Old is Gold + Girls Trip Tips
I hit the jack pot and I'm not sure how.
Here I am, 37, and I'm vacationing with friends whom I've known since diapers. It's normal to me because we've been a part of each others lives for basically forever. But, I understand that it's not super common. Relationships from childhood fade over time. Friends move away, lose touch, find they aren't as good of friends as they had thought, and so on.
The four of us hail from Seattle, Dallas, SLC, and, well, basically Oregon, but on the WA border. Our roots are from Oak Harbor, WA on Whidbey Island.
We make it a point to plan a trip every 2 years so we can continue to nourish the relationships we've built over the 30+ years. We are all in completely unique and different phases of life. But our memories and history keep us close knit.
After our previous trip 2 years ago to Sonoma, we quickly all agreed that it was one of the best and we most certainly would return. So here we are, 2 years later, back in wine country. This time, staying in the famed Napa Valley.
Moms Who Target - Shelley spotted a Target (or possibly felt it's magical pull) the moment we pulled in to Napa. So what do 4 moms on a girls trip do? Go to Target.
One of my favorite things about these trips is the surprise treats we gift each other upon arrival. This trip, I reached out to The Westin and asked for their help in surprising the girls. 30+ years worth of photos dressed the walls, gift bags containing a digital photo book of our previous trip to Sonoma sat on the dining table, and a Galentine Day decor banner lined the entertainment center. When we opened the doors, the girls thought we were in the wrong room, but slowly, as they glanced at the photos, realized we were very much in the right room.
I was asked by a lot of girlfriends (and even some of my dude co workers) to dish on the deets of our magical long weekend away, so I'm happy to share the wineries we loved, recommendations for planning a successful trip, and other trip tips.
TASTING TRIP TIPS
START PLANNING A YEAR IN ADVANCE! Allow plenty of time for planning, researching deals, etc.
Make sure you align on the budget so everyone feels comfortable with the trip’s budgetary expectations
Take advantage of any reward points your gal pals may have or want to use (ie: Starwood’s SPG rewards for room stay/upgrades, free day car rentals, etc.)
Make time for relaxing in the evening together so you can have you down time to laugh, cry, eat crap all while in your pjs or yoga pants
Get a room with a kitchen so you can prepare breakfast on a dime, have easy late night snacks on hand and not worry about when the hangry sets in
Make dining reservations ahead of time - check on the menu to accommodate any dietary needs/budget restrictions as Napa can get fairly hefty in cost after a few nights of fine dining
Research the tasting room fees and find out if tastings are waived for bottle purchases and/or joining their wine club
Rotate who will buy a bottle each evening to-go for your down time at the hotel pool, fireplace, or just for relaxing in the room after the long day
Keep your room stocked with water, coconut water, and protein rich foods
If you plan to take wine home, check on shipping charges from your hotel prior to your trip. You can also purchase bubbled “wine skin” for packing if you have room in your checked bag. Remember, you cannot carry on wine, no matter how hard you try!
Hire a photographer to capture your friendship - priceless memories
Hire a driver for your tasting tour
Plan for AM and PM family check in times so everyone has an opportunity to say good morning or good night to family
Keep receipts for group purchases and appoint someone to reconcile the group purchases after the trip and ensure everyone has been reimbursed (ie: rental car, hotel, restaurant bills on one check, etc)
MOST IMPORTANTLY! Must bring water with you everywhere - STAY HYDRATED!
// VINE CLIFF //
We started our long weekend in Napa with a tour and tasting at Vine Cliff Winery - an Oakville Estate producing Cabernet & Carneros Chardonnay. Founded in 1871 - Vine Cliff is known as one of the "ghost wineries" - read more about it's fascinating history and story HERE. We were given a tour of the property and barrel cave, along with an intriguing history lesson of Vine Cliff and the Napa Valley. Starting our trip off with a deeper appreciation of a proprietress' journey and how the community of the beautiful Napa Valley comes together was a meaningful experience. We had the pleasure of capping our evening by meeting the Proprietress, Nell Sweeney. She is a hoot!
I invited the lovely Mariana Calderon to capture our evening at Vine Cliff. The property offered us some of nature's finest. Lush, overgrown trees, deep valley views, vineyards to no end, and the sunset landed softly for the evening as we closed in on our day.
// RECOS // 2014 Proprietress Reserve Chardonnay, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Estate
// JCB TASTING SALON + BOUCHON BISTRO //
With time to spare before dinner at Bouchon in Yontville, we heard that JCB was the place to chill. We were captivated by the dazzling, eclectic ambiance and extensive variety of bubbles! We were pleased to make some new friends in our short time at JCB.
On to Bouchon Bistro, we dined on Failla wine and old fashions. On our menu for dinner that night was Oeufs Mimosa (deviled eggs) and Steak Frites (with truffle fries).
