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.
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.
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.
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?