Home Archives 2011 September 14

Daily Archives: Sep 14, 2011

Book clubs, cooking clubs, bunco, bridge…what is the unifying theme to most women’s gatherings? Wine! If you can add in the opportunity to do lots of talking, while sipping wine, in beautiful surroundings—even better. So when a group of girlfriends and I decided to look for a getaway destination, Napa Valley was an ideal choice.

We needed to coordinate travel plans from the Midwest and the West Coast. Flights into Sacramento would have brought us closer to Napa, but we found that flying into San Francisco had better prices and better timing—although the congestion in and out of the city would make me re-think Sacramento on my next visit. The first half of the four-hour drive was spent weaving through lanes of traffic, until the rolling green hills beckoned us away from the urban chaos.

September and October are the months to see Napa Valley in high gear, as the juicy clusters of grapey goodness are harvested from the fields. This year, cool temperatures at the start of summer may have delayed the harvest by a few weeks—which gives travelers an even bigger timeframe to get in on the festivities of the fall crush.

When I first heard about the fall crush, I half expected to get barefoot and stomp around in a vat of purple mash, just like the old I Love Lucy episode. I’d love the experience, but cringe at the thought of drinking wine that once squished through someone’s toes! These days the fall crush is more of a celebration—the hard work of the spring and summer has paid off, the grapes are in off the vines, and the transformation into wine will soon begin!

We spent a day biking vineyard to vineyard along the Silverado Trail, starting with renting bikes in Yountville through the Napa Valley Wine Tours. We stocked up on picnic supplies—olives, flatbread crackers, cheeses—at the Oakville Grocery market, and thus fortified, we set out. By day’s end we’d visited half a dozen vineyards and covered over twenty miles! If I were to do it again (and I would love the chance!) I’d do a guided tour, led by a local biker who knew how to avoid the traffic—the roads we chose did not have wide shoulders, and we did worry about drivers who may have sampled too many.

Over coffee the following morning, the four of us were stretching our aching legs and wishing we’d thought to make massage appointments. We spied the lovely Villagio Spa, just down the street from the coffeeshop, and—our guardian angels of wine and pampering were looking out for us—we found they’d just had several cancellations, and could fit us all in for massages. If you ever have the chance to be spoiled rotten by the Villagio Spa, don’t pass it up! Better yet, plan ahead and make a reservation!

Tastings and opportunities to learn more about wine are everywhere, and cater to everyone from wine and cheese pairings for the casual wine drinker to the serious oenophile. It’s not just the grapes coming in from the fields at this time of year—the farmer markets overflow with bounty, and if your group can cook at all, you will love gathering the ingredients for a fall feast back at the vacation rental, where everyone can mingle freely instead of staying seated in a restaurant. That way, the conversation and laughter goes on until the wee hours…and isn’t that what the girlfriends’ getaway is all about?

Suzanne Johnson lives, writes and plays in the Cascade mountains of Oregon with her family of adventure-prone boys. More of her writing can be found a SuzanneMyhreJohnson.com.