A Birthday in Napa Valley / by Courtney Stewart

Frog's Leap Winery, Mumm Napa, Duckhorn Vineyards, and O'Brien Estate

For my brother-in-law's girlfriend, Hannah's birthday (that sounds confusing!) we wanted to show her around one of our favorite destinations, Napa Valley. As I have said before, living in SF puts us in close proximity to a lot of cool things, one of which is Napa, home to over 400 wineries. The drive is only about an hour to an hour and a half, so we often drive up Saturday and drive back Sunday. 

So, we set out early for our first reservation at Frog's Leap Winery. Reservations aren't required everywhere, but popular wineries like are usually booked to capacity. I like to be on the safe side and always have a reservation unless he winery doesn't take reservations.

Frog's Leap

Frog's Leap is our absolute favorite winery, not just because we enjoy the wine (which we do) but because the atmosphere is laid-back, cozy, and really just makes you feel like you are hanging out on your family's back porch.

At Frog's Leap you can choose from a Garden/Cellar Tasting ($20) where you stroll around the property while tasting wine, or a Signature Seating Tasting ($25) where you get to sit on the porch and enjoy light snacks while tasting (which we prefer). Adding to the coziness that day was the fact that it was rather chilly weather, but Frog's Leap was prepared with outdoor heaters and cozy, soft blankets. One of the other things we really like about Frog's Leap is the people who work there. Everyone is really down-to-earth, knows a lot about wine, and is just fun to talk to. They give just the right amount of information about each wine so that you know what you're tasting but don't get bored with too much info.

View from Frog's Leap's Deck

View from Frog's Leap's Deck

Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen

After that, we were intending to head to Gott's Roadside for lunch because it's not only great food, but it's also one of the cheaper places to eat in Napa. However, Gott's only has outdoor seating and it happened to be pouring down rain so we ended up at a lunch spot called Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. Being called a "Backstreet Kitchen" you would think it wouldn't be too pricey but we were wrong. I ordered a bowl of borscht, which I love, because the waitress said there was duck in it, which I also love. However when it came, there was no duck to be found which made it a really expensive bowl of beet soup. Alex ordered a lamb dish that was on special that he really enjoyed, but we overall felt the experience was not a great value for lunch.

Duckhorn Vineyards

Our second tasting of the day was at Duckhorn Vineyards in St. Helena. This was our first visit to Duckhorn. Tastings cost $30 and are by appointment only. This winery while it wasn't terrible, it just wasn't our favorite. Anytime the first thing you walk through is the gift shop, it's usually a sign of a winery without a lot of personality. Perhaps it would've been nicer had we gotten to sit outside on their porch and have a view of their beautiful property, but due to the rain we were seated at a table inside. The duck theme of the winery was just a little too overdone with paintings of ducks and duck decoys everywhere. And, the man that served us our tasting didn't really give us enough information about each wine, just the varietal and a few of the tasting notes. While the wines were good enough, the atmosphere isn't one that will cause us to return. 

Vineyards from the car

Vineyards from the car

Mumm Napa

Whenever we do a birthday in Napa we always try to hit up Mumm. (It's a great spot for a bachelorette party, too) . They are one of a few wineries in Napa that produces mainly sparkling wine and I think that gives the tasting room a fun, energetic vibe. Unlike other wineries where they have a set 4 or 5 wines they give you to taste, Mumm gives you a menu with a few different tasting flight options which range from $18 to $25. We really enjoy Mumm because you have the opportunity to choose what you taste. One of the more unique things they serve is red sparkling wine, which we can't say is our favorite but was really interesting to try. 

Ca' Momi Osteria

For Hannah's birthday dinner, we booked a reservation at Ca' Momi (like many other things in Napa, it's good to have a reservation). Ca' Momi touts itself as authentic Italian food; so much so that they don't slice your pizza for you because "that's how they do it in Italy". The food overall was pretty tasty but our waitress seemed like she would rather be anywhere than serving us. The highlight of the meal, though, was watching an adorable teenage couple that sat next to us. The girl ordered a dessert and had them write "Prom?" on it, which was really cute to witness.

O'Brien Estate

We rounded out the weekend with a stop at O'Brien Estate. We had never been here before, but it quickly became one of our favorite wineries (even despite the fact that we couldn't have our tasting on their beautiful vineyard due to the rain). I had booked a reservation via email a month prior (they have tastings by appointment only), but they didn't have it in their system for some reason. Not to worry though, they grabbed one of their other wine servers, Jason, and he was happy to host our tasting. We were actually really lucky to have him because he is a sommelier and knows more about wine and wine tasting than many other winery workers. He gave us a great mini-course in how to taste wine. They have a trio of reds that are incredible: Romance of the Heart, a Merlot/Cab blend, Seduction, a Bordeaux blend, and Passion of the Soul which is a Cabernet Sauvignon. Despite the slightly cheesy wine names, we loved the experience so much that we became members.

O'Brien Estate

O'Brien Estate

All in all, another great visit in Napa. And we love it so much, by the end of this trip we had already planned another.