Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Napa Valley

A walk along shady Rutherford Crossroad while GH ran, and then continental breakfast at the hotel. A lazy morning reading papers and Updike's In the Beauty of the Lilies. We visited Rubicon Estate owned by Francis Ford Coppola, and admired its manicured grounds and house. There was an interesting display of magic lanterns. Behind glass windows and doors dusty vintage wines slept on undisturbed shelves, wines bottled as early as 1946. Drove to Calistoga, walked up and down its Main Street shops, and had lunch at a diner that is more than 100 years old.

Clos Pegase was designed by American architect Michael Graves in an eclectic style that combines a Spanish courtyard, Greek pillars and geometric forms. GH was inspired by him to turn from designing teapots to designing buildings. Many sculptures stood around the grounds. I especially liked the mobile sculpture of George Rickey. Its two lancets rotated on their own center, and as they swung gently with the breeze they danced towards and away from each other in a mesmerizing manner. Inside the house were artworks by the likes of Matta and Jean Dubuffet. There was a painting of a gorilla skull on a green background by Francis Bacon. Huge antique French barrels stood on both sides of the beautifully proportioned wine storage room.

At Rombauer the pride of place was not given over to art but to nature. Standing on a hillside, it gave stunning views of the valley vineyards and opposite hills. The gardens were carefully cultivated, the wandering paths among them charming. GH and I liked the Rombauer merlot and chardonnay, and bought a bottle of each. GH took us on a long drive around Lake Hennessey. It was lovely to be up closer to the hill tops. The lake was dammed to pipe water to the valleys. On the way back to the hotel, we tried Caymus but the wine tasting was over. We walked over to Beaulieu too but did not fancy its crowded tasting room and commercial atmosphere. We liked very much St. Helena's Olive Oil Company, and tasted it's delicious olive oils, jams, honey infused with truffle, and smelled its soaps and lotions.

We had GH's birthday dinner at the Culinary Institute of America. His birthday is this Friday, but he wanted to eat at this special place. We had a drink on the outside patio and watched the darkening hills. We had dinner inside the restaurant where we could enjoy watching the chefs in training cook in the open kitchen. GH had a vegetable risotto while I had a crispy chicken confit. Both were well constructed and blended, simple but delicious. It was a lovely end to the day.

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