There’s no better way to spend a sunny, warm day in the Bay Area than to head up to Napa Valley for a day of wine tasting.I went up there recently with a group of 9 people to experience Napa’s best.Below is a journal of the day.
10:03am:We arrived in the parking lot of the Napa Wine Company (http://www.napawineco.com/) tasting room and entered the simple interior.The walls are lined with various bottles of wines that are made with their winemaking facilities by other winemakers and other grapes- an example of the fascinating co-op culture of the industry.This was a different type of tasting experience, as each glass was a different label.Truthfully they were all fairly forgettable, and we quickly moved on to our next stop without purchasing anything.
11:46am: V. Sattui is one of our favorites- instead of a traditional tasting room set-up, they have an extensive market selling their wines, a huge selection of cheeses, and a fresh deli.We all chose a selection of each and met up at a picnic table on their beautiful lawn to feast.Highlights included the smoky Rambol cheese and their V.Sattui house red.This is a more family-friendly type of wine tasting, and a great way to break up the intensity of tasting rooms, copious swirling, and spittoons.
1:13pm:We arrived early for our reservation at Paraduxx (many of the bigger, nicer wineries require appointments for tastings).They took us in right away, set us up with a circle of comfortable patio chairs outside in the sun, and brought us a chronological flight of their red wines.The cheeses they brought us were a sharp cheddar from San Joaquin and a delicious French cheese called mimolette , which is an orange version of edam.The 2004 Napa Valley Red was more full-bodied than the others with a slightly smoky aftertaste, and stuck in my mind.The folks at Paraduxx were wonderfully nice, explaining the owner’s incredible duck obsession and their integration into the duck-hunting community.It’s a truly beautiful winery.
2:36pm: We lined up at the counter of Cliff Lede Vineyards .The jolly man that poured for us gave us a quick geography lesson about the Napa Valley wine regions, and we experienced the best tasting of the day.It was a four-wine flight, the highlights being a deliciously light and crispy sauvignon blanc and a rich and earthy 2006 Stag’s Leap cabernet sauvignon.While this tasting did not come with any snacks, the warm patio overlooking the wine caves on the property made up for it.
4:09pm: We entered the main room of the Del Dotto Winery (http://www.deldottovineyards.com/) after flipping pennies into the eerie fountain outside with a giant head spitting water.We were immediately astounded by the opulent furnishings which directly conflicted with the large disco ball hanging from the ceiling.The surroundings were so luxurious I felt that they actually distracted a bit from the taste of the wines.I do remember the wonderful Chardotto Port served at the end, as well as the aged parmigiano reggiano cheese and dark chocolate morsels that were paired with the wines.By the end of this interlude, we were all ready for a real meal.
5:24pm:We were shown to our table in the center of Redd , a restaurant next door to the infamous French Laundry in Yountville.We decided on the five-course tasting menu, and Chef Richard Reddington and his staff were amazingly accommodating, working hard to create a wonderful experience despite a myriad of dietary restrictions.The food was extremely tasty and satisfying, but the only thing that truly blew my mind was the wild mushroom risotto they served me instead of a raw fish course.It was creamy but not overwhelming, and the taste of the mushrooms was perfectly infused into the sauce.If you plan on trekking out to Redd, I suggest foregoing the tasting menu and instead concentrating on a few chosen dishes for a lower overall price.This will give you the ability to sample things like the Tomales Bay oyster special, which my friend was desperately disappointed she was unable to experience.
It was a long day in Napa, we got drunk and sunburned and very, very full.We hit five wineries and a great restaurant, and only scratched the tip of what this amazing region has to offer.The truth is, there’s no wrong way to do Napa.
- Touring Suisun Valley: Ledgewood Creek Winery & Vineyards (wine-blog.org)
- A night of Cabernet……… (benchlandblog.com)
- Wines of The Times: South African Wines Step Onto the Stage (nytimes.com)