//RECOS // JCB No. 69, No. 21, JCB Infinity
// RAYMOND //
We made some fabulous new friends at JCB on night 1 who pointed us to Raymond for day 2. It didn't disappoint. We spent 2.5 hours there and ended up skipping another winery due to time constraint. Totally worth it. Our new friends gave us a tour and tasting and it quickly became one of our favorite wineries. With the offering of a wine making experience, Frenchi artwork bottle labels, a unique and eccentric ambiance, and a collaboration with John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, Raymond is a sure stop on your wine tour.
// RECOS // Estate Collection Cab, LVE Red Blend, Marie Antoinette
// DARIOUSH //
We were told that if the flame on the entry torch was lit, the Proprietor Darioush Khaledi was on the property. We didn't get to meet him, but they had some Turkish pistachios that maybe made up for it (just ask Shell). Darioush is an incredibly gorgeous property and beautiful wines.
// RECOS // Signature Series Pinot Noir, Signature Chardonnay
// STARMONT //
Starmont is a walk-in winery that offers scenic sunset views and a casual atmosphere. We concluded our day by enjoying a bottle of their Rose of Pinot Noir aside an open fire.
// oxbow PUBLIC market //
A walk down the street from The Westin led us to the very cool Oxbow Market where we loaded up on the most delicious sushi and sake at Eiko's and finished off with some organic Three Twins Ice Cream (KILLER!) - "Oxbow Public Market, located in the Oxbow District of Napa, has become the local gathering place for great food and wine in downtown Napa and throughout the Napa Valley. The 40,000 square foot marketplace, which includes a scenic outdoor deck with seating along the Napa River, features a diverse tenant mixture of local food vendors, artisan cafes and an organic produce outlet for local farms. Oxbow Public Market and its artisans and purveyors passionately support the concept of sustainable agriculture and local harvest—promoting a healthy environment, and social and economic equity within our community."
// NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN //
The Napa Wine Train offers a handful of winery excursions within the Napa area. The train itself is celebrating 101 years young! We chose the Castello di Amorosa excursion, which was about a 1 hour ride from the station, going roughly 15-20 mph past a multitude of vineyards and wineries. Aboard the train, we were served a gourmet lunch and wine (of course), along with a heavenly dessert and coffee in the dessert car just before our arrival at Castello. Although the train was a bit bumpy, the food, the company, and the views made up for it.
// CASTILLO di AMOROSA //
Located in Calistoga, off the Saint Helena Highway, Castello di Amorosa sits majestically at the top of the hill, basking in the afternoon glow of the California sun. As you approach the main entry, it's as if you've been thrown back in time. It is a replica of a medieval castle, but is only about 10 years old (and took 10 years to build). The amount of research and authenticity that went into the Castle is absolutely incredible. Tastings are held under ground in small cave rooms.
"Castello di Amorosa appears to be an authentic castle for one reason only. It is an authentic castle, though fancified. We either used construction methods and materials that would have been used 1,000 years ago, or we used very old hand-made materials that had survived up to modern times. A fireplace predating Christopher Columbus adorns the Great Hall, and Iron Maiden from the late Renaissance dominates the torture chamber. A wrought iron dragon from the times of Napoleon hovers over the massive main door. More than 8,000 tons of stone were chiseled, not sawed, by hand to be absolutely authentic. Nearly 200 containers of old, hand made materials were shipped from Europe to lend authenticity." - Dario Sattui
// PEJU //
We opted out of the return shuttle ride with the Wine Train group and snagged a LYFT back. We stopped at the gorgeous Peju winery for a cheese plate and tasting. It certainly didn't disappoint. The property was bursting with color. Between the magnolias that hugged the entry, the Sycamore trees that arched over the driveway, and the historical landmark estate, Peju was a pleasant surprise!
// RECOS // 2016 Province, Fifty/Fifty, 2014 Cab
These women are my judge-free zone - they know ME to my core. It feels good to be around friends that understand you from top to bottom. These relationships are a gift and my energy is always well spent.
I absolutely adore the friendships that have come in to my adult life. As we mature, we change, and the friends we are graced with later in life get a part of us that many of our childhood friends never get to see. They are just as important as the old relationships. But the stories we share from when times were simpler and the days were breezier help us to lighten the heavy loads on life today and remind us how blessed we are to still have one another.
We laughed, we cried, we reminisced. We rapped to Warren G and Notorious BIG. We confessed, we admitted, and we had moments of clarity. Who is your tribe? Make time for them. The investment is worth the riches you'll gain over time.
Old is Gold.
Till next time, Napa. You were so good to us. xo #NapaMamas
Hotel: The Westin Verasa Napa
Driver Service: Wine Tour Drivers
Photographer for Vine Cliff photo shoot: Mariana Calderon
Consultant for winery reservations, customized planning to help you explore like a local: Bud + Belief