Cricketer Ajit Agarkar travels to Napa, discovers a family-friendly wine country | brunch$feature | Hindustan Times
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Cricketer Ajit Agarkar travels to Napa, discovers a family-friendly wine country

Cricketer Ajit Agarkar’s family travels to Napa Valley and discovers that America’s West Coast is fun!

brunch Updated: Jul 08, 2017 22:37 IST
Fatima Agarkar
Napa Valley is not just known for its vineyards but has beautiful flowers too.
Napa Valley is not just known for its vineyards but has beautiful flowers too. (Fatima Agarkar)

Major withdrawal symptoms have engulfed me ever since we returned from our quaint Napa Valley vacation. The far-reaching landscape of hills and vineyards, stretching towards the woodlands, rivers and eventually the pristine sea, made me believe that I am happiest when I am amidst nature. City life is not for me!

Fatima enjoying lunch with husband Ajit and son Raj at the Frank Family vineyards. (Fatima Agarkar)

Family vacations have always been the most significant part of our lives. As parents, we attach a great deal of importance to the kind of time we get to spend with each other and with our son, Raj. So, vacations are rituals we can’t afford to miss. Moreover, we love hanging out with each other, especially because of our busy schedules. Spending time together on holidays is always fun, something precious that we cannot compromise. Of the various destinations that were being analysed, Napa Valley in California seemed to be Raj’s most preferred destination.

So without waiting any longer, our tickets were booked, bags packed, itinerary set and we were off to explore the land of vineyards, soak in the purest air from the countryside and revel in a trip every oenophile dreams of.

On the road

The vacay started with a visit to family members in LA, after which we headed to Napa. Visiting the country of wines had been on my bucket list for years. Last year we’d skydived, so this year we wanted to do something equally interesting.

With more than 600 vineyards and several top restaurants, the valley offers breathtaking sights.

It was not only going to the vineyards that made us excited. It was the whole journey, the pleasure of driving through the countryside. We took the limo service, so driving through the clean and hushed roads was very gratifying, especially since we came from a traffic-congested city like Mumbai. One of Raj’s friends also tagged along, so it was a gala ride. We also did the crooked street in San Francisco, so sightseeing was mixed with a hint of luxury.

Driving past Victorian mansions and gardens is amazing. (Fatima Agarkar)

Navigation was tricky through some of the small lanes. Our limo driver, a 70-year-old, was a war veteran and shared many of his experiences. Raj really enjoyed listening to his stories. The beautiful roads almost took us aback, but did prepare us for the stunning sights we were going to experience. 

The Brunch Insider’s views
  • Keever Vineyards’ Cabernet Sauvignon is a great souvenir to be picked up from Napa Valley. You can also participate in a fun treasure hunt at Napa’s Vintage Trunk and the housewares-focused Napa Vintage Market (Source: Conde Nast Traveler)
  • Pick up some great handmade chocolate, check out Woodhouse Chocolate (Source: TripAdvisor)

Grapes of joy

The vineyards have lovely places to sit and relax. (Fatima Agarkar)

Boasting more than 600 vineyards and several top -notch restaurants, the 35-mile-long valley bestows you with many breathtaking sights. There is a lot of history attached to this place. We visited about four to five small vineyards on the advice of our friends, because their tours are more personal, filled with fascinating stories and bring with them a chance to interact with locals and understand their ways of life.

The best part was definitely the people and their personal experiences, which they happily recounted for us. There are places that I will now think of, only because I heard someone tell me a story about them. Napa Valley is a beautiful melange of different age groups, thanks to which we heard perspectives from 20 to 70 year olds. The flowers are lovely as are the vineyards, which extend as far as your eyes can see.

A clock tower at Heitz Wine Cellars. (Fatima Agarkar)

The larger vineyards come with extravagant wine tours where the participants can enjoy the whole gondola ride experience, complete with roasted marshmallows and more. It’s true when they say that wine connoisseurs can spend their lives in Napa Valley. We wanted to see how the owners planned the plantations, get a few chosen grapes for friends and have our son experience the art of cultivation. So we visited places like O’Brien Estate Winery and Castello di Amorosa, and also did the Napa Valley hot air balloon ride. Tourists also have the option of enjoying lunch with live music and entertainment. There are many play areas for kids too, making the experience a lovely day out for the family, the emphasis being on ‘out’.

We enjoyed our high-tea sessions with cakes and cookies. Lunch had been Mediterranean. You must pre-book the kind of meals you want (because the place can get quite crowded), and also have the chef prepare something for you from the local village. We got fresh salads and had a proper picnic experience. There are designated areas for private lunches as well.

The chef at the vineyards can cook a special meal for you. (Fatima Agarkar)

Napa valley is a destination for the family, a great escape from the chaotic city life. Although Ajit (Agarkar) prefers the city, I think I am more of a country person. The sheer beauty, and the easy and friendly nature of the locals are mesmerising. I had severe withdrawal symptoms when I left. But I plan to come back and explore some more.

The author is a passionate educationalist who enjoys travelling with husband, former cricketer, Ajit Agarkar.

From HT Brunch, July 9, 2017

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