Napa Valley Weekend

Slim Paley photo

napa valleySlim Paley photo

I‘m baaack!

Were you worried??!

I know… I should have called…

Things have been a little hectic around here, and as usual, the best laid plans will go awry when you least expect it.

The good news was that my husband and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary by going to Napa Valley over the weekend.

Other than a couple of very quick (well, as quickly as you can dine at The French Laundry!) evening trips over the years, we hadn’t visited the valley since before we had our children.

Now, we have two graduations this month, one from college, the other from high school.

HOW did that happen??

It was, indeed, time to drink some wine!

Napa, CASlim Paley photo

It was a perfect couple of days, with turquoise skies and gloriously sultry weather.

Slim Paley photo

Salmon tartare at Bouchon

We began with a scrumptious lunch at Bouchon   As long time readers know, one of my favourite things about traveling or just dining out in general is getting to be a butterfly (so much nicer than a fly ) on the wall and ease dropping  catching the odd word here & there from neighbouring tables. If that’s not possible, usually not the case given my supersonic hearing, I’m compelled to strike up conversations just to garner more info. What can I say? I’m a curious person, or rather, I’m a person who is curious.  In Bouchon we sat beside a lovely elderly lady who had been lunching at Bouchon every week since the original restaurant opened. She always orders red vermouth and was enjoying delicious looking breaded escargot. Her companion offered for us to try some, which was very kind but my husband declined. Whatupwiththat?

Barn, Napa, CASlim Paley photo

I fell in love with a million places, including this big barn house, which had the most beautifully patina-ed metal roof, though it doesn’t show up well in the photo.

Slim Paley photo

raw oystersSlim Paley photo

Sweet oysters at Bouchon.

Used to hate them now I love them.

Just like martinis; never give up- you have to keep working at it.

a delicious light white to go with lunch.

wild red rosesSlim Paley photo

The roses and the trees in the Napa Valley are BEYOND.  B E Y O N D   I tell you.

 My particular favourites were the magnificent Deodar Cedars and the deciduous oaks which we do not really see here in Santa Barbara, though I do spot them in Ojai.

As it happens, I am planting a new Deodar next week.

little white house, NapaSlim Paley photo

There were endless charming houses like this to stop and photograph but traffic was very busy, being Cinqo De Mayo weekend,  and there’s only so many times you ask your husband to stop for a photo op. so most of these were taken from a slow moving car.

You think it’s easy being Mr. Slim Paley?! 🙂

gnocchiSlim Paley photo

We had dinner one night at “Bottega” which was very good, in particular, the giant potato dough gnocchi stuffed with spinach, ricotta, black truffles and lastly, a poached egg hidden within that bursts to perfection when you cut the gnocchi open.

ivy clad buildingSlim Paley photo

Tra Vigne

A wonderful old “Wonderful Drug Store” embedded in the sidewalk just off the main street in St. Helena’s.

Slim Paley photo

and I don’t know if this slightly irked peacock coloured bird made one too many visits to the “Wonderful Drug Store” or I’ve become ‘The Bird Whisperer’ but I think I could have sat on him and he wouldn’t have moved. I suppose he could have also been to a tasting..

vintage typewriters, art

We returned to The Hess Collection where I was thrilled to see “Homage”, the fiery typewriter by artist Leopoldo Maler,  still there after all these years.

The typewriter is an homage to the artist’s uncle, a well known journalist killed for the inflammatory content of his political essays, I assume in Argentina (Maler was born there  in 1937).  But of course the beauty of art is that it’s subjective and open to personal interpretation and this piece really resonates with me.  It’s such a literal yet ephemeral symbol of the power of words, the struggle of writers and the sheer ‘fire of creativity’.

andy goldsworthySlim Paley photo

I was also very taken with “Surface Tension” (1991).  This floor to ceiling installation by artist Andy Goldsworthy  is made entirely of leaf stalks from a Horse Chestnut tree, wetted, then pinned together with Hawthorn thorns. The thorns hold the entire piece to the wall, ceiling and floor- no glue or hardware is used!

Patience, much??! 

white wisteria Slim Paley photo

The white wisteria arbor at The Hess winery, Napa Valley..

Oh, yes, they do make nice wine there too

Our Tasting Steward Anthony helped us make some selections to take home.

To be honest, neither of us are exactly wine connoisseurs.

OK, that’s putting it mildly.

My husband barely drinks and my wine tasting vocabulary goes a little something like this;

“I like this one”

“This one’s good too

“Mmmm, smells delicious and tastes even better”

“Why does his glass have more in it?”

“Hello, come to Mama”


“Can I get a flask for the car?? My husband is driving”


Learning about wine will be something I do when I really grow up.

