After a quick bagel breakfast we set off for our first wine tasting of the day at Elizabeth Spencer Winery. The tasting room is situated in the old town post office and Marshall greeted us warmly and led us through a wonderful tasting of a Sauvignon Blanc, two chardonnays, a Pinot Noir and two Cabernet Sauvignons. Jeremy and I confirmed our previous belief that these are some crazy tasty wines and decided to join their wine club (which also allowed us to get a discount on a few bottles to take back with us). We asked for some recommendations for lunch and were told that Farmstead and Cook were two good options so we made reservations for dinner at Cook (after validating the selection on Yelp and Urbanspoon) and headed to Farmstead for an early lunch. We were also given two discount tasting coupons for a nearby winery that (we later found out) Marshall used to work at so that winery was added to the list of destinations for the day.
Lunch at Farmstead was delicious. I had a country ham-wrapped fig salad with arugula and goat cheese and Mom and I split a burger with fried egg, with a side of fried potatoes. I think the fig salad is one of the best dishes from the whole trip, everything was so fresh and just tasted like it "should." We noticed the tasting room next door (affiliated with the restaurant) had a Foursquare special for free tastings so we walked next door and tasted three wines and two olive oils at Long Meadow Ranch.
Our next stop was Cakebread Cellars and we were given the VIP treatment thanks to some connections with friends back in Williamsburg. We were given a personal tour, tasted probably a dozen great wines, and even tasted grapes off of the vines so we could contrast the same grape being grown in the California and European-style of growing and trellising grapes (they really do taste different!).
Our last wine tasting stop was at Steltzner Vineyards (where our wine server Marshall at Elizabeth Spencer had worked previously). The bartender there also worked in the kitchen of Bottega, which had been another restaurant we wanted to try, so he checked to see if there were any openings coming up, and unfortunately there were not, will just have to be a place to go next time.
Before dinner we wandered around downtown St. Helena, perused two of the many olive oil stores, checked out the real estate listing (very pricey, but hey, you could buy a vineyard!) and then headed to dinner at Cook at 5:30. To start, we split the calamari and mussels with tomato and sausage appetizers amongst the table. Jeremy had the fetuccini carbonara special, Dad had the short ribs (recommended by Foursquare), Mom had a whole trout, and I had the risotto special with seared tuna, red grapes, and a pistachio, fig and bacon tapenade (very different combination of flavors, but tasty). For dessert I tried their "mundae," chocolate and vanilla gelato with a balsamic reduction, gray sea salt, and extra virgin olive oil. Overall the flavors were good but the chilled olive oil was a bit odd, could've done without that but I guess we were in olive oil country.
After a rather harrowing drive back up the hill in the rain we made it back to the house and Jeremy and I decided to "rough it" a bit and sleep in the little garden cottage for the night. It's really cute and cosy inside. Tomorrow we head down to San Francisco, possibly stopping at a winery, and then definitely going down the Pacific Coast Highway to the city.
Photos from our winery tours and of the AirBnB house are in a Flickr set if you'd like to see more.