A short drive through Yosemite, Napa and on to California can be exhilarating, especially after a stop at some of the wineries
Three days in Yosemite National Park had been a lovely hike of discovery. We'd seen magnificent falls, imposing granite mastiffs such as El Capitan and Half Dome and gorgeous period hotels such as the Ahwahnee Hotel. We'd even seen a black bear peeping out from behind a bush, sleepy-eyed since he'd just woken up after four months of hibernation.
But all that was rapidly falling behind us, since the Mustang I was driving was enjoying the straight and fast Californian highway. The Mustang was topless, naturally, since it was a sunny day with a few white, fluffy clouds. It would have been downright disrespectful not to put the top down. We were headed to Napa and the loud and growl-y Mustang was making the journey incredible fun.
At Napa Valley
Napa Valley lies 208 miles west of Yosemite and 50 miles north of San Francisco. I didn't mind these long drives at all. In fact I revelled in them because Californian highways are built for motoring holidays. Soda shops, snack bars, little county restaurants all come up at regular intervals to tempt and refresh the motorist.
Napa where we were headed is famous for its wine, and we arrived to aesthetically-designed wineries set within immaculately manicured vineyards. Since it is so close to San Francisco which is home to the posh set that knows and appreciates wine, it is little wonder that Napa is a weekend getaway for many Frisco residents.
It's a delightful to linger at your favourite wineries and sample their finest. The vineyards add to the prettiness of the region and the wineries themselves are works of art.
I did a double take when I saw something that vaguely resembled a Zoroastrian Fire Temple, thanks to its Persian Winged Bull motifs. This was actually the Darioush Winery, acclaimed for its Reds. Grand and imposing, the winery, inspired by the architecture of the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis, was designed by architects Ardeshir and Roshan Nozari.
We spent our first day checking out various wineries such as Darioush, Peju, Sterling and CastelloDiAmorosa, all of them with wines unique, varying and most of them award-winning. For some sparkling wine, we headed to the Chandon Winery. The concierge at our hotel had almost swooned in ecstasy while gushing about the nuances and playful character of its sparkling Rose wine, and we decided to taste for ourselves how mischievous this wine was. It was very bold, to say the least.
Our next day at Napa was even more enjoyable. That morning we boarded the Wine Train for a luxurious three-hour lunch outing. This train, essentially a fine dining restaurant on rails, comprises carriages that date back to 1915 and 1952. The locomotives that pull the train date from 1958 but, now are run on CNG, which is quite an innovation. The train does a three-hour round-trip going past attractive wineries from Napa to St. Helena over tracks that were built in 1864. In those three hours, we were pampered with attentive service and incredibly tasty food. Of course, it was all paired with fine wine. We had to put our post-lunch plans on hold because we were so satiated by that groaningly delicious lunch aboard the train. That morning we were transported back to the golden era of luxury train travel.
Tomorrow we'd head off from Napa towards Northern California for some more outdoorsy stuff. This break was between that and Yosemite, and just what we needed to recharge our batteries and indulge ourselves.
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