My recent trip to San Francisco was a hybrid, including both leisure time and business meetings. The original seed for the trip was a surprise “milestone” birthday party weekend for a good friend. Our plan was to call in Grandma to look after the kids while my wife and I enjoyed time with our friends (and hopefully some time just the two of us). I have a fair amount of business on the west coast, so decided to bake in two days afterwards for some business meetings.
For the birthday festivities, a large van (or small bus, depending on your perspective) was hired to take our group of about a dozen to three vineyards in Napa. We visited Macauley, Amici and Stag’s Leap. I was familiar with all three vineyards by reputation, but had only had Stag’s Leap wines of the three previously.
The first two stops were completely private, and included lunch at the owner’s house at Amici. A private tour was also arranged at the third stop, Stag’s Leap, and while the tour was private, the tasting portion of our visit was in a reserved section of their main tasting room.
Each of the labels has their own story. Stag’s Leap, of course, is perhaps the most storied of these labels. Within each label, there are a variety of wines, both of different varietal (type of grape) and, within select varietals, different grades.
Macauley’s facilities were little more than a well-appointed house and a nearby shared barrel and bottling facility. All of their fruit is bought, including some from To Kalon (a highly regarded vineyard). Macauley has garnered some attention from Parker with their recent vintages.
Amici has its own private bottling and aging facilities as well as a lovely owner’s residence on-property. They also buy much of their fruit, though are now beginning to grow their own in limited quantities.
Amici’s website: https://amicicellars.com/
We were able to arrange a private lunch from the owner’s chef at Amici. Lunch was served outside on a picture-perfect day. I did not photograph the food, but it was a wonderful offering:
- Salad with Point Reyes blue cheese and warm sautéed mushrooms
- Sliced beef with a rich wine reduction sauce
- Peach dessert
I find the food in nearly all parts of the US to be below New York standards (I know, I know…). This was a definite exception to that rule – my recap of the menu does not do it justice.
Our third stop was at Stag’s Leap. We were able to arrange a private tour in the caves and through parts of their production facility. Whereas our first two stops measured their production in hundreds (perhaps low thousands) of cases, Stag’s Leap measures their production in the hundreds of thousands.
Stag’s Leap’s website: http://www.cask23.com/ (Note that there are two separate producers which use the Stag’s Leap moniker.)
Broadly, the group’s consensus put Amici at the top, Macauley second and Stag’s Leap third. These, of course, are highly subjective rankings.
The social network required to succeed in Napa Valley is mindblowing to me. Upon further consideration, however, I guess that’s the case in nearly any industry.
That evening, we had a catered dinner at our friend’s house. It was very good.
The next day (Sunday), my wife left to return home and I had a free day in San Francisco. After going back to sleep for a bit, I decided I would walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and then hike up into the Marin Headlands for a bit.
I took an Uber car to the south end of the bridge, and then set out on foot across the bridge. The Uber driver was a bit perplexed as the Golden Gate Bridge isn’t normally a destination but rather merely a way across the bay. Once I showed him my camera, he got the message.
The bridge itself is well over a mile and you are but a few feet from the eight lanes of traffic when you walk it. There is a solid fence keeping vehicles in their place, but the fumes and noise are notable. (I’ve run across several of the bridges connecting Manhattan – it is the same here.) Crossing the bridge affords some wonderful vistas of the city, Alcatraz and the bridge itself!
Once I crossed the bridge, I headed west into the Headlands. The area to the west of the bridge has quite a few remnant military facilities. For many years (through the 1940s), there was concern of a water-based attack into San Francisco, and this area served as a last line of defense.
I walked/hiked through here for some time, before calling it quits. My plan was to walk to the east of the bridge to the Cavallo Point hotel and enjoy a post-hike cocktail. I made it, but alas, it was early afternoon on Sunday, and the restaurant, bar and patio were completely packed with brunch-eaters. Instead, I pinged Uber to take me back to the city. Amazingly, they had a car there in five minutes.
Later that day, I planned to visit the Painted Ladies at golden hour. As I got in another Uber car to head to the site, I could see the fog literally rolling in over the hills! What luck! I made it to catch just a glimpse of the city.
While not the ideal photo opportunity that I had hoped, it was interesting to see such an iconic block.
A few of the ladies could use a cosmetic update.
One night, I planned to have dinner at Sanraku. Their Sutter Street location is one of my favorite sushi restaurants in the US, and I visit here nearly every time I’m in town. As luck would have it (or so I thought), they have a second location a block away from the Four Seasons at Metreon. I gave the nearby one a try. It was good, but the experience was solidly below their Sutter Street location.
Sanraku now offers a loyalty points program. So, of course, I signed up. J
The following night, I met an FT’er at the St Francis Yacht Club. Located at the eastern end of the Presidio, this is one of the most well regarded yacht clubs in the country. It served effectively as (perhaps formally) the host club for the most recent America’s Cup races. What a wonderful view and pleasant way to round out a Monday.
After my second day of meetings, I made a stop at In-and-Out burger for a sinful farewell meal, then headed to the airport for the all-to-short redeye home.