In January of 2009 I traveled to Napa Valley with Michael Cirino, Andrew Rosenberg, and Brian of A Razor, A Shiny Knife.
Our first stop was in Yountville, to casually drop in on the French Laundry (ya know, just to say hi) and to meet the chefs and tour the kitchen. We were granted the audience because the night before we had re-created the Keller-Achatz 21-course meal (which was designed to celebrate the release of their respective cookbooks), for half the cost and twice as much fun at a borrowed apartment in the Mission District of San Francisco.
After the French laundry, “Fu#%ed our faces,” as Cirino was fond of saying, walked a short distance down the road to Maisonry, a square-stoned structure full of pricey antiques and one particular wine you can’t but anywhere else but for the vineyard itself—Blackbird. We were met by the Wine Director, Thys Tepp, whom I had met at Cavallo Point in Sausalito a month earlier. Thys tasted us through four flights.
We then lunched at La Coupole, he said, as if he thought suddenly he were Hemingway. [Pause]. Actually we lunched at Auberge du Soleil, photographed above—a stately meal, fit for kings, and after successfully serving 21 courses of food, we all felt a little like kings.
Back in St. Helena, we polished off the day with wine and cheese, soaking in the 65-degree weather. On the way back to San Francisco Airport, we made a pitt-stop: In & Out Burger—a first for most of us.
Seven hours later, back in New York, the scent of Napa and mustard flowers were etched into our wine-stained teeth and best pressed tweeds.