This starts our second day in SF. We don’t leave until 6pm tomorrow.
So, we got up at 5:45 and walked the deck. It was a little brisk and very windy, but nothing like the previous day at sea. We did roughly 30+ minutes and then got ready for our trip to the wine country. The previous evening, we put in an order for a room service breakfast that showed up right on time at 7:30, so we could finish getting ready and eat before leaving for our adventure.
Julie had booked us on a private group tour – Napa Valley Wine Country Tours. She did research using Trip Advisor and it was highly ranked. This was the first and probably last time that she will use Trip Advisor. It was scheduled to last 8 hours and were to be picked up in front of the Hard Rock Café on Pier 39 at 8:40. We left at 8 and made it in plenty of time.
The driver showed up on time, checked us in, and we were told to board the bus. We got on the bus and it was configured with the seats against the outside bus windows (with an aisle down the middle) and you sat facing the other window. Ok, this was just the start of what was a very, very strange day. I’m not 100% sure how to explain it all, but I’ll give some highlights. We knew it was going to be weird when the driver (whose name sounded like “soccer” but not spelled that way) said that we were on a party bus to the wine country.
Out of the 27 passengers, there were five of us that were roughly the same age. The rest, well, were in their 20’s and 30’s and they clearly understood that this was a party bus. The plan was to visit four wineries, do tastings in each, have lunch at winery number 3 and then return.
We knew it was strange when it started with the millennials constantly taking selfies. Making different faces, different poses, different people, taking the pictures and laughing. It was so different.
We stopped at a vista near the Golden Gate Bridge.
The first winery was run by the Jacuzzi family (and owned by Cline). Yes, they were the inventors of the Jacuzzi tub. The wines were excellent (mostly Italian types of wines) and the building was really cool. Including lots of artifacts of original Jacuzzi equipment from when it was first invented. They made like 20 different kinds of wines, mostly buying grapes from farmers around the valley.
The second winery was Nicholson Ranch Winery on 40 acres. They only grow chardonnay and pinot noir grapes and only produced 4 wines (two types of each). They use dry farming and we learned a ton about how they grow their grapes and make their wines. They were very good wines and it was a very impressive operation. One problem – this was the first place that charged a “tasting fee”. We had to pay $15 each just to get maybe an ounce of each of the 4 wines. That being said, their wines were also excellent and were priced at $55-60/bottle. When we were last in Napa/Sonoma area (maybe 30 years ago), they never had these fees, but apparently, this is now the norm (they waived the fee at the Jacuzzi place). Apparently since so many tours come on a daily basis from San Francisco the wineries started charging tasting fees to defray the costs since most are not buying.
So, the party was starting as the people got more lubricated. The driver forced it to happen by making everyone dance down the aisle to exit the bus (starting from the rear of the bus). What some of the youngsters did was, uh, I don’t know how to describe it. It was crazy.
Our next winery was Madonna Winery. Another $10 fee. The best wine was their rose, and we bought a bottle to have with lunch. The lunch was ok (turkey sandwiches on a bun the size of Texas), and the people were getting louder and louder.
More craziness ensued as we went to the last winery. We both were wined out and didn’t bother with the tasting. This one had a fee of $20. Wine was now being opened on the bus and passed around. The music was very loud and there was partying going on!!!!
One of the couples was from Australia, and it turns out that he gave the driver $50 to stop at a store on the way back and get several cases of beer for everyone. At that store, several passengers got off and bought even more bottles of wine (approximately 10-1.5 liter bottles) and brought them onto the bus, opened them and passed them around for all to share. The last hour driving back to SF was chaos. We ended up getting back on board the ship a bit before 6pm. Yes, it was an incredibly long day.
We got 6:45pm reservations at another specialty restaurant called “Tastes.” It is up on deck 12, in an area that used to have a swimming pool that they converted into a kind of inside/outside eating area. It is very informal, where they serve have a fixed menu of small plates (tapas) and you eat family style, sampling several different kinds of foods. Before we went up to eat, we stopped by the Galaxy Lounge where they were showing the NBA finals game 5 between Golden State and Cleveland on three giant screen TVs. There were maybe 50 people there watching and cheering.
At dinner, we shared a Garden Greens and Goat Cheese salad, an Alsatian Tart, a Chimichurri Steak and Bread and Butter Wagyu Beef Sliders (sorry, no pictures of the last two).
Julie had Bananas Foster for dessert. It was all unbelievably great and we are looking forward to eating there again in a couple days.
After dinner, we tried to watch the movie “Why Him?”, but we were just too tired so we went back to our room and hit the sack.