By Sam Lugtu
I consider myself “semi-funemployed.” As a recent college graduate, gone are the time constraints of classes and writing endless papers. Now I have the freedom to do whatever I please with my spare time—but preferably on a budget.
In an aim to explore my own backyard, I consulted Moon California ’s Wine Country  section. I had previously been to the Napa Valley with family, but those visits were mostly parent-funded. So along with a friend, I decided to tackle Napa on my own terms, using my own wallet.
We began our excursion with lunch at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher in St. Helena. Sitting in their lush picnic area, I had a BLT and soda, along with their famous garlic fries (a serving feeds two). We spent roughly $12 per person on a satisfactory meal. Next, we headed to Mumm Napa Valley, a winery renowned for its sparkling wines (I’m a bubbly fanatic!). We took a free 45-minute walking tour of the premises, and got the rare opportunity to eat a grape right off the vine! After the tour, we received a coupon for 15% off any wine purchase. We split a $16 comparative tasting of their classic sparkling wines: Brut Prestige, Brut Rosé, 2005 Blanc de Blancs, and Brut Prestige Extended Tirage, which was aged a couple years longer than the classic. The exquisite view of the vineyard made for a nice pairing with our tasting. Having indulged our senses, we headed north to the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa, Beringer Vineyards . Though it is a rather touristy and popular destination, I still find it to be a must-see in terms of its historical, pioneering background. While we enjoyed our tasting experience here, I noticed some differential treatment, as the server seemed to devote more of his attention to the older individuals.
Nonetheless, our trip ended on a happy note. On the way home, we made a detour to Bouchon Bakery in the small town of Yountville . The patisserie is affiliated with the neighboring French bistro of the same name, and has pastries comparable to those I’ve had in Paris. They’re indulgences—both to your taste buds and your wallet—but well worth it. I recommend the chocolate bouchons (“chocolate corks”), decadent brownie bites made with Vahlrona chocolate, as well as their macarons, rich buttercream cookie sandwiches in various seasonal flavors (my favorites are raspberry and chocolate). Pastries range from $2-5, but you may find yourself spending more, as everything is just so aesthetically pleasing.
With these given locations, you can spend less than $40 and gain a decent experience that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Taylor’s Automatic Refresher : 933 Main Street, St. Helena, 707/963-3486, www.taylorsautomaticrefresher.com 
Mumm Napa Valley : 8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford, 707/967-7700, www.mummcuveenapa.com 
Beringer Vineyards : 2000 Main Street, St. Helena, 707/963-7115, www.beringer.com 
Bouchon Bakery : 6528 Washington Street,Yountville, 707/944-2253, www.bouchonbakery.com 
Sam Lugtu graduated from UC Berkeley in May and is now a marketing/publicity intern at Avalon Travel, simultaneously sorting out and enjoying her “semi-funemployed” life.