The Traveling Steve's

Exploring Napa on our Own: Charles Krug and V. Sattui

As Steve (DOS) and I were in Napa for 5 days, we had a couple “free days” where we weren’t taking a wine tour with Platypus, which allowed us to go to a couple wineries and lunches on our own. In this post we will visit Charles Krug and V. Sattui Wineries, followed by a wonderful dinner at Cole’s Chop House in downtown Napa.

We started our day in Napa with a full breakfast at the on-site restaurant in our Marriott Napa Hotel. In addition to starting off the day right, you definitely don’t want to go wine tasting on an empty stomach! As we were going on our own today (vs taking a tour) DOS was the designated driver, and while he sipped the wines during the tastings, he took just a swig, and then poured the remainder in my glass. It worked for me; I got nearly twice as much vino! The first of two wineries we visited today was Charles Krug, the oldest Estate Winery in Napa, dating back to 1861.

Of all the wineries we visited in Napa and Sonoma on this trip, I think Charles Krug was my overall favorite. Unlike most of the wineries, the tasting fee included a nice and private tour of the estate grounds, vineyards, production facilities as well a a sit down wine tasting with charcuterie board, wine, and bottled water!

We started our tour at 10am in the main tasting room where we were comfortably seated in the large, high ceiling and wine-themed room. As it was 10am on a weekday, we were the first customers, and had the added advantage of having a private tour and tasting at our table, although there was a large bar as well which was not being used while we were there. Our wine host was named Trent (Napa actually calls the hosts “wine educators”, but I prefer host as it’s more personal and less ‘school like’), and he was very friendly, knowledgeable and served us as our pace. Trent first offered us a glass bottle of water and a wine glass (which we would use shortly), while he welcomed us and explained the tour/tasting sequence of events to us. Classy beginning in a great setting!

Charles Krug Estate Winery has quite an interesting history going back to 1861 with Charles Krug himself, and since 1943, the Mondavi Family has owned and built upon the legacy that Charles Krug had started. You can read more of the history and see a video here, which links to their website. Trent offered us a tasting of white wine as we toured the estate, and switched to a red wine when we got to the vineyards!

After the extensive indoor and outdoor tour, we returned to the tasting room, where we had a wonderful sit-down tasting of their premium red wines. Unlike any of the other wineries we visited on this trip, Charles Krug also included a nice Charcuterie platter which paired nicely with the wines.

Trent asked if we were familiar with the wines of Charles Krug, and I told him I really enjoyed their Generations wine for special occasions. We had first been introduced to Charles Krug’s Generations a couple years ago at Capital Grille’s Generous Pour Event, and it remains one of my favorite Napa Valley wines. Trent would serve us Generations, while explaining the name behind it (literally refers to the four generations of the Mondavi Family), and even more premium wines after that!

Trent even poured a Malbec at our request (which wasn’t on the tasting menu) as we were curious how the Napa Malbec’s were compared to the wonderful Malbec’s in Mendoza where we’ve been several times. The Napa Malbec was very nice, but different from Mendoza’s he explained, I’m guessing due to the different soil (rocky soil) in Mendoza where it thrives.

We bought some of the Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignons to take with us, and also joined their wine club as well. Wine clubs are a tricky thing with us living in Florida due to the hot summer months and shipping, but here as in some other wine clubs we belong too, the wineries ship around our schedule and call or text us prior to shipping. (You also have to have an adult signature receive the wine at home as well, so we need to make sure we’re not traveling when it arrives.) We would later bring the 2016 Limited Release Cold Springs Cabernet to dinner with us that evening at Cole’s as seen further down in this post. We also took a selfie with our host Trent before heading out. Thanks Trent; you were an awesome “Host Educator”! (Updated after we got home to Florida: Trent actually had sent us a handwritten thank you note which was in the mail stack when we got home. That’s class. Thanks again!)

After an awesome visit at Charles Krug, we left there around noon and were ready for lunch. We had not made any lunch reservations, so we decided to go to V. Sattui winery as we had a scheduled wine tasting there at 2pm, and they also have a huge deli where we could get lunch, and bring it outside to the picnic tables.

