July 26, 2011

California Vacation 2011 - Part Four

The amazing vacation weather continued on the Wednesday morning of our trip.  Bright blue skies greeted us as we walked out of the hotel to cross the street to breakfast.  It was back to the Barking Dog for a to-go breakfast.  The goal was to make it up to the Sterling winery by mid-morning for the aerial tram ride to the top of the hill.  Our route had us driving over the hills on Trinity Road to the northeast toward St. Helena.  Candice and I mentioned several times on the trip how we wanted to steer clear of the bigger towns and visit small town America.  The winding road over to the Napa valley gave us amazing views of the scenery near small town America!

Napa valley is surrounded by green hills and more wineries as far as the eyes could see.  Is there a way to get a better view of the valley?  An airplane ride would sure to it!  There is another way, as well.  Find your way to the hilltop Sterling Vineyards via their aerial tram!   The commanding white stucco building on the hilltop offers amazing views down the valley and up towards the 4,300 foot tall Mount St. Helena.  We wandered around on the self guided tour and sampled their wines.  The tram ride, tour and tasting are worth the money and effort to visit Sterling.

Tram ride up

View from the aerial tram


Tram ride down

As it approached lunch time we asked for some suggestions from the local at Sterling and they gave as many choices on the high end of the price scale but we decided just to find the closest place we could off the highway near St. Helena.  What we found was Gott's Roadside.  A fun walk up, outside diner that looked to be out of the movies.  Good burgers, sweet potato fries and a milkshake.  Good fuel for more sightseeing!

The town of St. Helena is picture perfect.  Are we sure there are not movie cameras following us around?  This main street and its shops, again, looks just like a movie set.  My one antique store find was vintage aviation travel stickers to add to my old suitcases at home to make them look like I have traveled the world.
St. Helena
Next on the touring was the winery called V. Sattui.  The grounds are covered in lush greenery and flowers.  The buildings are rustic and stone faced with an old world look.  They have a great wine tasting room, gift shop and deli bar.  We escaped the warm afternoon sunshine by visiting the underground wine cellar.

Cellar at V. Sattui

The tour continued on to two more wineries.  We stopped in at Rubicon (another Coppola owned estate) and Robert Mondavi.  Both stops were just for picture taking and a short walk through.  We kept the pace slow and took a few pictures of the scenic views and unique architecture.
Entrance to Rubicon
Robert Mondavi
Our family friends, the Sampson's, that we stayed with on day one, recommended that we make it to dinner at Mustards Grill in Napa.  That place was worth the stop.  Outstanding food.

To wind down the day we drove through the town of Napa to see what the town had to offer.  It has fudge to offer!  The Vintage Sweet Shoppe must have been calling out to us.  The fudge was just the dessert we needed after a day of touring!

The sun was casting longer shadows over the hills as we made the drive back to Sonoma on highway 12/121.  Another fun, full day.  One more full day to come.

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