It was our last full day in the Bay Area and Sunday Brunch at the Bay Grille was the perfect way to start off the morning. I decided on a Denver Omelet with sausage, croissant, and blueberry blintz. I love blintzes, especially with blueberries, one of my weaknesses! They also had a great selection of muffins from blueberry to oat bran to an almost coffee cake like muffin with a streusel on topping. The aroma alone was divine! Fresh fruit, yogurt, along with cereal rounded out a delectable array of selections.
- Travel tip: Gold Hhonors and higher receive free breakfast every day of your stay. The registration staff will give you coupons upon check in.
In the late morning, we drove across the Bay Bridge to AT&T Park to meet our tour bus to experience the V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena, CA, part of the Napa Valley Wine Country. The two-hour luxury coach ride to and from was so relaxing. On the way there, I was able to capture scenic shots of seemingly endless vineyards stretching across the hills. I can see why thousands upon thousands visit Napa Valley. It’s definitely not just for the wine but being able to awaken your other senses as well. I missed a great photo op of the largest Jack Rabbit I had ever seen. At first I thought I was looking at a dog, until it hopped across the field with those unmistakable rabbit ears held high.
We arrived at our destination and were led to a beautiful courtyard where Tom Davies, the President of V. Sattui Winery, welcome us with a toast of Sauvignon Blanc. Tasting notes: bright citrus flavor with a crisp finish. Food pairing: Seafood linguine, summer fruit salad. After our toast, we headed into the Barrel Room to taste more wines and have a quick snack of fruits, olives, sliced cured meats, cheese, and artisan bread. The event was flawless with 3 tasting stations and high boys all around so the guests could mingle.
We were taken in groups of 20 on a tour of the grounds. The tour was led by John Winkelhaus, II, Vice President of Operations & General Manager. It is a joy to listen to people who are passionate about wine and know the history of the wine they make. John is a walking encyclopedia of wine, wine-making, grapes, and Napa Valley itself. I would unofficially call him a “professor of wine”. Italian winemaker Vittorio Sattui started making wines in 1882 after moving to San Francisco with his wife, Kattarina. In 1885, his wine-making reputation grew and began making wine full-time. In 1920, Prohibition almost ended the winery and it was dormant for the next 60 years. Dario Sattui stayed true and picked up where his great-grandfather left off. Between 1972 and 1976, construction began on the winery to bring it up to date. In 1985, the beautiful stone winery was built and still is as beautiful as it was meant to be. We started in the vineyards where John showed us the different grapes that were growing and we got to taste them too. We ended our tour back in the Barrel Room. I decided to have a taste of the 2013 Moscato. Tasting notes: light-bodied, slightly carbonated, and mildly sweet. It was served perfectly ice cold which was a relief after being in the sunny vineyard.
It was past lunch time and we still had some time to kill before our departure. The Marketplace, Deli & Gift Shop are not typical of the wineries that I have been to. The deli is ultra-gourmet. The Sliced Tri-tip and Cheddar Panini was awesome! The bread was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The cheese and juices from the beef seeped into the bread so nothing was wasted. We also got a side of their Seafood Salad. The calamari and shrimp were perfectly cooked and tender. The fresh vegetables were crisp and sweet. Just a touch of lemon juice and EVOO made it perfect. We found a picnic bench outside under a shady oak tree and munched away. We people watched as some sat under trees and enjoyed the shade and cool breeze, while others had blankets spread over the lawn and children played as their parents relaxed with a glass of wine. The grounds are beautifully maintained and provided a perfect place to sip and contemplate.
The ride back to AT&T Park was relaxing. Everyone on the bus was really mellow. As we passed by Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo, CA, I was struck by a moment of nostaligia. I had not been there since the mid-1990s. We might have to make a trip back up there to visit again. As we returned to our point of origin, I realized that it was just an amazing day that ended too soon.
Since it was our last night, we decided to stay in Berkeley for dinner. Another restaurant recommendation from my boss was Gather. Gather offers a distinctive approach to California cuisine. They design their menus with an even balance of vegetable and omnivore dishes, and cook with both old-world/rustic and modern culinary techniques. The vision started in 2001 with Eric Fenster and Ari Derfel and Gather opened on December 15, 2009. It is located across the street from UC Berkeley on Oxford Street. The interior is very natural and you get the “farm to fork” feeling once inside. The one line that kept running through my head was, “There is this guy that invented a car that runs on water, man!” from That 70’s Show.
Kale Salad is served with carrots, pumpkin seeds, capers, and Fiscalini cheese. The kale was braised a little and almost tasted like cooked spinach, but still very fibrous. I think it might be better with chopped raw kale inside. The capers added a little salty and pickle-like flavor to the kale. The cheese was a little too light in flavor for me. The kale completely overpowers it. The carrots added a natural sweetness to balance to the dish. Rating: 3.5/5
Pork Belly served with beluga lentils, fried Felton Acres egg, and Treviso chili. This was a fantastic combination of flavors – tender and slightly salty pork belly; bright orange, creamy egg yolk, and starchy lentils. I called it a re-invented “Pork and Beans” or “Bacon and Eggs”. Every ingredient played a perfect balancing act with each other. Rating: 5/5
Roasted Half Chicken served with buttermilk polenta, greens, and heirloom tomato panzanella. Chicken was perfectly cooked – tender and juicy. The polenta was more like home-cooked grits but a little unrefined. The hulls were incorporated into the polenta which gave it an almost “cream of wheat” flavor. The panzanella should be served on the side so that it is not sandwiched between the hot chicken and warm polenta. It would help to keep the salad from getting soggy. Rating: 4.5/5
Lindencroft Farm’s Mint Chip Ice Cream with spring press olive oil was fantastic! It was creamy and velvety. You can feel the fresh cream coat your tongue with rich, decadent flavor. The mint is not artificial. The flavor and scent are as fresh as if you picked it from the garden. The chocolate is subtle but added with finesse to the ice cream. Rating: 4.5/5
Thanksgiving Coffee from Fort Bragg, CA made the base for my Macchiato. It’s strong and will definitely perk you up. Caramel -like flavors are imparted for a foamy smoothness on the palate. It is almost like a coffee liqueur with just the essence of espresso. Rating: 4/5
It is with sadness that we packed our suitcases for our return to Southern California. It seemed that our days there just evaporated too quickly. San Francisco is the “City by the Bay” that holds more travel adventures for the future.
For more information:
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Berkeley Marina
200 Marina Blvd
Berkeley, CA 94710
V. Sattui Winery
1111 White Ln
St. Helena, CA 94574
2200 Oxford St
Berkeley, CA 94704