Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Travels to Napa Valley, California (Part 2)

Most of the wineries in Napa Valley are easily accessible from the main road (29) and the Silverado Trail.  We appreciated the intimate feel of the wineries, and were able to chat with the actual wine makers rather than shuffle through a self-guided tour with 100 other tourists. Many wineries request that you make a reservation. Don’t be scared; go ahead and make a reservation. Chances are that you will have the place to yourself.  Continuing from Part 1 of our travels to Napa Valley, we headed to our second winery of the day...

Robert Sinskey Vineyards offers a "farm-to-table" tour called Perfect Circle for $75 per person that starts with a walk through the organic garden, with a glass of wine in hand, and ends with a sit down tasting and small bites. Offering "fine wines from organic vines" RSV is 100% organic and Biodynamic certified with over 200 acres of premium vineyards in the Carneros and Stags Leap districts of Napa and Sonoma Valleys.  We started out with a taste of the newly released Abraxas Vin de Terroir, Scintilla Sonoma Vineyard, Los Carneros, 2013.  It was a lovely summery blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer grapes that had an aroma of pear with subtle hints of almond and lychee, and flavors that mimicked the aroma with the addition of crisp peach, lime and a hint of melon rind. The flavors and textures magically come together for a satisfyingly long finish. It was delicious, and paired well with a roasted squash and chicory salad. After touring the garden, we saw fresh Riesling grapes being juiced, and then moved inside to see the tanks and learned about the heating process to speed up fermentation.

We then walked into the caves to see the oak barrels and famous library that can be rented for private events. Luckily, none of this collection was damaged from the recent earthquake since the wire racks are screwed into the cave walls.  Next, we moved inside to sit down and try some reds - Cabernet Sauvignon "SLD", Pinot Noir from Los Carneros, and Cabernet Franc from Vandal Vineyard - all paired with a generous meat and cheese board featuring freshly baked quiches, gougères, olives, figs, and roasted almonds. My favorite red was the Marcien, Los Carneros, Napa Valley 2008. As the wine airs in the glass, subtle notes of cinnamon, clove, and citrus zest appear. This $90 bottle of wine has a firm core of tannin and bright, mouth watering acidity to balance the rich fruit.  It married expertly with the rich Harbison cheese from Jasper Hill Farms and the Shepherdista from Bleating Heart. To.Die.For.  Our tour at RSV was memorable and one of our favorites of the whole trip.

After this incredible feast, we still had lunch plans.  So off we went to pick up our fried chicken from Addendum.  It was a beautiful day, and I was having a blast.  We decided to squeeze in one more tasting room visit at Beaulieu Vineyards.  One of the oldest producers in the valley, BV offers tours of the original winery building, which dates back to 1885. These are followed by barrel samples of Cabernet and a stop in the new Heritage Room, which chronicles the history of wine in Napa.  We just did the Maestro Tasting for $15 per person and sampled the 2013 Maestro Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 Carneros Reserve Chardonnay, 2012 Maestro Pinot Noir No. 5, 2011 Rutherford Cabernet, and the 2009 Maestro Red No. 1.  We really enjoyed the red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures at this stop.

Next, one of the larger vineyards we visited was Sterling Vineyards.  They are known for their cable car ride which offers unparalleled views of the Napa Valley. We did the Sterling Silver Experience for $39 per person that included special access to the upper level of the winery where we were greeted with a glass of wine to enjoy while we strolled through art galleries, overlooks, and elevated walkways that allowed us to follow the wine making process from grape to glass. Along the way, motion-activated flat-screen televisions provide detailed explanations.  This leisurely arrangement let us tour the winery at our own pace and enjoy the views of the compelling southern vistas off the terrace.  It was pleasurable, but I much preferred the experience at the smaller wineries instead.  Our self-tour was followed by a seated wine tasting experience featuring single vineyard and limited release wines in one of the exclusive Tasting Rooms.  The cable car ride back down the mountain was the most fun part - breathtaking views.

To end our first full day of winery tours and tastings in Napa, we returned to the hotel to freshen up before heading out to dinner at Mustards Grill.  It was a pretty jam packed day, but read on to Part 3 and the conclusion of our travels to Napa Valley.  Have you visited Napa before? What are some of your favorites things to do and places to eat? Please share in the comments below!

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