When my friend Simone left the cosmopolitan city of Toronto to move back home to adorable Victoria, I knew I had to visit as soon as I could. Simone is the funniest writer I know, covering all topics related to men and dating, like this hilarious “review” of bad online dating profiles. In fact, we spend so much time gossiping about bad dates, time flew by without my writing about our trip. Now it’s March. And here in California, my dog walk has become overcome with blooming flowers – spring is here! It’s reminded me of last summer, when it was still warm up in Vancouver and Victoria. So it is finally time to share! I know that the quaint town will charm you as much as it did me.
After a silly, fun-filled day “Riding the Ducks” in Seattle, my friends and I decided to check out nearby Bainbridge Island. My old pals had just moved from New York, so it was fun that all of us were doing these activities for the first time. (After living in Vegas for more than five years, I know a thing or two about re-visiting the same tourist attractions with out-of-town friends!) Three adults and two kids under the age of five: We were a little late driving to the docks to make the ferry, so we ended up just driving our car right onboard. It was so cool! And very easy. You just drive up, tell them what you want to do, pay accordingly, and drive to where they tell you. It’s quite an experience to watch all of the bicyclists ride on the massive ferry, and then car after car parade on after them.
I love guided tours. Yes, you read that right… Honestly, I don’t understand why they get such a bad rap, when they provide an excellent way to see all the sites in one tidy go (they’re tourist traps for a reason, right?). Then I can spend the rest of my time in cafes, wandering, or visiting with friends — like I did during my long weekend in Seattle this summer. After quitting my job to move to the San Francisco area this summer, I was determined to visit as many people as I could, starting in Austin, Victoria, and Vancouver. I met my friend Nicole when she interviewed me as a potential roommate for an East Village apartment 13 years ago. She was tough, but (obviously) I made it in! In Seattle, she cools her heels with her husband and two little girls. So on our first day, we were on the search for a kid-friendly, fun-for-adults activity. Luckily, Nicole had her eye on the “duck boats.”
One of my favorite parts about visiting wine country is getting to hear how important the art of winemaking is to some very special families, including some of my recent intros to Robert Mondavi, Benziger, and Trinchero. In fact, Napa and Sonoma are some of the only places in the world where I’ve gotten to visit one family business after another. And they are often of Italian lineage like mine to boot. The Buoncristiani brothers were the grand finale to my most recent trip, one final stop on my way to the airport. Matt, Jay, Aaron and Nate are several generations into winemaking, but they decided that the family actually needed a (not-just-a-hobby) winery — and so the young whippersnappers created one. Their next step? Build wine caves like Napa has never seen.
They invited us for a sneak peak.
Tiffany and I packed a lot into this last trip to California wine country, from Robert Mondavi and Trinchero, to Benziger and a food tour through my favorite restaurants in Napa. So by the time we arrived at Biale, one of the most fun wineries in Napa, we were a little loopy. Tiff and I had by now joined a larger group of mostly Las Vegans, which created an entirely different vibe. We went from studious wine connoisseurs-in-training to acting completely silly with our hometown gang. Biale was the perfect place for us — it is serious about its wine and family history, but they definitely get a kick out of themselves, which makes me swoon. Family lore includes a teenage Biale family member using the code word “Black Chicken” to sell his jugs of wine on Napa party telephone lines so he wouldn’t get in trouble. So old-fashioned “Watch out for Black Chicken” signs adorn the place, and even some of the wine labels.
We were in the right place.
After spending a lot of time in Napa, like in any other tourist destination, sometimes the most special experiences happen when you get off the proverbial “beaten path.” I could spend weeks in wine country and never become tired of the planned tours and tastings (such as Trinchero, and Robert Mondavi) — you learn so much and become enthralled by the local personalities. Still, on my most recent trip, I was dragged against my will (haha) to a private lunch at the home of Garrett Ahnfeldt, one of the most gorgeous private Napa vineyards. Upon arrival, local ingredients were being pounded into the most delicious of dishes. As everything was being prepared, we were served wine (when isn’t there wine being served in that neck of the woods?) and took in the views.