We had a day and a half in the Napa Valley area and we visited 19 wineries. Yes, I said 19. This is not for the faint of heart. Here’s some tips:1. If you choose to visit 10 wineries in 4 and ½ hours and not eat lunch, you will be very drunk. It is imperative to have a husband who is much smarter and takes smaller sips.
2. Split the tastings. They cost between $5 - $25 in many of the Napa wineries so it’s economical. Plus – if you are visiting a volume of wineries, you are only going to want a sip or two per wine per place.
3. Water and pretzels in the car. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
4. It’s okay to pour out the wine after just a sip. It seems wasteful, but again you only tasting the wine. Once you make it clear you just tasting, the host will usually pour smaller portions.
Okay, that said. Here’s my rundown of the wineries we visited:
The Reserve tasting room was very nice. They were hosting a photography exhibit from a local artist and had several rows of used barrels on display. Favorite was 2007 Leopoldina Cabernet at the Reserve tasting. It’s a high vineyard only 2 tons of grape yield per acre. The vineyard is so steep, the growers have to slide down on cardboard to harvest. The wine was supple yet had a nice body and smooth finish.
Peju - This was the only room that made us wait. We walked in and had to wait for a “host” even thought three people were standing around. They led us through a general area to a bar for tasting. The pretense seemed very unnecessary since it is the off season and the place was pretty much empty. We did not like the Red and White blend Provence. It seemed like watered down Red, but we had to agree it was unique. We did like the 2007 Merlot – very good with a big, fruity taste.
BV – Our favorite Reserve tasting room and some of our favorite wines. The Reserve Tasting is must do here. The Reserve Cabs are phenomenal. Glenn’s Favorite was the Clone 6 Cabernet while mine was the 2008 Georges de Latour Reserve Cab. We also liked the Port.
Elizabeth Spencer – Across the street from BV.
Worth a stop. The Chardonnay was pretty good. The best was the 2008 GPS Red Wine Blend.
Provence – We were referred here by BV – it’s one of their “sister” wineries. Good tasting room. Very friendly staff. The 2010 Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc was great. Great Cabs. The 2008 Winemaker Reserve Blend was fantastic.
Alpha Omega – Great 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was pretty rough – needs at least 5-7 more years in the bottle. The tasting was $20 which is very high. I would consider skipping.
Milat – Very small bar for tasting. Family owned winery. Best wine there was the Chenin Blanc. Good average Reds.
Heitz – One of my favorite tasting rooms. It’s set up like a living room with a large fireplace and sitting area on one side of the room and tasting along the other. Good overall wines.
Port was a great compromise between a tawny and ruby port.
Prager – Good stop if you like ports. Wish there had been a couple more to taste.
Charles Krug – Very expensive tasting fee. At this point, I was referring to everything as “needs more time in the barrel”. Glenn was not a big fan of the wines there either.
Schug – Great location near Sonoma – up a dirt road with great views of the vineyards.
Very nice staff. We loved the Reserve tasting. They had two single vineyard Pinot Noirs so we could really taste how different soil impacts the flavors in the wine.
BR Cohn – Big white house on the top of a hill. Very nice tasting area with a separate gourmet shop to taste the olive oils and vinegars.
The 2009 Russian River Pinot Noir was very good. It was a frustrating tasting because the staff was name dropping left and right with another couple – showing pictures of her private jet flights. We just wanted some info on the winery and the wine. Maybe we will try again in the future because I think we would have probably bought some wine if we had been treated differently.
Martinelli – One of our favorites!
Great, friendly staff. Fantastic Zinfandels. Single vineyard Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Syrahs and Zins make for an interesting and instructive tasting. The standouts were 2006 Lolita Ranch Syrah, 2008 Zio Tony Ranch Pinot Noir and 2007 Martinelli Road Chardonnay.
Hook and Ladder – Another one of our favorites. We have been in the wine club since 2008. The tasting room is in the warehouse. We love their reds – very drinkable Cab Francs and Red Blends.
DeLoach – Very nice tasting room and property. The owner of Hook and Ladder created this winery. It was one of the premier high end wineries and the wine of many airlines prior to 9/11. After 9/11, the airline business decreased and Cecil DeLoach sold the winery to a French investor and vintor and created Hook and Ladder. The DeLoach wines were more structured. The 2008 Swicegood Vineyard Pinot Noir was excellent.
Paradise Ridge – We went to the satellite tasting room since the weather was bad so the views from the actual property would have been lost. This winery has lower production than a lot of the other wineries we visited – about 300-500 cases per wine. The 2008 Estate Chardonnay was very good. The reds were decent. The star was the 2008 Ode to Joy Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc – just fantastic! We were lucky to get the executive chef for the winery to lead us through the tasting. She was super friendly and we had a great time. She even clued us in the Visa Signature Program that waives the tasting fees and gives 15% discounts at Sonoma wineries. Wished we had known about that sooner!! That is going to be a huge savings next time we come.
Ty Caton/Muscardini – Across the parking lot from Paradise Ridge is the Ty Caton/Muscardini tasting room.
Muscardini focuses on Italian style wines and grapes. Ty Caton makes some great red wines. The stunner was the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was so drinkable, well balanced, just terrific. We bought six bottles because we can’t wait to see how it ages.
Kunde – We turned in here because it had the sign “Voted Best Tasting Room”.
While I don’t think it was the best room – Kunde did have a lot of great options for experiencing their wine: a sit down Reserve tasting with small snacks, a ride up to 1,400 feet to see the view and taste the wine, cave tours and a food/wine seminar starting this spring. I don’t think the Reserve tasting was worth it here. I wasn’t wowed with any of their wines except for the 2010 Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc. We loved the Sauvignon Blanc.
Deerfield Farms – Across the road from Kunde. This has a fantastic tasting room in a cave! You walk down a long barrel-lined hallway.
The host was so friendly and knowledgeable. All the wines were excellent. We loved how balance and restrained they were. The host told us the vintner is a chef so he really values balance. We joined the wine club.
Next trip to California Wine Country – we are definitely going farther north and headquartering our stay in Healdsburg. Though we may try to get up to Oregon before we come back to California.