Auberge du Soleil, Artichoke Soup, and Beehive Cake in Wine Country

By Alex Ramsey

November 12, 2009

auberge du soleil, Failla, Iyengar, Napa, Sonoma

  A three-day long birthday celebration in Sonoma required a week of recuperation. Well, maybe longer, since the party was early in September, and it’s now November. Most of the time, we enjoyed meals prepared by our hosts at their gorgeous home overlooking the Sonoma Valley in California. Sitting on the top of a small mountain, the home was an oasis of flowers, waterfalls, and gardens.

But before the b’day bash, my friend and I, to rest up in anticipation of the grand celebration nestled in at Auberge du Soleil in Napa where the sunshine was gentle and glorious. We wallowed two blissful nights in a suite, also on a hill, since everything at Auberge sits on a hill, but it’s a different kind of hill, the side of the hill.

I spent most of my days at Auberge brushing up on my Iyengar yoga in the Japanese pagoda, surrounded by the gardens. The view, a babbling brook, flowers, and one of the largest outdoor sculpture gardens in California kept me company. At Auberge, one is treated like the family most never had, with a gracious warmth and unobtrusive hospitality.When I arrived at the birthday party my “insider” hosts were most curious to know, being in the middle of the recession, “Is Auberge doing deals?” My answer was, “no.” They didn’t have to, bless their hearts.

We squeezed a few tastings in our trip. Among the more interesting was a stop at the Failla tasting room, just up the road from Auberge in Napa. A battered red mailbox marked the spot where a dusty road leads to a clapboard office, that was once a wine maker’s home. The  “Gee Whiz” came when one of the other guests asked if the wine we were tasting was the famous one that former French Laundry Master Sommelier Paul Roberts recommended at the World Economic Forum in Davos,Auberge du Soliel in California Wine Country
Switzerland last January. It was.

Later, in Sonoma, during one of the breaks from the birthday bash, comfort food came in the form of artichoke soup at Basque Boulangerie Cafe 707-935-7687 on the square. So few people dare to do artichoke soup outside of California, and it is such a shame. Is it just that no one thinks of it? A fluffy fun vanilla cream puff, powered sugar cake, a “beehive cake” provided just the right sweet touch to get us through the afternoon.


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