With the 2016 car season starting, we thought March warranted a visit to Napa by way of Walnut Creek.
So we got the support of The Luxury Collection Walnut Creek, the only exotic car dealer in the East Bay with such brands as Aston Martin, Bentley, Maserati and Alfa Romeo, for our monthly 100|OCT Club Drive.
Driving from Walnut Creek to Lake Berryessa and to Napa for lunch and wine tasting seemed like a great proposal as we got a half dozen registrations right away. Usually, registrations trickle down at first and then most people sign up in the last 5 days. This time though, we were playing against the weather forecast. Not only did no registration come in the last week, but some who signed up early canceled the night before as they didn’t want to drive in the rain. Who could blame them? But we still went ahead and had 6 cars on the drive.
Now that you have context, I’d like to review the 2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 that The Luxury Collection Walnut Creek loaned us for the drive.
I’ll be upfront about it, my take on Bentley has always been: “They look fantastic, but they’re heavy, so they're not fast and they don’t handle the best.” That is without ever having driven one. So I was totally prejudiced, I’ll give you that.
Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong: it was the perfect car for that drive.
Before I start describing how the car drives, let's focus on what makes a Bentley a Bentley: its amazingly luxurious finish. The car is definitely a looker. It is elegant inside and out. You sit in it and you just melt in the seat. Controls are where they should be. Everything is very well thought through.
Now about the driving. We started on dry pavement on the highway with dark clouds looming large. The car felt soft, so I quickly figured out how to change the suspension settings. It immediately felt a lot sportier. I could feel the bumps on the road a bit more (but still keeping the very comfortable ride feeling) and the car was instantly more responsive.
When we finally got to the fun roads, it had started drizzling. Remember that it was my first time driving a Bentley. So with a wet road and little knowledge about the car’s capabilities, I was very careful. I gradually started pushing it. Slowly but surely, as I didn’t want to lose our participants behind me or endanger them in any way by setting too fast a pace. But I would accelerate nicely in the straights and remain very careful on braking before we got to the turn. Well, that V8 is no joke. It accelerates very nicely and it sounds great doing it. Is it the fastest? No, but that’s not why you would buy a Bentley anyway. In the twisties, though the car felt a bit heavy, it felt very well balanced and its handling was very pleasant. No understeering, no surprises. And then on braking, it was totally fine despite the weight. I took more braking space than I needed because the roads were wet, but the brakes answered very well every time.
After a very nice lunch stop at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, prepared, baked and served by students aspiring to work in the many amazing restaurants in the area and beyond, we headed toward our finish line at Patland Estate Vineyards in Napa, a very secluded appointment-only winery at the top of a steep hill.
By this time, the skies had completely opened. It was pouring ropes, as we say in French. There was rivers across the road and little waterfalls on the side. It was actually very pretty and enjoyable.
And again, the Bentley GT Continental was the perfect car for the task. I put it back in its soft suspension mode and it handled it all. No puddle was a problem, no “river” crossing either. And on the sharp twisty road going up to the winery, it was probably the safest car to drive.
So to finish this review of the car: I took great pleasure driving it, despite but also thanks to the road conditions. It truly took anything the drive had to throw at it. Highways, check. Twisties, check. Fast, check. Drizzling, check. Pouring, check. Bumps, check. Sharp, twisty, slow, check check check.
It really is an all around great exotic car and I would love to own one some day.
Before I leave you, I have to talk about Patland Estate Vineyards. Henry Patland is one of our 100|OCT Club members and we had picked the winery because of our connection there. The experience ended up well beyond my expectations. The secluded location, the exquisite buildings (inside and out) and the breath taking views (when the clouds lifted for a bit) are all worth the visit. As for the wines, they are very different from those I usually drink. Their rosé for example is darker and more robust than the Rosé de Provence I am known to enjoy on a really hot day. And yet, Patland's is superior. Likewise, I am not a big Chardonnay fan as it is too smooth and fruity for what wine is about, to me. And yet I enjoyed Patland’s Chardonnay very much as it was more earthy and had more character. On top of it, our hosts Quincy and Mike had prepared an amazing tray of cheeses and cold cuts that were equally out of this world. The venison and rabbit salami was the best salami I’ve ever had. The paprika prosciutto was equally satisfying. Quincy was great at advising us as to which cheese or cold cut went well with each wine. The entire visit truly was a stellar experience.
I can’t wait to do it again. Hopefully with less rain and more car enthusiasts along this time.
Many thanks to:
- Mario Biundo and his team at The Luxury Collection Walnut Creek for their support. Contact them for all your Aston Martin, Bentley, Maserati and Alfa Romeo needs and tell them 100|OCT sent you.
- Henry Patland and his team at Patland Estate Vineyards for their reception. Make sure you make an appointment and stop by their winery when you're in Napa. Again, tell them 100|OCT sent you.
All pictures by Dayne Dyer, 100|OCT's Creative Director.