California 2009

       Day 10 – July 9, 2009
        We began our Napa Valley day with a visit to the Hess Collection Winery, a place highly recommended by several travel guides. We only did the tasting, half-price since we had coupon, and the wine was very good. Hess is a name very familiar to us since their wines are marketed all over the country. Then we drove northward on the Silverado Trail, much quicker than Route 29 and with less traffic. We stopped briefly at the Sterling Winery, but decided not to take the aerial tram to the tasting room since we had tasted so many wines the day before.
       We continued north to the Alexander Valley Vineyard and enjoyed the tasting experience there. This winery is a lot more low-key, a much smaller operation and, for us, more intimate and enjoyable. We bought several bottles of their more reasonably priced wines. Next, we headed south to visit the much-touted Castello di Amoroso, a castle erected over about twenty years, reminiscent of the great castles of Europe. It was indeed impressive, at the end of a long driveway lined with Lombardy Poplars. We wandered around the exterior of the castle, taking pictures and admiring the authentic construction, and then left. We made one more stop, at the Frank Family Vineyard, where we sampled some white and red "bubbly" before continuing to dinner reservation.
      Michael Ciarello has a cooking show on the Food Network, and we had heard about his new restaurant, La Bottega. We were able to get an early (5:45) reservation and looked forward to a lovely and romantic dinner. It turned out to be just as fabulous as we expected it would be. The service was impeccable and all of the food, from appetizer to entree, was excellent. This was certainly one of the trip highlights!


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