Weekend Getaway: Napa

Last weekend, I was lucky to get to go to Napa and spend the weekend with two of my college roommates. Nicki, one of the friends, has created a little piece of heaven on earth at the top of Atlas Peak. Nicki is one of those people who has a multitude of interesting friends and she created a weekend home for them all to gather throughout the year.

When she bought the property, there was no house, and only the promise of a producing vineyard. The amount of thought and effort Nicki put into this place has been phenomenal, and a true labor of love. This is how she is with everything she touches.

When she started this project, she engaged Sandy Walker of Walker and Moody, architect of Auberge de Soleil , to create a house with three Master Suites, and sleeping areas for more. But she did not want an over scaled house. Just one where everyone could have a bit of privacy and could gather together for meals and socializing. They accomplished all of Nicki's requests brilliantly. The house is beautiful, unpretentious, and very welcoming. Interesting note: There is not a single right angle in the house!

Tim and I drove over Friday evening and were greeted with wine and yummy bites to eat. We talked and talked, and ate and drank. And then Bethanne, my other roommate arrived. More talking, more wine and more eating.

And evening fell. A fire in her outdoor fireplace was in order.

Nicki and I have a bit of a special bond. We share the same early July birth date. We couldn't be together then, so celebrated over this weekend. Nicki introduced me to this luscious bundt cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes. We blew out the candle together, and dug in. I have to say, a better bundt cake I have never had.

Time for a small present for Nicki. I got her the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. (Can you tell what movie I'm dying to see? I can't believe I haven't seen it yet!). I wrapped it in simple brown packing paper, added a couple of pretty dish cloths, wooden spoons and a spray of herbs.

It was such a fun evening of catching up and reminiscing! Ah...the good old college days when we lived in a house with orange and brown shag carpet, and ate peanut butter and jelly to get by.

Nicki's house is perfect for entertaining indoors and out. The Great Room has a cozy fireplace and built-in day beds that double as extra sleeping areas. The concrete floors are modern with a rustic quality and perfect for dogs, kids, and the many guests that love to flock to Nicki's home.

Nicki has an open floor plan with the eating area, living area and kitchen all adjacent to each other. This plan is perfect for the Napa Valley where food and wine are such a integral part of how people entertain. Everyone shares in the preparation of meals bringing their own bit of expertise to the table.

I love Nicki's kitchen! Efficient and big enough for multiple cooks, it is finished with concrete counters and light colored cabinetry. It has a timeless, sort of Belgian simplicity in it's design.

This photo is a seating area in the bedroom we had. I love the crewel fabric on the draperies!

After a very quiet and restful sleep, we awoke to a stunning sunrise.

We had our own little kitchenette to make coffee and have a glass of OJ while we watched the sun come up over the vineyard from the patio.

It was a perfect morning, so after breakfast, we explored Nicki's property. The grapes are almost ready for harvest.

There was a breeze that pushed a copper wind catcher. So sculptural against the morning sky.

Nicki's landscape designer is the very talented Jack Chandler, someone I have been privileged to work with as well. He created rolling lawn areas,

right next to a Boccie Ball court,

which borders on a raised bed vegetable garden. (There's Cookie, Nicki's yellow lab. What a sweetie!)

After our stroll, we headed down the hill to have lunch at Chef Michael Chiarello's new-ish restaurant sensation, Bottega located in Yountville. (More about that tomorrow!! ) Then off for a bit of wine tasting (more about that the next day!!!!)

We had a very fun Napa day, and were ready to head back to "Che Nicki".

Later that afternoon, we went out to the vegetable garden to pick tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, zucchini, and french plums for dinner.

We could have stayed out here alot longer, but decided to eat instead!

I love this solitary chair on the decomposed granite path surrounded by lavender.

Another notable couple involved with Nicki's house: Louise and Ronn Mann. Ron designed the colorful pots and the pear sculptures at the fireplace, and Louise designed many of the fabrics throughout Nicki's house. Their influence can be seen throughout.

On Sunday morning we were lucky to see a day even more brilliant than the last. We had prepared a Strata the night before so the bread could soak up the egg mixture. After a bake in the oven we had a glorious brunch with the strata, and salads made from tomatoes and vegetables we had harvested the day before.

After another walk and trying our best to find another excuse not to have to leave, we reluctantly packed up and headed home. It was a wonderful weekend with wonderful friends, and Nicki was the perfect hostess. A time to treasure.

Thank you so very much Nicki!