Slim Paley photo

We made the trek to “Artesia” vineyards & winery designed  by architect Domingo Triay.  The building is beautiful and from the outside melds almost seamlessly into the mountaintop, allowing spectacular views of the valley below while maintaining a discreet, unassuming profile.  Unfortunately, I was unimpressed with the interior, as well as the ambience, although to be fair it was extremely busy, but I felt like I was in a World’s Fair pavilion rather than a winery.

 Of course that didn’t stop me from buying some wine, but that might have been because Daniel,  our “pourer”  was adorable,

plus he had that broken pupil thing in one eye like David Bowie.

Slim Paley photo

Slim Paley photo

We stayed at the Calistoga Ranch,  well tucked away and rustically  gorgeous-just like being in a tree house..

The French Laundry, CASlim Paley photo


Lastly, to really celebrate our 24 (!) years of life, love, kids, friends, family and food together

We revisited “The French Laundry”

Never have the words “laundry” and “pleasure” been so closely related.

We arrived suitably starved with excited anticipation at precisely 8:15pm

We rolled out at 1:00am.

May I add  there was a table of about 10 people there when we arrived, who were still present (and sitting upright) when we left.

no joke.

In homage to the night and Thomas Keller, I left my camera in my bag, but trust me when I say it’s always a pleasure…

and the lump on my husband’s shin for daring to suggest we skip the last course has begun to subside.

Here’s to year 25!




  1. I voted for ya!!!! Happy anniversary! You crack me up with your commentary. The food looked devine and also the wine. The PLACE you stayed, be still my heart. XO, Pinky

  2. We missed you but how lovely to celebrate such a milestone in Napa. And you have the same kind of wine vocabulary as me! Cheers to 24 years!

  3. So timely, SP! I am in the Napa Art Festival in August and we are finalizing our little trip. Love everything about Napa Valley except … the heat … in August! Thank you for the wine and dine reviews.
    Most of all, congratulations and best of well-wishes to you and Mr. SP! You are the pair that I wished lived next door! Love you both!
    xoxo, Chris

  4. Happy Anniversary!
    The weekend must have been wonderful and the food looks scrumptious and I cannot believe your Calistoga Ranch treehouse!

    That little blue bird is quite amazing, other than peacocks I have never seen one like that here. Maybe it had been tippling if it was so laid back.

  5. Slim I will never forget dinner at The French Laundry for my 4oth Birthday ; as well as the wonderful vineyards and staying at The Inn at Spanish Bay! Happy Anniversary!

    I have a feature Interview on my site with Tina from The Enchanted Home…


    Art by Karena

  6. Beautiful! Do you know what material “The French Laundry” sign is made of? It has such a unique look.

  7. Thanks you for sharing your beautiful trip! I want to go there right now. But I have to go pick up my daughter so will return to these beautiful pictures when I return. Thanks Slim!

  8. wine…need to know 4 things,

    Oysters, I’m from Nebraska and I love them..they taste like the ocean, my husband is from Seattle and just buys them for me….won’t go near them…whats up with that? Love your blog.

  9. just voted for you…. thank you for sharing your beautiful posts and pictures with us…. big hug from Croatia, Europe….. Indira

    • Croatia! Wow- so want to go there! My older son went a few years ago and said it was beautiful. Thank you for voting from so far away Indira 🙂

  10. I too am a curious person.

    Unlike Mr. Slim Paley, my Hubby has trouble even “slowing the car” for my photo ops. (I once successfully captured a politico sign out along I-5’s “dust bowl” area at 85 mph!)

    “Surface Tension” – Wow! I will be back to see your photo again!

    Congratulations on 24 years – we’re just a bit ahead of you at 27 (I think).

    I am the wine “Coiffer” Meaning that I (can) drink wine rapidly. And Hubby is the wine “Recaller”. (the guy who reads the list and orders what I will “like”)

    Thank you for sharing your weekend – Napa is climbing back to the top of my to do list again – if I can find that piece of paper….


  11. Oh, there you are! Loving the look of the Gnocci – super yum. Happy dayz to you both….B:)

  12. Bon anniversaire to the most wonderful couple!….Your blog shows us a lot of things that I want to do….I don’t see any problems to eat an escargot so why your husband declined????….Ahahahahaha!….About the calm that we can feel in your pictures,it gives us a lot of dreams…Thank you for sharing…I would like to be selfish and not share the potato/gnocchi/egg truffle meal…Looks fantastic!…..Merci and long life to you and your wonderful couple and family!….XXXX

  13. Congratulations on 24 years of marriage AND the two upcoming graduations. Well done, Mom! Thanks for sharing your trip to Napa Valley with your gorgeous photos.
    I voted for you. If you posted again before the 14th, it would be a reminder to vote again. You know we always love your posts!

