We like to go big for Cat’s birthdays, and this year is a big one. To start the festivities, we rented a car and drove up the coast. Earlier in the year we had purchased a deal for an “Own Your Own Napa Vineyard” experience. You get 2 grape vines that will eventually become Syrah. More importantly, you are invited to the harvest festival where the grapes are picked and stomped. But as is the case with all good road trips, many stops were made along the way.
First stop, fresh uni in Santa Barbara. They pull these urchin straight out of buckets sitting in the ocean water, crack them open, and hand you a spoon. Bon Appétit!
Anyone who keeps up with Cat’s social media will know that she’s become a bit (which I would claim is an understatement) obsessed with plants. So when she found out there was a massive garden created by an interesting woman, we had to stop. Here’s Madame Walska’s Lotus Land.
It isn’t just pretty, leafy green plants. There’s a huge cactus garden too!
And canopies of lemons…
And giant ponds with lily pads and Koi fish
After the garden we jumped back into our rented convertible and zoomed up the coast. We knew our hotel wouldn’t be ready yet, so we went straight to the vineyard to see what kinds of festivities were under way.
After a brief (and unorganized) check-in process we were directed towards our custom named vines; The Grape Gatsby.
Since there wasn’t much going on yet at the vineyard, we snuck off for some wine tasting. I think Cat and I both agree that the wine tasting in Napa was expensive and not as fun as some other places we’ve visited. Here is one photo from a winery that is built in the style of a 14th century castle. If that sounds cool, you should know that there are A LOT of tourists running around, all half drunk from wine, and everyone running into each other.
After wine tasting it was time to get to work. Here’s Cat using the provided sheers to cut our grapes. Once the grapes were cut we had the choice to put them into the pile with the other grapes or take them home. We chose the latter and used the grapes on charcuterie plates when we got back home.
After a night in Napa we were ready to head back home. Since we had to go back south, and because Monterey isn’t too far out of the way, for the final surprise of the trip we decided to take a spontaneous detour to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium in Monterey is acclaimed by many organizations including the American Institute of Architects and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It is well considered one of the best aquariums in the United States. Here’s their Wikipedia if you want to read more…
For the last stop, what better place than the jellyfish tank?
Overall the trip was a success. The own your own vineyard thing ended up being kind of a bust. In fact Napa itself wasn’t the best. We ended up missing the wine tasting and the grape stomping at the harvest festival because the employees at the vineyard gave us wrong information. Instead we were spending time (and way too much money) tasting at other vineyards.
I think next time we’ll opt to taste wine in Paso Robles or somewhere closer to home like Temecula or Santa Barbara, but I’m glad we got up to Napa once. And even if the wine tasting left something to be desired, we had a blast driving up the coast in a convertible and visiting all of these amazing sites. I hope Cat had a great birthday!