Napa!

So, after we spent three nights in Carmel/Big Sur, we drove 2.5 hours to Napa. Corey and I had never been, but have dreamed of going for a very long time, so our expectations were prettyyy high. I had reached out for recommendations on Instagram months before we went on our trip and I got so many it took us an entire evening to capture and organize all the information! We ended up with a giant excel spreadsheet of Napa winery and restaurant recommendations. If you’re interested in the spreadsheet you can view it here.

Once we got everything down, we started researching every.single.recommendation. That’s right, I googled every single spot — we looked at menus, photos, reviews, prices, etc. From there, I narrowed down the list to my favorites (it was my birthday trip so Corey let me pick ;), and from there my rockstar husband put them all on a map so we could try to make a plan-of-action.

We only had two days in Napa, so we knew we had to be strategic about where we went and how much time we spent at each winery. Now that we’re back, I know that 1-1.5 hours felt like plenty of time at each spot. We definitely could have packed more wineries into our trip (at least on the first day), but we also didn’t want to feel rushed. We also figured we wouldn’t want to drink that much wine, ’cause let’s be honest, after enough wineries, the wine all starts to just blendddd together!

We stayed at the Andaz Napa using our Hyatt Points. The hotel is gorgeous, the staff was amazing and we got upgraded, so we were happy campers! None of the wineries we visited were more than 25 minutes from our hotel, which was great, and there are plenty of delicious and cute restaurants within walking distance. I will say, downtown Napa leaves a lot to be desired in terms of charm. It’s not like it was dirty or ugly, but it didn’t give me the same feeling I got when we were walking around downtown Yountville… Which was… Oh my gosh I never want to leave 😉

Day One: Sonoma

This was our lightest and most leisure day. We had driven over from Carmel that morning, so we didn’t want the agenda to be too packed. Here’s what we did:

Domaine Carneros: We started at the well-known Domaine Carneros (we made reservations ahead of time). This was by far the largest and most touristy of all the wineries we visited, and I have to say I’m glad we got that out of the way at the very beginning. The villa (is that what it is? haha) is absolutely stunning and it looks like you’re in Italy, but aside from that we weren’t overly impressed with the experience or the wine. You definitely feel like you’re just one in a thousand people who come through there each week. It’s not that I wouldn’t recommend stopping here, but I do think there are a lot more hidden gems, so if your agenda is already packed, don’t be too sad to miss this one.FullSizeRenderIMG_7744IMG_7741

Scribe Winery: This was our only other winery for the day, and I’m sooo glad we didn’t have anywhere to rush off to because this is the kind of place you want to sit and stay a while. They just opened up the “hacienda” portion of the winery in February and it took years to restore, and it is so obvious why. I couldn’t stop walking around each gorgeous room and wishing I could just move in! The tasting here is expensive at $60/person, but it does come with some light snacks that are made in-house with farm-to-table ingredients. Between the beautiful setting and the price of the tasting, we were 100% content to hang around Scribe for a few hours enjoying the sun, the views and their amazing rosé. If I had to pick a favorite winery from our entire trip, this would be it. Reservations are required so book as much in advance as you can!IMG_7816IMG_7772IMG_7761IMG_7758IMG_7780IMG_7788IMG_7792IMG_7793IMG_7800IMG_7802

After the wineries we were ready for something heavier to eat so we ventured a few minutes down the road to downtown Sonoma and had a casual lunch at the Sunflower Caffe. It was super laid back, affordable and the food was fresh and delicious! If you don’t have much time, this is a great option for a quick lunch stop.

We ended our day with dinner in downtown Napa (close to our hotel) at Ca’Momi. Really cool space with a good ambiance and we were really pleased with the food. There was a lot of burrata and truffle on the menu — basically two of my favorites, so I left with a full and happy tummy!IMG_7831.JPG

Day Two: Yountville|Saint Helena|Oakville

Bouchon Bakery: We started our day with breakfast and coffee at Bouchon Bakery in downtown Yountville. You guys, Yountville is the cutest. If I were to do it all over, we would’ve stayed there instead of downtown Napa. There was a short line at Bouchon, which we’ve heard is typical, but the food was super delicious and the coffee was great, too!IMG_7842