  14. How i love Napa Valley! We were there 2 years ago and I just didnt’ want to leave, normally am ready to return home sweet home but that place transfixes me unlike any other. Your pictures are gorgeous! We loved Bouchon and Bottega too, have to say having been to The French Laundry twice, we just were a little underwhelmed but i am glad I went, crossed it off my bucket list….lol. Its a magical place, thats for sure! Thanks for sharing and wishing you both a most happy and health filled anniversary!

  15. Happy Anniversary! I love going to Napa and hope to make it to The French Laundry for my husband’s 50th. So glad to see someone else appreciates wine the same way I do…Congrats also on the two graduations. My oldest son graduates high school in a few weeks. I still can’t believe that’s happening! Welcome back – we missed you.

  16. Many years ago- my husband went to Cal, yours truly was at UCLA. I flew up often to visit, and spent many a Sunday afternoon whiling away in Napa. My, how it’s changed! I voted for you- thank you for a wonderful slice of much needed California on this steamy Texas morning.

  17. Congratulations to you, Miss Slim… and Mr. Slim! 🙂 the “Bottega” gnocchi looks AMAZING! (said in my best Oprah give-away voice)
    Also just voted for you!

    • Babe- what am I to do with you??! It’s imperative to read all the way to the bottom of my posts! God knows they haven’t been coming around that often of late!

  18. Fantastic pictures…we’ve not been to Napa (or Sonoma County for that matter)–being Californians we always just figure we’ll get there eventually so we don’t ever plan a getaway there. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of your special getaway…we have our 34th coming up in September and maybe we’ll follow suit! I highly recommend that you visit Firestone Winery’s tasting room (Los Olivos)…my daughter Jessica works in the tasting room on weekends and is very good at her job…you’ll learn about wine tasting from the cutest and most unpretentious young lady (maybe I’m biased?) She is very good at her job. Mention that her mama sent you and you’ll get the royal treatment 🙂

    • Thanks Lina- I’m going to visit there and I will definitely ask for Jessica!
      Other readers take note! (we might get bigger pours if we “know” Mom 🙂 )

  19. Slim,
    I cast my vote and will try to remember to vote a few more times between now and the 14th…you deserve to win.
    I love Napa, with St. Helena being my favorite. I’ve been to Bouchon in other areas but not Napa and I’ve never been to French Laundry—I’ve only heard wonderful things and when we refinance our home I’ll make a reservation. 🙂
    Have you ever been to Newton Vineyard? It’s a reservation only thing but so worth the visit.
    Fun trip, Happy Anniversary and congratulations on the 2 upcoming graduations. Dang, these kids grow up too fast!

  20. Thanks for the laugh…here I thought you were the suave world traveled woman that could take command of any situation…and to hear/read your commentary on wine selection made me spit my coffee out! hilarious…that is ME…i do not like people asking me what wine I would like because I always want to say “um, a good one”. I agree with your assessment of Artesia..we saw it the year it opened and I was not impressed…since when is the traffic in Napa anything but busy?? Sonoma is pleasant anytime 🙂 Happy Anniversary! oh, wait…the comment about your husband THINKING about skipping out on the last course –priceless…poor Slim!

  21. Welcome Back. Just voted for you Slim. Belated Happy Anniversary. Thanks for sharing your truly wonderful trip to the Napa Valley. It brought some well needed SUN to rainy Dublin. Keep your Blogs coming.

  22. Happy Anniversary Slim. I imagine it isn’t easy being Mr. Slim but I am equally sure it is highly entertaining. We are off to celebrate at our son’s graduation from med school so I will will take your advice………..try more martini’s. There is bound to be one I like in there somewhere. Much love XO

    • Congratulations on your son’s graduation from medical school!
      Is he the cute guy in those ‘Dude Ranch’ photos you posted awhile back?! A W E S O M E.

  23. I just voted for you. Good luck, and happy anniversary. I love Napa. Did you have an opportunity to see Chateau Montelena? It is a beautiful winery with the best wine ever! (Bottle Shock) I have stayed at Calistoga Ranch and eaten at Tra Vigne, but not the French Laundry. I have read it is fabulous. Then again, all of Napa is fabulous in my opinion. The gnocchi looks scrumptious.

  24. Happy anniversary Slim.
    Wonderful pictures and comments.
    It looks like a full summer ahead for you and yours, enjoy.

    B J

  25. Very beautiful and ever so yummy blog. The oysters ,the tartare, every shot stunning.
    I will be browsing through my French Laundry Coffee table book today.

  26. I’m dying over this post. It is basically a recap of our trip from last year.. absolutely LOVE napa and everything you did and everywhere you went! and this post is a fav!!

