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A Day of Wine Tasting In Downtown Napa - Poplar Travels
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Jan 13 2016

A Day of Wine Tasting In Downtown Napa

Eric and I spent an amazing week in California where we spent 4 nights in the Napa Valley. While we usually travel with just the two of us, we were excited to be joined by our friends Allie and Andrew, especially since we are all wine lovers. We spent our first full day in downtown Napa, setting off from The Inn on Randolph with way too many free tasting cards.

 

We began the day at Vermeil tasting room where we sat in a room with a panoramic photo of the vineyard and a ceiling that resembled the inside of a barrel. Our first mistake, perhaps, was ordering a tasting for each of us, which we continued to do throughout the day. From there, we walked down to Vintner’s Collective which stocks small batch wines from smaller family run vineyards. The small tasting room offered a chance to try rather impressive wines we wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.

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For lunch, we stopped into Oxbow Public Market for delicious tacos at C Casa and an impromptu ice cream stop at The Twin Sisters. The bustling market is full of unique booths, specialty foods and sweets, and even a distillery with tastings. We spent some time browsing the goodies as we finished our “Dad’s Cardamom” ice cream (delicious!) before heading on to the next tasting.

 

We looked down at the tasting cards we had left and quickly realized we would only make it to a few more spots. Uncorked, located right across the street was unfortunately a waste of our limited steam (and sobriety), so we finished our tastings quickly and ended up at Mason Cellars where we tried a flight of their all white wines.

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More so even than the wine, the tasters complete the experience. You can tell almost immediately when you walk into a tasting room whether you’re going to have fun or just get through your wine and split. This time our host was especially relaxed and welcoming. He joked with us about wine, living in Napa, the art on his walls, movies… “Drink it up, we make more of it,” he joked in response to a comment about how snobby some winemakers can be.

 

As we left the crisp citrus tones of Mason Cellars and stepped back into the cold, we began to admit to each other we were getting burnt out on wine. The conversation was steering us toward dinner and a nap when we realized another one of our target destinations was located next door. A big metal object that turned out to be a vintage copper pot still sat in the window display draped with fishing nets, succulents and other questionable knick knacks. Two men ushered us in (“You need to come in”). We sat down under a sign that read “Fish Naked” and spotted nautical flags serving as curtains behind the bar. Certainly nothing like the minimalist, sparsely decorated rooms we had previously entered.

The innkeeper at The Inn on Randolph had warned us that we would be in Mark Harold for hours and that it was her favorite place. I remember wondering how one gets stuck in a tasting room for hours, but I can tell you now from personal experience that it is possible to spend three hours, in fact, at this tasting room. The guys behind the bar were hilarious. They kept us cracking up the entire time, even as we held some semi-serious conversations about wine and the namesake of the store. The wine here was our favorite and so we left with several bottles.

 

We made our way to what we swore would be the last stop of the day: 1313 Main. If Mark Harold was the opposite of what we expected to encounter in a small, wealthy, tourist town, the staff at 1313 were the poster children. Our free tasting cards were met with disdain and condescension, my gnocchi dish was hilariously presented in the world’s tiniest bowl, and we felt like the smallest request was the largest burden on our servers, despite the fact that half the tables were empty. However, our day in downtown Napa was such an overwhelmingly positive experience, none of us were really bothered by a lousy dinner.

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There is so much to do in Napa that even though the small town is surrounded by more than 400 wineries to tempt you, you should really designate a day to spend in town. We had so many restaurants to choose from, way too many wine tasting options and plenty of pretty views. The Inn on Randolph is in a perfect location to walk to town and explore all Napa has to offer.

 

 

Have you spent time in Downtown Napa? What did you think?

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Evanne Allen
Evanne.allen@gmail.com

Evanne co-founded Poplar Travels after quitting her job in Washington, D.C. She got itchy feet at a young age and has never lost the urge to explore the planet. A previous museum employee, she is apt to drag travel partners into several cultural institutions anywhere she goes. She wishes she could speak every language and loves meeting new people.