Ma(i)sonry: Maisonry is walking distance from Bouchon and had been recommended to us, so that was our next stop, and boy am I glad we went in! To be honest, I didn’t realize Ma(i)sonry was a tasting room and not a winery — I guess I didn’t look close enough in my research, I just saw photos of the outdoor space and decided it was a must. Had I known it was a tasting room I probably would’ve passed it up, but I’m so glad we didn’t. I am so bummed I forgot to take down the name of the sommelier that was helping us because he was AWESOME. You know how a person serving you can either make or break an experience? Well, he definitely made it for us. He was super personable, knowledgable and not pretentious at all. We got to try some incredibly amazing cabernets (our favorite) here and their outdoor space is what dreams are made of! Seriously, can I move in? Awesome spot.IMG_7864IMG_7857

Odette: We had pretty much planned (meticulously) every single stop for this day, but when the amazing sommelier from Ma(i)sonry recommended Odette to us and we had a little time to kill before our next reservation, we jumped at the chance to give it a try. It was actually very close to our next stop, so it worked out great. Once again, this winery had an incredible tasting room, the interior design was so beautiful and I was definitely taking inspiration for our dream home! We didn’t have a reservation and they weren’t able to take us on for a tasting when we walked in (they might be reservation only, actually), but they were super kind and let us purchase a glass of wine and enjoy their outdoor space, which is also lovely. I would definitely recommend going and doing the full tasting here if you can get a reservation!IMG_7867IMG_7868

Cliff Lede: After Odette, we made our way to our reservation at Cliff Lede. It was just down the road, but if we had planned Odette into the itinerary, it would have made more sense to do this spot first then Odette, but it wasn’t too out of the way. When we made our reservation, we paid extra to secure a table outside and I’m so glad we did. The indoor tasting room isn’t overly impressive, but their garden area is peaceful and beautiful and a great place to enjoy a leisurely tasting. We had a really wonderful sommelier/server here and he made our experience great. Before traveling to Napa I had heard that it can be very pretentious. Maybe we just got really lucky, but every single spot we went we were met with warm, knowledgable, endearing people. Nobody was snooty or condescending. A pleasant surprise!IMG_7882IMG_7892IMG_7887

After three wine stops we were definitely ready for some food! We made our way over to Oakville Grocery, which had been recommended to us by countless people. It’s a super cute, casual spot where you’ll find delicious sandwiches and other deli type foods as well as really cute souvenirs (like mugs and cutting boards and the like).IMG_7911

After lunch we ventured just a few minutes down the road to Turnbull Wine Cellars. We didn’t have a reservation here, but they were able to take us as a walk-in. We absolutely loved the grounds of this winery, like a rustic Italian garden. They had a fire pit, which would’ve been awesome to sit around had it not been 90 degrees the day we were there! Definitely a cute spot worth visiting and walking around/enjoying your wine in their back garden area.IMG_7934IMG_7918

We knew we didn’t want to be out too late since we were flying out the following morning, so we opted for an early dinner at Farmstead — less than 10 minutes from Turnbull. This spot was super cool and the food was amazing! The cheddar biscuits and ribs are not to be missed! Too bad my phone died before we got there!! 🙁

Before heading out for the airport on our last morning in Napa we walked from our hotel to breakfast at Grace’s Table and it was so delicious! We are definitely breakfast/brunch snobs thanks to Portland’s amazing breakfast scene and Grace’s Table really impressed us (Corey’s chilaquiles especially stole the show!). Highly recommend this cute little restaurant.

Phew! That was a lot! If you have any questions or if you have more Napa recommendations to add to this list — leave them in the comments! Cheers 🙂

{South Africa Day Seven}

Two days in a row! Look at me! hehehe

So, back to the South Africa posts… Our seventh day in South Arica was a fun one! We started our morning with coffee from Deluxe Coffeeworks. If you’re into good coffee (we’re Portlanders, so you know we are…) then you must stop here if you’re ever in Franschhoek. We strolled the adorable downtown (which is basically just one long street) and then headed out for a day of wine tasting. We visited La Motte, Tokara (this one ended up being our favorite), Thelema and La Petite Ferme. There are obviously so many wineries to visit and there were many on our list that we missed, but we loved all the places we went – great wine and amazing views. Couldn’t complain!
 {Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{South Africa: Days Five & Six}

Hello, hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Well, the good news is I wasn’t eaten by a lion 🙂
We got back from our safari 8 days ago. I can’t believe we’ve already been back so long.

