after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Napa/SF Recap: Day 2 (the rest of it)

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t says: Yea, so I left you hanging on Day 2.  Sorry about that – my bad!  Just to finish off Day 2 …

After we failed to get into Dominus, we picked up cm and k and went off to our 5th winery of the day (although in actuality, we only really actually visited 1 of the four).  We chose to go to Castello di Amorosa, a winery which primarily makes wines from Italian grapes.  While one of their recent releases has earned great marks from wine critics, they are more known for the fact that their winery is a giant castle.  For real:

Yes, there’s a drawbridge, and yes, there’s a moat.  I will say that the tour was fun.  They took us around the castle, which was definitely a tourist destination and not a “real” castle (I mean it was finished sometime in the past twenty years, so you know it’s not going to be a “real” castle), and taught us about … well … castles.  It was interesting that they really didn’t focus on the wine too much.  Yes, there was some talk of vini- and viticulture, but I really don’t recall much.  Our guide was nice – she was Austrian (“G’day mate!  Let’s put another shrimp on the barbie!” … Dumb and Dumber, anyone?)  The tasting was … intense.  There were a lot of wines.  And because one of us got the regular tasting, and one got the “premier” tasting (or whatever they call it), g and I were able to taste every wine they had.  What was interesting was that I (and maybe g) were the only ones not swallowing the wine (well, the pregnant woman was also not drinking wine, either – she looked so bored – we felt bad for her); as the DD, I was making extensive use of a spitoon.  By the end of the tasting session, I would say that k was pleasantly buzzed and cm and g were quite smiley/happy (they were trying to master the art of jumping into a convertible).  And one more thing … we were all hungry!  After all of the Italian wines, all we really wanted was some pasta … and some meatballs …

Our guide told us of a place called Tra Vigne that was supposed to have good Italian food.  I figured that she’d just tell us of whatever restaurant they had some sort of “deal” with, but still, it couldn’t be “bad”, right?  Plus, at this restaurant, there was no corkage fee for the first bottle of wine (if it was a bottle from Castello di Amorosa), so that was $20 more to spend on food – woohoo!

We called them up, secured a reservation, and drove to St. Helena.  We were leaving everything up to chance and being spontaneous.  It was vacation … k and cm style!  When we arrived, we used the pricing of the menu to determine whether we were dressed appropriately – we didn’t want to walk into someplace too fancy.  All the pasta dishes were under $20 with the exception of the one with scallops – we were good to go.

It was awesome.  The indoor space was big and open, but it was the outdoor space that was oh so beautiful.  It was kind of like a very large backyard patio with lights suspended from trees.  We sat on a little porch that looked out onto the patio and thought of how cool it would be to hold some kind of classy outdoor gathering there.

Then we met our waiter.  He was an older gentleman.  He had a very … monotonous voice.  But you know what – he was superb.  At first, I thought he was going to be a very dry character – there’s something about his voice that sounded like he was so bored with what he was doing.  But it was part of his act.  Using this voice, he had perfected the art of delivering punchlines with no change in expression – gotta love the dry humor.  He was happy to tell us what he liked from the menu (e.g. he felt the fig pizza was the best pizza that they’ve offered in years), and he didn’t have a problem with saying a dish was only “ok” (one of the desserts).  He even snuck in a little bit of song and dance when he was describing what would happen if we ate some other dish that was his favorite.  I trusted him.

And he was right.  Their food was fantastic.  From their fresh mozzarella cheese and tomato caprese to their fig pizza to my dish, which was a braised rabbit and pappardelle (that was easily as good as anything I’ve had at Melograno – which says a lot!).  It really was a most excellent meal.  g took a picture at the restaurant, but I noticed that there wasn’t any food in the picture.  I guess the food was so good that neither of us wanted to pause eating for a pic.  I think k got one!

I remember that their desserts were also quite good, but I can’t remember specifics – maybe one of my dinnermates can fill in the details?  The point: Tra Vigne was fantastic.  I was worried that it wouldn’t have lived up to Bistro Jeanty the night before, but it did!  Later on, we found out that Michael Chiarello had opened Tra Vigne (although no longer there); whoever’s there now knows what they’re doing!  What a great night!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

10 October 2010 at 2:54am

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