Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Napa River Inn & Mumm’s Sparkling Pinot Noir

Neither Margaret nor I was terribly keen on joining the kids for the day at 6 Flags outside San Francisco. So we made our own plans… more sophisticated plans...plans that included quality touring and sightseeing...oh, and drinking, of course…

The town of Napa, with its newly renovated Old Town along the Napa River, lies fifty miles north of San Francisco in the heart of legendary Napa Valley—our first stop.

As we aimlessly wandered along the Old Town Napa River waterfront, we stumbled upon the former Napa Mill, an old brick building that currently houses a quaint stretch of stores, galleries and the historically preserved hotel, the Napa River Inn.

Margaret slid into a comfortable seat in the hotel’s lobby to plan our day on the wine trail, while I wandered—well, more like followed Toulouse—and found him seated by the stone fireplace with the Concierge, Renee Chaney, an intelligent woman with a weakness for wily French cats with pink necklaces. Renee described the history of the building to us:
 the building was constructed in 1884 as a grain mill by Captain Albert Hatt, after he purchased the land for a dollar. Hatt used the first floor as a US Government bonded warehouse with iron shutters at the doors and windows to store his wine and spirits; it was later used to bag grain milled and sifted on the second floor. The second floor, called Hatt Hall, was used as a meeting place for secret societies. Silo’s Jazz and Wine Bar, featuring local musicians and vintners, was added in 1934 and the Hay Barn—later to become the General Store— was constructed in 1959.

The hotel currently features a yacht cabin theme of cherry wood, porthole mirror, wainscoting and coffered paneling.

Sweety Pies, the café and bakery located adjacent to the hotel, offered a splendid array of gourmet pies and cakes in a funky original brick-walled timber beam setting, complete with the remaining original bagging machine for grain gravity fed from being milled on the second floor. Look up at the large wooden beams. Off one of them, widower Albert Jr. Hatt took his own life at the age of 46 on April 1, 1912, out of desperation from failing health and business troubles.

While Margaret bought coffee, I stood mesmerized in front of the eye-catching pastries and cakes in the show window. Highlights included a Chambord cheesecake, a creamy cheesecake with Chambord liqueur baked and topped with fresh raspberries; and the Tres Leches Cake, a light sponge cake soaked with 3 milks filled with Chantilly cream, fresh mango and strawberries, all covered in butter cream. These were all served with a surprisingly good espresso that satisfied Margaret’s thirst for a jump-start from her long drive.

The Vintage Sweet Shoppe features fine-label chocolate wine bottles (Toulouse’s favorite), and Pinot Noir truffles (my favorite! Oh my, they were good!) We also checked out the Napa General Store, which included a wine tasting section, a café, gallery and spa.

On May 22, 2004, the Mill turned 120 years old. Locals celebrated by bringing items to be stored in a time capsule, which is to be opened on May 22, 2104. Hope there weren’t any crumpled sheets with cryptic numbers and names place in there by a disturbed young girl… (hint: re the film, “Knowing”).

We then drove along a charming winding road through a verdant vista of rolling hills covered in green rows of grapes. We made it to the Mumm Napa Winery a little too late for the tour and would have to wait an hour for the next one. My eyes sparkled as Toulouse pointed out the obvious: the tasting room and patio. We would taste wine as we waited (we never did make the tour although we did some exploring on our own after. LOL!). I started with a 2007 Pinot Noir with black currant tones and berry taste. I then moved on to a sparkling Pinot Noir with ripe plum taste and a touch of cinnamon. I was enthralled. And very happy, to say the least. Andrew, our tasting attendant, decided to make me more happy by giving us a sample of Santana Brut (named after Carlos Santana, who designed the label, with proceeds benefitting the Milagro Foundation, Santana’s organization for the underprivileged children around the world). Did you know, for instance, that a second fermentation process is used to create the sparkle in the sparkling wine? I was startled to discover that this second fermentation is done in individual bottles and the consequential sedimentation extraction is through a very creative process. This is done by tipping the bottle and letting the sediment form in the neck, freezing to form a sediment “plug” then handily removing. So easy.
For more adventures with Toulouse, check out his very own blog: Toulouse LeTrek, The COOL Travel!
1. Toulouse enjoys Mumm's sparkling Pinot Noir
2. The lobby of the Napa River Inn
3. The concierge, Renee Chaney makes friends with Toulouse
4. Margaret enjoys a great coffee at Sweety Pies
5. some of Sweety Pies exquisite desserts
6. the Sweety Pies clerk befriends Toulouse as he drools over the pastries

Historic Hotels of America

The National Trust established Historic Hotels of America in 1989 to identify quality hotels that have faithfully maintained their historic integrity, architecture and ambience. To be accepted into Historic Hotels of America, hotels must be located in a building that is at least 50 years old.


Heather Dugan ("Footsteps") said...

Sounds like a great place to soak it all in -metaphorically speaking, of course!
I'm curious when you traveled through the San Fran area. I spent a few days there myself last month!

SF Girl said...

We were there the first week of July... can't remember the day... LOL! I was too busy "soaking it all in"... :)

Jean-Luc Picard said...

You find these great little places to really relax!

SF Girl said...

HA! Yes, I know how to find them... well, Toulouse does, that is... I just follow him! :-D

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