“You can’t get a bad meal in Napa” and my favorite Napa wine blog

Above: The burger and fries at Grace’s Table in downtown Napa. The thing that took it over the top was the superb quality of the bun.

“You can’t get a bad meal in Napa these days,” said the waiter at Grace’s Table downtown as she insisted that I taste the baguette that the restaurant sources from a bakery down the street.

I hadn’t been to Napa for three years or so: there’s been an explosion of restaurants in the town and while competition is high, I was told, there’s plenty of high-quality materia prima to go around. Say what you will about the Napa style of wine, but there’s nowhere in the U.S. that can beat the quality of the produce that the farms here deliver. And the culture that once corralled the best restaurants in the villages to the north has now graciously populated its namesake township. Gauging from a stroll in the town center, there are many affordable options for dining: my “Hand Formed Burger, Meyers Ranch Chuck, House Made Pickles, Chili d’Espellette-Parmesan Fries” was just $12.

Above: Artichoke fritters at Grace’s were delicious.

After Giovanni and I finished an early repast in town, we headed back up north to Yountville to meet the author of my favorite Napa wine blog, Vinsanity, Vinogirl.

She was pouring wine at an exclusive private event but she managed to sneak Giovanni and me through the back of the venue so that we could taste her wine and chat with her and husband Vinomaker.

Above: In Yountville, Giovanni and I were impressed by this “transgenic” sage plant, as he called it. Note the size of the plant’s leaves.

On her excellent blog, Vinogirl chronicles the vegetative cycle of Napa with wonderful photographs and occasional scouser humor (she Liverpudlian). Her posts are peppered with viticultural knowledge and insights into what’s happening “on the ground,” including the recent cooling trend that has vexed growers here.

Above: “Did you know,” writes Vinogirl on her blog today, “that there’s no Italian word for ‘bromance’?” She snapped this photo of Giovanni and me, four days into the California leg of his visit to the U.S.

Why were Giovanni and I in Napa? You’ll be surprised to know the reason and I’ll explain all next week… stay tuned…

In the meantime… Thanks again, Vinogirl, for the photo! It was so great to finally meet you!

Just some of the reasons I’m so smitten…

From the “it’s Friday so just indulge me” department…

1. She just gets so giddy when you get some good Basque cheese in front of her and some stinky wine (and she’s knock-out gorgeous; to gaze at her makes me feel like Antonioni with Monica Vitti in his camera’s frame). That’s her last week at Terroir Natural Wine Merchant in San Francisco.

2. Her palate is as good as any I’ve ever tasted with and to hear her describe wine is like Petrarch to my ears (that’s her tasting barrel samples of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in Yountville, CA).

3. She is a pro taster and nothing gets by her. She’s never afraid to ask the tough questions (that’s her tasting with Tadeo at Neyers).

4. She is just the coolest blogger and she will travel to the other side of the world for a wine that she loves (like this post she did about tasting in Savennières).

5. I just can’t imagine my life without her (that’s us in Sausalito).

Tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side
Oh tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side

What is Life, George Harrison