A perfect autumn day in Yountville, Napa Valley and Sonoma

When we got to Yountville in Napa Valley last weekend, we found carpets of golden leaves, pumpkins on fence posts in rows, black and white stripes, and crisp air that made me cling to Tyson’s side for extra warmth.

“I’m so happy, soooo happy,” I told him as we walked down the street, plucking illicit grapes, stopping to exclaim over every squash along the sidewalk. “Do you know how happy I am? This is, like, my perfect day.”


Autumn in wine country is one of life’s glorious discoveries. Even the light is peachy-pink. The towns have emptied and slowed down. Farmers have ruddy cheeks. The grapes hang heavy and sweet.  And there is no line at Bouchon, where we went, for lunch.

This is Tyson’s favorite restaurant in the world. The man has good taste.

I had French Onion Soup, which tasted like Paris.

Tyson had the Croque Madame, which we were both sighing over to the point that our waiter finally just said, “I know. It’s the best breakfast in town.”

For dessert, there is the Bouchon Bakery next door, from which I sent my friend Cindy a text message made up entirely of curse words. Apple tarts, homemade oreos, chocolate croissants, strawberry cream cheese croissants, just howl with  me, friends, OK? It’s worth every stupid calorie. It is my mecca. Dammit.

This tart was better than Paris.

Even the Oreo’s filling was perfect.

After the Yountville morning, we drove over a two-lane, winding mountain road to Sonoma, to see my sweet friend dress for her wedding. We drove through curtains of orange leaves and two deer jumped across our pathway. I told my friend they were for luck.

She was staying at the legendary Kenwood Inn, where Ty and I stayed when we first started dating. It’s as romantic as it gets. Figs grow by the pool, and water fountains burble in secret corridors. Look at what greeted us:

Is that not the archetype of autumn?

After I tied the bride’s sash, and painted her mother’s nails, and thought about how much I love my sweet friends, we dressed for the wedding at the Annadel Estate Winery:

The wedding was as intimate and exquisite as the day. Her dress, above,  was the color of the peachy-pink Sonoma light. The groom talked about their easy, natural love — and then went in for the kind of kiss that tipped her backward, off her feet.

At home, I made Tyson practice that part, for our wedding.

More on our California travels to come. I’ll share the bride’s wedding when she gives the OK. I have a feeling Martha Stewart may get to it first.

In Yountville, I recommend dinner at Bouchon, Ad Hoc, Redd, Lucy,and Michael Chiarello’s Bottega. And a little place called the French Laundry, if you can get in.

Stay at The Gaige House, the Lavender Inn or Bardessono. The Kenwood Inn is about 30 minutes over a mountain, but what a romantic drive that is.

And go in October — magic, apple-cheeked October.