After two long days at Yosemite, we spent our last couple of days at the Merced River RV Park cleaning up – Nicolas, Bryce and Tom washed the RV, truck and car and I did laundry. By Friday, the pool had re-opened, so we spent a couple afternoons relaxing in the refreshing water.
Monday was moving day, but we just had a short day – 123 miles – and we had arrived at the Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa. Looking at the site they gave us, I wasn’t too confident of fitting the RV on it . . . I was just glad that I wasn’t responsible for picking this RV Park!!
Tom was determined, though, and the site was wide enough that we were finally able to park the RV diagonally and be out of the road.
We’re in!! All set for the next 4 days!
We had a quick lunch, and the boys finished up some schoolwork, and then we made our way into nearby Fairfield for a factory tour.
We walked in and were bombarded with Jelly Bellys!
We had 15 minutes until the next tour, so we walked up to the sample bar to taste-test some jelly bellys. Bryce even tried the barf flavored beans . . . he thought they were actually going to taste like something else, but they really did taste like barf!! YUCK!!!
After we had sampled just about every flavor, we lined up for the tour, and walked upstairs through the gallery of beans.
It was time to enter the factory, so we all donned our official tour hats and followed our guide!
We weren’t allowed to take any photographs on the tour, but we were able to see the 3-step process of making Jelly Belly jelly beans.
Jelly Belly beans are special because, unlike normal jelly beans which only have flavor in the candy coating, Jelly Bellys have flavor in both the soft center and the candy coating. In the first step, the flavored centers are formed into the jelly belly shape in trays, and then coated in powdered sugar. After curing for a couple of days, they go to step 2, where they are placed in large tumblers and coated with many layers of candy coating.
When they come out of the tumblers to cure for another couple days, they are still dull in color though. They don’t have that shiny bright color until they go back into the tumbler one more time, and the candymaker adds glaze. After a couple more days of cure time, they get imprinted with the jelly belly logo, and after a trip through quality control where any “belly flops” are filtered out, they go to packaging.
It was a really interesting tour, and I wish I could have taken a picture of the rows of bins, full of millions of colorful Jelly Belly jelly beans!
They make chocolates and fudge too, and the fudge was actually a pretty good deal, so we bought some, along with a few bags of Belly Flops – beans that didn’t quite make the cut for size or shape. The Jelly Belly factory was definitely more expensive than the gummy bear factory, but at least we had a 20% off coupon from our Wine Country magazine that we got at the campground!
After one last look around, we headed back to the RV for dinner.
But we really didn’t just come to Napa for jelly beans . . .
As we drove into town, we could see grapes on almost every hillside,
and Wineries on every corner!
Tom and I decided to visit a few one afternoon, so we planned a small itinerary and set out on our “date afternoon”.
We expected that many of the bigger wineries around here were going to charge tasting fees, but we thought that maybe some of the smaller, lesser-known ones might not. Not true – the one small one we stopped at charged the highest fee. They didn’t have any wines we were interested in either, so we continued on.
The standard rate seemed to be $10 for 4 or 5 different wines, so when we found one with several that we thought we might like we just split the fee between us . . . it was plenty! After the first winery, I was already feeling woozy (I’m such a lightweight anymore!)
In between wineries, we explored some of the little towns in Sonoma Valley, and even found a place to sample some chocolate!
Our favorite of the wineries we visited was the Imagery Winery. It was a small winery, with some very good wines, but my favorite thing about it was the friendliness of the guys in the tasting room. They were really nice, and kept suggesting things that we might like, and offering more samples – even 2nds on several of the ones that we liked! I think we were supposed to get 5 wines for our tasting fee, but we got about 7, and then 2nds on 2 or 3 of them! I was feeling really good by the time we left there . . . and they gave us a card to get 2 free tastings at their “parent” winery – Benzinger.
Benzinger was a much bigger Winery (we’ve seen their wine in Michigan even), with lots of property and displays on the “Biodynamic” method of farming they use – it’s another step above Organic farming.
It was a very busy place – with tours and a huge Tasting Room, and a facility for parties. It looked like they were getting set up for a wedding that afternoon.
They had beautiful flowers, too!
A tour had just gotten dropped off at the Tasting Room before we got there, so it was pretty crowded, and we had to wait for awhile.
We walked through the gardens and enjoyed the view while we waited.
We finally got our turn at the bar, and enjoyed our complimentary tastings, but still didn’t buy anything to take home. I think if we were going to buy a bottle of wine from any of them it would have been from the Imagery Winery – they had the most that we liked, but they were closed by the time we left the last winery, so we went home without any. But I had enough in that one afternoon to last me awhile!
We enjoyed our little tour of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys!