A Tale of Two Wineries

It was the best of vacations, it was the longest of vacations…

It was the age of wine-tasting, it was the age of not knowing what the heck you were tasting…

Red wine in glassI always wanted to visit Napa Valley, but when you’re the only wine drinker in the house, it can be a hard sell. The kids were always too young, and Husband’s drink of choice is Coke.

(Although if he feels he’s had too much, he might have a beer instead.)

I needed the perfect moment to suggest a trip to Napa. A time when everything came together – when there was something of interest for everyone – a masterful stroke when no opposition was possible.

Click to Jump to Recipe

Then it happened:
♦ Daughter turned 21 and showed interest in finding a wine she liked… Check!
♦ We were driving to Oregon – Napa is (sorta) on the way home… Check!
♦ I found out there’s a winery with my maiden name, in a town near Napa… Check!
♦ And what’s this? A Hartwell winery IN Napa? Husband’s name!… Check and Mate!

Wine fields

Have you ever been to Napa Valley? It truly is a beautiful area.

Expensive as hell, but beautiful.

We drove by acres and acres of vineyards, very picturesque. Lots of cars too. And buses. And everyone knew exactly where they were going.

I didn’t really plan our trip, you know? I figured we’d wing it.

After driving past, like, the gazillioneth vineyard, across many a hilly road, Husband turns to me. “We should probably stop somewhere,” he says.

I nod.

“Where to?” he asks.

I shrug.

He sighs.

Daughter says she feels sick.

Husband performs magic with his GPS (how he does this, I can’t say) and announces we’re going to the Hartwell winery.

After a dose of Dramamine and a few more hilly roads, we are there:


The sign by the big iron gate is blurry, so let me read it to you. It says:
Hartwell Estate Vineyards – By Appointment Only

By appointment only?!

I turn to Husband. “That’s just so like your family.”

As we sit in the car, gazing at the huge estate, the big iron gate opens and a Lexus pulls out. Husband slaps my arm excitedly. “Look! Look at the license plate! Look what it says!”

I didn’t get a picture of it, but this was their vanity plate:  ❤ WELL

“I didn’t know they allowed symbols on license plates!” By the look in Husband’s eyes, I’d say new plates are in our future.

Eventually we wind up in the Napa Valley Visitor’s Center, where Husband talks to one of the attendants.

wecome-centerMeanwhile, I peruse $12 jars of jam. Yeah. Jam. I mean, they have Merlot in them, so there’s that.

Daughter walks up behind me. “What’s a mortar and pestle for?” she asks.

“You use it to grind herbs.”

“How come we don’t have one?”

“I use the back of a spoon. Why?”

“You can buy one here for $50,” she says.

“Put it back.”

Husband returns. The attendant told him there are two reasons a winery would be ‘by appointment only.’ Either the place is small and they don’t have room for many visitors, or… the wine is very expensive and they want to cut down foot traffic.

“I think we can guess which one is true for the Hartwell winery,” Husband says.

“That’s just so like your family,” I say.

small town streetBut enough about Napa.

Drive an hour and a half east and you’re in Murphys, California. It’s sort of a mini-Napa. About 2,000 people live in the town, and there are 31 wineries surrounding it.

I fell in love with Murphys almost the second we entered it. As posh as Napa was, that’s how homey and welcoming Murphys was.

Lots of pretty little shops (I bought jam for $5 in one), lots of big green trees, a lovely park with a pond, and many, many tasting rooms.

One of them is for the Hovey winery.

My maiden name!

As it turns out, the winery folk and I are not related. Also, they pronounce their name differently. My family says it with a long ‘o’ sound, they used a short ‘o’ sound.

But here’s the thing: they told me while I was there, they’d pronounce it my way. And they did! Very accommodating of them, wouldn’t you say?

You know what else?

wp_20160701_16_43_05_proThey gave me 10% discount on my purchase, just because of my name. I told them there was no way I could prove it was my name. I might be lying.

They said they trusted me.

That’s just so like my family. ❤

Now we’re home again and the memories of a lovely vacation and good people stay with us.

Since our theme today is wine, I’m giving you a recipe that includes it. Nothing fancy, because I’m not from fancy folk. Also, it’s nothing difficult, because it’s summertime and who wants difficult? This is as easy as easy can get.

In fact, it’s a real cheat. 😉

Cheater's Beef Burgundy

  • Servings: about 4
  • Difficulty: shhh, we're cheating!
  • Print


  • 2 strips bacon, cut into small pieces (this is easier if you stick them in a freezer for about 10 minutes)
  • Beef1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • About 2 cups leftover gravy or your favorite prepared gravy
  • 1/2 cup red wine (or broth, if you’d rather not cook with alcohol)
  • 1 tomato, cut in small pieces, or 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 small can sliced mushrooms, or 1 cup sliced fresh, if you’d rather
  • About 3 or 4 cups cooked beef, cut into cubes (I used leftover roast beef, but you can use any tender cut, even deli meat. I won’t tell. Meatballs would make an interesting variation.)

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add bacon and onion and saute until both are cooked. Add gravy and wine, reduce heat to medium and stir with a fork until fully incorporated. Add tomato, mushroom and cooked meat; cook, stirring, until heated through.

Serve over cooked egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

15 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Wineries

  1. Lol, this cracked me up. I married a T-Rex who barbecues, so I may not get to try the recipe, but it surely sounds like it would be fabulous!

    1. T-Rexes are good to have around!
      I was kind of surprised the recipe turned out as good as it did, as I was just making it up on the fly, but it was very satisfying.
      Glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. First of all I LOVE the recipe and am saving it off. Second of all—-your trip sound like so much fun. I wish I could have stowed away in the car with you. Napa is amazing ( and yes $$$$$$) but it sounds like you found another spot that I need to introduce the hubby to the next time we take a trip to Cali. Thanks for the great suggestion and congrats on the winery. I hope you told them where to send your checks………

    1. Haha! Actually, I’d be satisfied if they just sent me wine! 😉
      Murphys is definitely worth a visit, I’m hoping to revisit it with a sister or two. That would be a blast, and worth another blog post – heck, that might be worth a book!
      Hope you enjoy the recipe!

    1. It was! I’m sure you’d enjoy it. They have a very old hotel there called Murphys Hotel. Creaky wood floors, lots of character, and a small dining room that was a bit pricey but very, very good. (Oh, and Hovey wine was on the menu!) 🙂

    1. Thanks!
      We briefly scooted over to Washington as we were making our way across Oregon. Looks lovely, from what I saw.
      Wine tasting is fun, if you pace yourself and have a driver! 😉

  3. Wish I could try the recipe but husband is allergic (truly allergic, I mean, not dislikes) to red meat. Years ago my sister and I were in the winery area of New York State and drove quite a bit out of our way to visit the Thorpe Winery, because it was our last name, too. They weren’t related. But I still have the wine glass that says Thorpe Winery!

    1. The glass is a great keepsake, I agree. That’s cool you found a Thorpe winery! Even if there’s no relation, it’s fun to feel that bit of a connection. Also – makes a great gift for family members! 🙂

  4. I recently visiting the German relations in Wisconsin and I will tell you, pronunciation doesn’t mean you are not related. Over there, they insist Krueger rhymes with “Eager” whereas on our side of Lake Michigan, it rhymes with “Booger”. Perhaps they have the right idea, come to think of it.

  5. Great article! I was not aware of Murphys, but I live in Napa so I am pretty familiar with what we have to offer here. If you decide to come back I’ll tell you the cool places to go where you can get a great bottle of wine at a decent price. If you have time, check out our Napa Valley wine blog: http://www.topochinesvino.com, and follow us on wordpress if you like what you see.

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