Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Travels to Napa Valley, California (Part 3)

Some charms in Napa Valley are the same year-round: a bucolic setting, stellar hospitality, world-class wine and food.  The summer months in wine country promise the most temperate weather, with rain a rare intruder, although temperatures are known to soar north of 100 degrees every once in awhile (pack accordingly!). Thanks to the characteristically cool nights, however, hot days are tempered by comfortable evenings.  We visited in early September when most of the wineries were just starting their harvest.  Continuing from Part 1 and Part 2 of our travels to Napa Valley, we started out our second day of tours...
Our first appointment on Sunday was at Vine Cliff.  This small vineyard with gorgeous grounds off the Silverado Trail has a very small tasting room that was recently remodeled.  For $45 per person, we made an appointment for the Cheese Pairing in the Cave experience. We enjoyed a private tasting in the 15,000 square foot cave of perfectly paired wines and cheeses. It was hosted by a knowledgeable wine educator, Stefan. We also got to tour the gorgeous property before the pairing.  This was another one of our most favorite tours during our visit to Napa.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take the menu with me, so I don't know the exact names of the wines and cheeses we had.  But they were geniusly paired - I mean life changing.  From a soft hybrid cow/goat cheese that was very dry and went with a crisp Chardonnay to a smoky gouda paired with a deep Cabernet Franc.  We truly enjoyed everything and highly recommend this tour.

We had a little time before our lunch reservations at étoile Restaurant at Domaine Chandon, so we stopped by Hagafen Cellars for a taste.  This is one of two kosher wineries in Napa and has many wines that have been served in the White House.  We did the Prixes & Reserves tasting for $25 per person.  Of the five tastes, we enjoyed the 2004 Prix Melange and the sweet 2009 White Riesling.

Hagafen Cellars on Urbanspoon

Our last winery tour was at Jarvis Estate.  As the country's first winery built entirely underground, visitors are offered an intimate glimpse into the meticulous steps that go into producing lush Chardonnays, rich Cabernet Sauvignons and velvety Merlots, among others. Touring the 45,000 square foot cave is a unique experience and reveals how the Jarvis Estate approach to crafting world-class wines differs from what is found virtually anywhere else. The $60 per person tour includes a visit to the Cuve Gallery, a collection of one dozen massive oak vessels assembled in the cave by French coopers and used to make certain the exceptional flavors developed in the estate vineyards are not compromised. The underground waterfall near the end of the tour ensures the steady cave temperatures and humidity that are vital to the Jarvis Estate signature style of extended aging in new French oak barrels. Finally, we had the opportunity to enjoy the rewards of these painstaking efforts. The tour concluded with an intimate, seated experience in the Tasting Chamber where we sampled six Jarvis Estate and Reserve Collection wines: 2012 Finch Hollow Chardonnay, 2010 Cabernet Franc, 2011 Merlot, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, 2006 Lake William (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot), and the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, which was the most pricey of the tastes at $230 for a bottle.  The caves were very cool and the wines very prestigious, but the ambience was a bit more pretentious than other wineries we visited.

Jarvis Winery on Urbanspoon

To end this night, we enjoyed dinner at Bottega. Though the restaurant is part of the historic Vintage Estates, located in one of the oldest wineries in the Napa Valley, I did not sample any of the wine here.  I had enough in my system from earlier in the day, and learned I had what is called the "shampoo effect" going on. Ha! Bon Vivant - that is what I strive to be!

Here is a map of all the stops we made in Napa as mentioned in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of my recap - feel free to use it to build your own itinerary:

For more Napa Valley eats check out my restaurant reviews. We really enjoyed the beautiful California weather, and had learned so much about wine.  It was a great experience for oenophiles of all ages.  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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