I want to continue on with a couple short posts giving a general overview of each day of our stay in SA, then I’ll do some more detailed posts on where we stayed, our itinerary, restaurant suggestions, the whole deal. I’ve already gotten several requests for a detailed itinerary to follow, so I will definitely be working on that!!

On our fifth day in Cape Town we finally got to take things a little slower. We slept in a bit and then made our way up to Table Mountain. We booked our tickets on the gondola ahead of time as we’ve heard the lines can get pretty long. Luckily there weren’t any lines at all! Cape Town is just full of amazing views. We didn’t think we’d be up at the top of the mountain long, but of course we ended up taking our time walking around and enjoying the scenery. It was a warm and beautiful day! 

Later that day we ventured over to Camp’s Bay – the more “posh” beachside area in Cape Town. We strolled along the beach as we got lost trying to find our restaurant and wished we would have come down earlier and spent the day soaking up the sun (took note for next time!). We ended up getting appetizers and cocktails and watching the sunset at The Bungalow. I must admit, while it was a nice experience, it wasn’t really our scene. One of our friends had told us it was very “South of France”, but I would have gone further to say it was more Miami. I felt a little out of place, but it wasn’t anything a couple drinks couldn’t fix 🙂 We ended up seeing a beautiful sunset and having tons of fun. 

On our sixth day in Cape Town we checked out of our amazing hotel (can’t wait to tell you more about it!), and drove an hour outside of the city to wine country! We didn’t even make time to drop our bags at our guest house as we had lunch reservations we could not be late for! Going into this trip we actually had a lot of recommendations. A meal at Maison was at the top of our friend’s list, so we booked weeks in advance to make sure we wouldn’t miss out. The second we stepped in we understood why they had said it was their favorite meal of their entire trip. Everything was flawless. The decor, the service, the food, the wine, the grounds. My my my. We ended up spending a good 3+ hours there just making ourselves at home and contemplating never leaving (maybe they wouldn’t find us if we hid in their awesome bathrooms?). It was an afternoon to remember. There will definitely be more to come on this place! 

After checking into our cute little guest house in Franschhoek we made our way to Dieu Donne Vineyards to enjoy the view (and a glass of wine of course). I wish my camera could have captured the insane beauty of the landscape. It literally took my breath away. We were so excited to be in wine country and couldn’t wait for a full day of tasting the following day! 
 {Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{Our Swiss Chalet}

Staying in a Swiss chalet was very much like my dream of staying in a Tuscan villa. So cliché, yet so necessary. When Corey and I realized we wouldn’t be making it home for Christmas we knew we had to go somewhere super awesome to help temper the sting. And we couldn’t have picked a better place to spend a week relaxing. We were in the most beautiful, tiny Swiss Alp town of Val d’illiez. There’s not much to do there except stare at the gorgeous mountains and cuddle up by the fire. Exactly what we had in mind! I started every day with a bubble bath (pure heaven!) and ended each one with a glass of wine, a cozy fire and a Christmas movie. The only thing missing was our little Henry. There will be many more posts about our trip to Switzerland to come… For now, here are a few photos from our dream Swiss chalet
 {Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{Our Two Year Wedding Anniversary}

Happy Monday everyone! How are you all doing? It’s been snowing buckets in Amsterdam and it’s been causing all sorts of chaos – with trains and planes – and worst of all.. with me! I guess biking in 23-degree weather was a bit ambitious for me, because this weekend I came down with a nasty bug that has me bed-ridden today. Husband is taking great care of me and it’s not so bad having a beautiful snowy view out the window. I just wish I could go outside and enjoy the wintery white weather!
Speaking of the huz… Corey and I are creeping up on two and a half years of marriage! Now, I know that’s not a super long time, but what I will say is boy does time fly!! I feel like we just celebrated our two-year anniversary, which I realized I never blogged about!
While I wish we could’ve done something extravagant and luxurious to celebrate our wedding anniversary, I was flying out to Portland the next day and work was crazy busy at the time, so we settled on a romantic dinner at a gorgeous restaurant. We got dressed up and headed to De Kas. This place is so awesome. It sits on the edge of a lush city park in Amsterdam and is probably the coolest looking restaurant we’ve ever eaten in. It also happens to be one of those super fancy restaurants that doesn’t really have a menu. Each day the chef has a three-course dinner planned that consists of three small starters, a main course and dessert. The best part is everything is made with local, fresh ingredients grown in the restaurant’s very own nursery.  We decided to fancy things up even more and get the wine pairings with dinner. The whole things was a fun and special experience and the perfect way to celebrate two years of wedded bliss. Here are a few photos from the occasion.
And P.S. Yes, our wedding anniversary was in August and yes I am wearing tights and a blazer… Why? Because there is no summer in Amsterdam. Yeah, I guess you could say I’m bitter about it 🙂