It’s been years since I’ve been to V. Sattui, and even way back then it was a bustling busy place due to the many wines they serve and huge gourmet deli facilities. V. Sattui is still busy, but as we were there on a weekday, it was quite comfortable crowd-wise, unlike the crazy busy weekends we were told where it’s jam packed.

We first checked in for our 2pm tasting and explained we wanted to have lunch, and our host said we could have our lunch first, and then return we were done and have our tasting, not needed to wait until 2pm. As it was only 12:15pm, we had an early ‘picnic lunch’, before returning to the podium to inquire about our now adjusted wine tasting time. We ended up having our wine tasting around 1pm, which really worked out well for us instead of waiting around another hour for it.

We went in the huge deli and wine shop with several others who had the same idea. V. Sattuii is one of the few wineries that offers a deli or restaurant, and their gourmet selection had a wide variety of choices for just about anyone.

DOS and I had a nice and leisurely deli-style lunch outdoors on the picnic tables that were mostly shaded by the trees and overlooking the vineyards. It was a beautiful and another warm winter day in Napa, and the food was just what we needed.

After lunch we had our wine tasting in another area of the property with a friendly lady who said we were fun and really enjoyed serving us! We do try to be happy and fun people! We tried several nice red wines, and as as Charles Krug, DOS only had a sip of each before pouring the rest of his vino in my glass. Again, more wine for me! The area where we had the wine tasting was reserved just for the tastings and was also well shaded not only with trees, but umbrellas and was decorated with flowers and sat directly adjacent to the vineyards.

Our peaceful wine tasting was ‘interrupted’ by the Napa Valley Wine Train, as its loud whistle sounded and the train stopped right across the street from the vineyard. Actually we love the Wine Train, but are not doing it this trip as they only have the wine dinners on the weekends right now, which is what we have done before a couple of times and loved it. We could have done the lunch wine train trip, but the timing was not good with our other Platypus Tours and a couple things such as this we wanted to do on our own time. Too bad the wine train can’t go all the way across the country like we did going to California this trip on the California Zephyr! A wine lounge car would be awesome!

Before leaving, we bought 4 bottles of wine to bring home, as well as a cap and a square tile with the winery name on it to add to our collection.

We then headed back to the hotel around 2:15pm or so, which was much earlier than we had planned, but worked out well as we could relax a bit (and nap!) before heading out for a big dinner at Cole’s Chop House at 7:15pm. We had eaten at Cole’s a couple times on previous visits to Napa Valley and were really looking forward to going there again.

Although Cole’s was only 3 miles or so away in downtown Napa, we took Uber there and back so there were no worries having wine with dinner and driving back home in the dark. Like most Napa/Sonoma area restaurants, Cole’s allows you to bring your own bottle of wine, paying only a corkage fee of $30. They will even waive the corkage fee if you buy a bottle there, which we did on our last visit, buying an inexpensive bottle of white for our appetizer, and then using the expensive Cabernet we brought with us for the main course and dessert.

On this visit, we brought a bottle of the Charles Krug 2016 Limit Edition Cabernet Sauvignon (Cold Springs) we had bought earlier in the day. Obviously at Cole’s (or anywhere for that matters) you want to bring a nice bottle to make use of the corkage fee, and preferably a bottle the restaurant doesn’t carry, which we checked their wine list prior to going to ensure it wasn’t served there. Our server was glad to bring us nice Riedel glasses and decanted our wine for us with pleasure.

We sat on the upper level of Cole’s, which has high ceilings with the ‘balcony’ level overlooking the main level. Although Cole’s was very busy for a Tuesday night, our section was quiet and felt a bit more private than the busier down stairs level which also had a bar.

Plus we could peek at the open-air kitchen preparation from the stairs leading to the second level.

We had a wonderful and leisurely dinner at Cole’s, and once again it was a wonderful night of dining, and it was as nice as we remembered from our last visit there a few years ago.

We Uber’d back home to the Marriott, and rested well after such a full day. Tomorrow is another Platypus tour day! Good Night!

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