28 Comments
  • Jen Morrow
    Reply

    MMmmmmmm, I love a good snack in the tasting rooms. A full day of wine tasting with good friends is a great way to spend the day! Beautiful photos.

    May 3, 2016 at 11:54 am
  • Shame about the crap dinner, but at least you got to have a beautiful rest of the day, and enjoy time with your friends. I love vineyards, and we have a lot of them here in Austria. I have been to a wine tasting only once, it was a great experience.

    May 3, 2016 at 3:07 pm
  • I could go for some wine tasting right now…

    I’ve never been to Napa as an adult but I’m pretty sure I went with my family when I was under 21 and that was just booooring. It’s probably better when you’re drunk 😉

    May 3, 2016 at 4:11 pm
  • I’ve never been to Napa, or even California! It always looks so beautiful in photos, though, and I do love a good wine tasting! It’s too bad your dinner was lousy, but that lunch sure does look good!

    May 4, 2016 at 2:46 pm
  • Hahaha sorry, but I had to laugh at the service at the 1313. Regardless, Napa sounds beautiful – I’d love to go wine tasting there someday. I like how there’s a mix of snobs and laid back wineries… I guess that would happen when there’s over 400 to choose from though (wow, never knew there were so many!)

    May 4, 2016 at 6:34 pm
  • So many lovely photos!! You really have a talent for capturing the moment. I loved my trip to Napa in 2013, such a charming place.

    May 5, 2016 at 3:07 am
  • Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. The wine in Napa is so good, we made a trip or two a year when we lived in Vegas. What is most interesting to me is after 16 months in Asia the food is just awesome. Laurel is sitting next to me just wishing for a little bite and we decided that would be our first vacation on returning home.

    May 5, 2016 at 6:07 am
  • First of all, I love your lifestyle and I will spend more time exploring your blog! I also love wines, and wine tasting is great as a leisure.
    I have never been to Napa Valley and this is one of the reasons I want to visit CA. This is a very nice little guide to wine tastings.

    May 5, 2016 at 7:01 am
  • Very beautiful and delicious photos! You are making me hungry right after I had dinner!

    May 5, 2016 at 8:03 am
  • Wine tasting in Napa is on my to-do list when I visit the states. Oh and that picture of the tacos made me crave for Mexican food.

    May 5, 2016 at 8:25 am
  • Wow pretty amazing that you can pick from 400 wineries around you! I used to work in a vineyard as a picker in Australia. There is a lot of hard work behind it that we sometimes don’t think about.
    I still remember the time crawling on the ground trying to fix the tiny plants so that the can grow xD
    Love your pictures – what camera did you use?

    May 5, 2016 at 6:41 pm
  • I’m a freaking wine lover. It might be the only alcool I’ll enjoy. Napa is on my to-do list regarding my love for wine, and I guess I have to blame Scandal, Olivia Pope and her love for wine! Haha

    http://tomboychronicle.com/

    May 6, 2016 at 3:39 am
  • gobeyondbounds
    Reply

    We have heard a lot about Napa wine tasting but never been.. your post sounds like you had great time together.

    May 6, 2016 at 5:47 pm
  • This looks like a great experience, I’d love to do that during my trip!

    May 6, 2016 at 6:37 pm
  • I’ve always heard stories of Napa Valley in half-whispers, as if it is a secret too big to be spoken about aloud! It’s always been on my list – I hope that one day I will make it happen 🙂

    May 6, 2016 at 11:48 pm
  • I love wines and Napa Valley has 400 wineries ?can you suggest some best wineries to visit next time

    May 7, 2016 at 1:17 am
  • Sarah @ Expat of the World
    Reply

    400 wineries- good god! I do love my wine 😉 Lunch looks yummy, too!

    May 8, 2016 at 12:00 pm
  • Free tasting cards! Seems like my kind of place haha. The ceiling that looks like the inside of a barrel seems so cool! And I love all your photos. I’ve lived in California for more than a few years but have never made it to Napa! Now that I’m 21 though… I think it’s time for a road trip!

    May 9, 2016 at 8:25 pm

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