 {Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Video: Our Weekend in Venice!}

Ciao ciao friends! How are you all? Did you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday? Corey and I had an amazing dinner with some expat friends and then we took off for Venice on Saturday. We got back from our dreamy weekend yesterday and I was so inspired I put together this video of our trip! I haven’t made a video since our trip to Paris over a year ago, so I thought it was about time I made another. It’s such a fun way to document memories! I am definitely not a professional moviemaker, but this video captures a few of my favorite moments from our trip. Hope you enjoy it! Photos to come…


Venice from Liz Denfeld on Vimeo.

P.S. I stole this song from Brittany’s awesome Italy video 🙂

{Have an Amazing Weekend!}

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, or you read Meganor Lauren’s blogs, you probably already know that as we speak I am on an epic blate (blog+date) in Tuscany with the two of them! It’s just us girls for now, lounging by the pool of our Tuscan villa, but the boys are joining us this weekend! I’m excited for good wine, girl talk and some sun! I’ll be back here on Tuesday. Until then, have a fabulous weekend!

{Wine Tasting + Picnic at David Hill}

Things got so busy right before our trip to Portland I didn’t even get to blog about our two-year wedding anniversary. It fell on a work night, the day before I was leaving for home, so to be honest it wasn’t the most incredible anniversary ever. But we did make time to go out for an amazing meal (in a greenhouse!) and for some quality time together before I left Corey for two weeks (torture!).

When we were home, partly as a little celebration and partly just because we hadn’t been back since our wedding day, we went out to the winery where we tied the knot. Corey’s parents and my mom joined as we did a little wine tasting, then enjoyed a picnic among the vines enjoying a fantastic pinot noir. Being back was so special – the place hadn’t changed a bit.  

**Update! Apparently you guys like my dress 😉 Thanks! It’s from Zara. Unfortunately I got it on super sale while I was in Bruges with my sis, and I don’t see it online.

  {Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Bruges, Belgium: Part I}

Last week my sister Anna came to Amsterdam to visit us! Having family in town is the greatest. Her trip was pretty quick – too quick (she arrived Wednesday evening and left this morning) – but we managed to take a fun excursion to Bruges on Friday. It’s a 4 hour train ride from Amsterdam (which includes switching trains in Antwerp) and it is completely worth the journey. 

Bruges is pretty much a smaller, cleaner, more fairy-tale-like version of Amsterdam. It is speckled with adorable canals, quaint cobblestone streets and stunning architecture. And don’t even get me started on the waffles, chocolates, frites and beer! So many ways to indulge in Bruges! I know it’s not Paris, but if you have the chance to visit someday, I know you wouldn’t regret it! 
{Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Amsterdam Date Night: Pomp Station}

Last week when I was sick I was all sorts of high maintenance.  I was whiny and pathetic and probably a bit demanding of my oh-so-sweet husband. Of course Corey, being the saint that he is, waited on me hand and foot without complaining a bit. To say that I was thankful for all of his help and love is an understatement. When I was feeling better, I decided to show my gratitude by taking him out for a delicious steak dinner. So, Saturday night we got fancied up a bit and headed out for a night on the town.

We started with cocktails at Freddy’s – the old-timey bar in the super luxe Hotel De L’Europe. I had a mint julep, he had an old fashioned. Then we made our way to Pomp Station, a fun restaurant in the east part of the city known for their steaks. I don’t eat beef, but Corey has told me it’s really hard to find a good steak in Amsterdam, so I thought I’d give him the opportunity to give this one a try. We shared a bottle of wine, started our meal with some oysters (fancy!) and even topped it all off with dessert. It was a decadent meal accompanied by a live jazz band (isn’t live music the best?!).

Even though we don’t have kids and most nights could be considered “date nights” – when we go out for a fancy meal together it really is a special occasion and feels like those first dates we had way back when. Nothing refreshes a relationship like good conversation over a good meal. If you’re in Amsterdam looking for a great steak and a great atmosphere – I’d give Pomp Station a try!
{Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}