For the first ever Prime Women retreat, we chose the wine country of Sonoma Valley and Napa. Why? Because it’s a beautiful country, the food is fantastic, the weather is perfect, the towns are shopping paradise and that’s not even the best — the wineries.
Ten intrepid Prime Women made the trek — none of us knew all the attendees which made for making great new friends and developing a fun camaraderie as we enjoyed our time together. Obviously we all enjoy wine — learning about it, visiting where it’s grown and made, and sampling and comparing different vintages.
Our lovely hotel, the Vintners Inn couldn’t have been more charming. Set in a vineyard with beautiful grounds, it also boasts the John Ash restaurant where we enjoyed our first dinner of seasonal, locally sourced foods paired with wine. Their chefs work with local Sonoma Valley farmers to secure the freshest ingredients for their menus.
The next day, after a hearty breakfast at Vintners, we headed out in our very comfy bus to visit a whirlwind of wineries and tastings. Ferrari Carano is housed in a spectacular mansion with equally spectacular grounds and gardens with numerous bronze sculptures scattered about. One is of a wild boar whose nose was all shiny from people rubbing it because according to legend, rubbing the nose brings good luck. Of course we all had to try our luck!
The garden also had the most amazing cork oak trees. We learned that cork trees must be at least 40 to 50 years old before the first cork can be harvested — then the tree grows new bark which can be harvested every nine years. After a tour of the gardens, we were taken to their gorgeous tasting rooms where we sampled so many of their delicious award-winning wines.
Next on the list of wineries was the massive Coppola Winery, the 2017 Winery of the Year. We went there for a tour, tasting, and lunch at their full-service restaurant, RUSTIC, on its charming outdoor terrace.
We were able to tour an area that housed the original Tucker automobile, one of only 51 ever produced and used in the movie “Tucker: The Man and His Dream” directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
We were also treated to watching the wine bottling line which is not open to the public. We observed in amazement as all of the empty bottles move through getting filled, labeled, corked, and boxed at what seemed breakneck speed!
Later that day we departed for a cocktail party at a private home at the top of Sonoma Mountain. Our travel agent, the incomparable Alex Ramsey, used her amazing contacts to set up this special outing for us. As we sipped wines and enjoyed enough great food to call it dinner, we were able to take in the beauty of the view from our mountaintop perch in the garden and patios of this multi-level marvel.
On our last big day on this wine education and tasting trip, we headed to Napa to Cakebread Winery. Ah, another beautiful winery founded in 1973 by Jack and Dolores Cakebread. This winery produces about 75,000 cases of wine per year and known for its Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines. Cakebread was listed as a best small Napa winery to visit by Food and Wine Magazine and we all agreed!
Our last winery visit was to Beringer where we were able to tour their incredible caves as we sampled their various wines. They also have a lovely store where you can shop for wine and wine related products. Beringer is also a large winery with a classic Victorian home, the Rhine House, as its centerpiece, and magnificent gardens and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Founded in 1876, Beringer is the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley.
After all the touring and wine tasting, we were all ready for a nice lunch and we got it at the venerable Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, known as the CIA. This is a massive campus where students can earn associate degrees and certificates in culinary arts, baking and pastry arts. At their restaurant, Gatehouse, student-chefs prepared a fabulous lunch for us with some of the local produce grown at the college’s own farms and gardens. We were also able to shop all things kitchen related in their well appointed store.
Late afternoon we headed to the quaint town of Healdsburg for some shopping before our closing dinner at one of the “Top Napa Restaurants”, Chalkboard, which is located in the luxury boutique Hotel Les Mars. Chalkboard is famous for its small plates so we sampled a variety of dishes served family style and paired with perfect wine choices. Chalkboard has a nice casual atmosphere where we enjoyed our newfound friendships and talked about what’s next for our travels.