Days 41 – 45 Sideways and Byways

San Francisco, CA – Napa, CA – San Francisco, CA

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With my motorcycle safely in the shop, Ali and I decided that we should use our bike-free time to visit our old haunts in Napa Valley and also explore some new vineyards. Napa is obviously a huge epicurean playground. It’s pretty hard to find a bad meal anywhere, and vineyards litter Route 29 with tasting rooms and cellar tours. In fact, my wife and I have probably visited Napa over 10 times in the last 10 years, and during this last trip – I had an epiphany.

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It’s not as great as it used to be.

Now hear me out. It’s still terrific, and if you haven’t gone – you should absolutely check it out. You’ll have a marvelous time and eat like you never had before. But you might have had a better time 10 years ago.

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With the exception of Chimney Rock, Ali and I visited about 6 vineyards that were all good, but not great. That would be fine, except that every vineyard in Napa Valley is now charging $20 – $40 dollars for a tasting flight. Think about that. You’re really paying $20 (or more!) for what amounts to a glass and a half of wine. At the upper end, you’re actually tasting sips of wine that would be cost prohibitive to buy an entire bottle (i.e. at $40 tastings, you’re drinking $150 – $200 bottles of wine), so I guess that’s OK.

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But bear in mind that most tastings in Napa used to be free. And on top of that, none of the wine struck me as that great (not bad, just not great) which was in direct contrast to the platitudes espoused by the tasting room employees. And again, 10 years ago you’d be having the winemaker or owner walking you through their vineyards and talking you through each of their wines. Now it’s an out-of-work actor in a Hawaiian shirt reciting a routine script written by the owner who probably lives in New York regarding the wine you’re drinking.

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Please don’t get me wrong! It’s an amazing time, and I had a ton of fun. But I sort of feel like someone’s Grandpa describing what flying was like in the 1950s on Pan Am versus being crammed onto a Spirit Airways flight to Fort Lauderdale. It’s still a miracle just to have achieved the gift of flight, but we’re sort of talking apples and oranges.

Ali and I had the pleasure of staying in the town of Napa which is located right on the Napa River which now has a lovely boardwalk – ideal to watch to 4th of July fireworks.

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After 2 days of wining and dining, we headed back to San Francisco to pick up the newly renovated Bumblebee. I think you can see in the photos that the repair work was quite an improvement. She’s now ready to finish the drive up the coast and back home to New York. I love that bike so damn much!

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Before

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After

Next stop: Up the West Coast to Portland & Seattle

WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY:

The bloom is off the rose in Napa. I’ve heard numerous wine experts lament the fact that many winemakers now think they can slap a label on a bottle that says Napa Valley and automatically charge $70 a bottle, regardless of quality. The fact is, it’s hard to grow a bad grape there, but it’s starting to get a bit egregious – not that it slowed our consumption one bit.

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