyards
Some of the Italian varietals of grapes found on the grounds at Benessere Vineyards.

We can’t stress enough that one of the best ways to help Napa and northern California’s wine country is to visit! You will find wineries happy to welcome you, with many donating tasting fees to fire recovery funds (both Frog’s Leap and Beneserre are donating!) and with vineyards and the supporting businesses employing a large number of residents, this helps keep this area rolling!

Group picture of The Gastronomblog and friends in the vineyards at Benessere.
Benessere treated us and our rowdy friends to a first class winery experience!

Cheers!

A red Pickup at Benessere Vineyards.
One of the iconic red trucks at Benessere Vineyards.

 

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4 thoughts on “Napa is Open and Needs You!

  1. I can’t get over how gorgeous it is there! My heart was breaking with the news coverage. I’m glad you went on your trip – it looks like it was so much fun! That’s a destination that is definitely on my bucket list!

  2. Napa is somewhere I definitely want to visit one day with my husband. I hated watching all the coverage of the horrific fires out there. I’m glad it’s reopening but my heart just aches for the people that lost so much.

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