We went up to Napa. Again. This time we dragged along Jen’s parents and went to an ever-so-delightful little bed and breakfast right in town. One of the places we visited this time was Castello di Amorosa, which, for those playing the home version of the game, means Castle of Love. Rawr.
It was an actual castle. Some rich dude with an inferiority complex started building it in 1993, yes 1993, hauling a bunch of real bricks and stones from ancient European castles and rebuilding it right here in Napa. It’s only been open in the last decade, and it’s freaking awesome. They have ancient stone walls and turrets, a working chapel and a medieval torture chamber, so Catholics oughta feel right at home, as well as countless underground chambers filled with barrels of wine. You wouldn’t be able to tell that it was all assembled so recently. Anyhoo, we went on a tour of the thing and then drank some wine.
The best part of the day, for me, was a short jaunt over the mountains into Sonoma Valley where we hit the Russian River Brewing Co. I’ve been told they make some of the best beer in the world, and I can’t argue with that point. It was all amazing. Being that I was the only one in the group who seemed to enjoy beer, I took one for the team. After two Pliny the Elder double IPAs and most of a sampler, I was feeling mighty good.
I have never had a sour beer before. Russian River had several that knocked me off my feet. There was one that was aged in Cabernet barrels and another that was aged in Pinot Noir barrels, and they got that sour kick just right. There were so many on the sampler that I couldn’t really tell them apart by name, and remembering them was made even more confusing by the similarity of their names: things like, Consecration, Damnation, Supplication, and so on. Clever, but confusing. The Pliny the Elder was a double IPA that got it completely right. It wasn’t a kick-you-in-the-nuts kind of flavor. Rather, it was the type of double IPA against which all others should be judged. I love my IPAs and especially my doubles, but all others seem to have a unique flavor of their own. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s just that Russian River’s double hit it right on the nose. This is how a double IPA is done.
Yada, yada, yada, we did more wine tasting all around the valley. It never gets old, but I don’t want to repeat myself.
Sunday, we went to Alcatraz. It wasn’t quite as I expected. There was no personally guided tour. Indeed it was too packed inside the cellhouse for such a thing. Instead, you all get headphones with an audio tour which was surprisingly well done. It led you throughout the various cells and halls and administrative portions of the cellhouse, telling bits about the prison’s history. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone visiting. Otherwise, you’re pretty much free to roam around the tiny island, which we also did plenty of.
At the end of the prison tour, in the gift shop, we met an author who was there for a signing who had lived on the island as a kid. She seemed remarkably blasé about the whole thing. Not a good selling point. It was interesting to talk with her a bit about her life as a kid on the island. Every day they caught a ferry to the mainland to go to school. She said she was there during one of the infamous escape attempts in which three prisoners fashioned fake heads out of soap, paint, and hair clippings and either died or got away. But, she recounted the story kinda boringly. Like it was no big deal and she just sat, locked in her room during the whole escapade. I don’t think she sold a lot of books that day.