  27. The first picture looks like the door to the Secret Garden! And the Artesa building looks like hobbits built it!

    This looks so lovely, I’m glad you had a happy anniversary! And congrats to your new grads!

    I looooove the typewriter, def have to share that. 🙂

  28. First – Happy Anniversary. Second – As I’m reading through the blog I’m noticing the scrolling bar on the right side of my screen and I’m thinking to myself – she’s not leaving much space for the food photos from The French Laundry. And alas, you deferred, so I will delight in the Bottega and Bouchon. By chance did you hit the Bouchon Bakery in Yountville for breakfast? The croissants are divine – and the line extends out the door. Thanks for another delightful post – I’m going to go vote again.

    • We did not hit the bakery Kris- as you said, the line out the door was far too long unfortunately. Thank you for voting!

  29. Now I want to go to the Napa… Amazing… I knew it was good, but your photos are superb… Next year… I have voted and shall continue to do so… xv

  30. You are coming up quickly in the voting! I tried to cheat – I MEAN be supportive – and vote again (and again), but silly rules. I was locked out after my first vote. Good luck!

    Ohhhh…I loved this post. First, congratulations on 24 years! W-o-w. Such a wonderful testimony to family. Second, congratulations on having the most fabulous taste in the world. I LOVE all the Napa places you highlighted – especially that tree house hotel.

    We celebrated our 25th in Napa a couple of years ago, and we loved it so much we said we should always go back. And so…we are! We’ll be heading that way in August and I am taking detailed notes from the “Slim Syllabus”.

    And finally, congratulations on two graduates. Although, having 2 nearly-grown sons myself (21 and 19) I’m not so sure I’m feeling exactly celebratory. Sigh. I commiserate with the empty nest syndrome. Oh well, guess it just gives more opportunities to check out tree house hotels in a little slice of California heaven!

    P.S. I am SO ordering that gnocchi at Bottegas when I go.

  31. Happy Anniversary……..and the very best wishes for year 25.26.27 and so on. Loved the blog on Napa. Brings back wonderful memories of our trips to that wonderful region.
    Voted for you and will vote daily until the 14th. You’re number 1 in my book.

  32. Happy anniversary! And thanks for bringing us along! Looks like it was yet another fabulous, mouth-watering trip. It’s on my bucket list for the near future so was happy to see your post. Your wine vocab cracked me up and somehow seems soooo familiar. 🙂 I voted and will repeat! Good luck!

  33. What a beautiful part of the world! like you I talk to strangers, if you want to embaress your children that’s the way to do it! can we vote more than once ?

  34. What a beautiful place to spend such an important milestone (having been married for almost 25 years, I believe every year is an important milestone!).
    Thank you for sharing you gift for taking gorgeous pictures with us.
    I always feel like I’ve been on a little vacation after visiting you here.

    Happy Anniversary to you and your honey.


  35. Happy Anniversary! I just had my 25th, and my husband and I are going to Gary Danko in San Francisco this week – I can’t wait!

  36. I was missing you Slim!!! Beautiful photos of Napa. I’m busy smoking salmon and enjoying the beautiful weather. Thanks for sharing.

  37. At the risk of sounding like the teacher on “Romper Room” (omg-how much am I dating myself with that?)
    I see;
    Pinky, Dawn, Dawne, and Mary …JimT-so nice to have a boy in the class… Ruth, Pat, “SalGal”, Patricia & Rhonda-Rhonda, what a cute headband! …there’s Karen B., Victoria, Jackie, Kris & Vicki, of course Peggy, Phyllis, Susan C., S.M.R. and last, but never least, Spirit!
    Thank you all so much for voting- It only took 2 seconds, right?! I am much appreciative and you all get gold stars!

    And Thanks everyone for your Happy Anniversary wishes too

  38. Fun post Slim! Congrats on your anniversary. It must feel like you have been through so much with two boys graduating this year!

    Have been to Napa and Sonoma so many times, but your photos make it all look so gorgeous. Can’t wait for another trip.


  39. That post made me dream in so many ways I can’t even count! Truly! Insane natural beauty, wine and more wine, inspiring art (twig thingy is incredible) and food at some of America’s best restaurants? Yes, please. You sure know how to live SP.


  40. Happy Anniversary Slim, looks like you had a wonderful little holiday, gorgeous pictures. I have never been there, think I will put it on my bucket list.

  41. LOVELY PICS:) I really like your blog and I want to follow, do you have twitter or FB??

    If you want some swedish decor inspiration, you can check out my blog:)
    Have a great week.

    LOVE Maria at

  42. Just voted for you! I’ll be sure to do it again tomorrow. I went with Philip to Napa last year and had the best time! Your beautiful photos brought me right back 🙂

Would love to hear from you!