Saturday, October 25, 2008

Napa Valley

The best accompaniment to good food? Good wine. In Napa we only visited three wineries. That was enough for us, as with each tasting there were at least four wines. Plus we were driving so didn't want to drink too much. I think we hit up a good range:

The first was Rutherford Hill, which was off the Silverado Trail. It's a small winery with an olive grove where you can picnic and look down the hill. They had 10 wines for tasting and with the $15 fee you could pick any five. Since there were two of us, we did all of them. There was a good range of wines, starting with a Sauvignon Blanc and Rose, and then working through their collection of reds which include a Sangiovese, Merlot, Reserve Merlot, Winemaker's Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon and two boutique wines from the Terlato Family, Angel's Peak and Devil's Peak. There was also a Zinfandel Port. It's been a while now and so I can't remember exactly the notes of the wines but I do recall that my favorites from here were the Sangiovese and Winemaker's Blend which had Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot. We ended up getting a small bottle of the port, which went very well with the chocolate-covered blueberries they put out. Aside from the wines, there were also some gourmet accoutrements such as flavored balsamic vinegars, olive oils, and sauces, as well as beautiful glassware made from recycled bottles. If you go, I would recommend doing the cellar tour, which happens twice a day at 11am and 2pm. We were too late for the first one and too early for the second one, my only regret.

Chandon vineyard
Driving in - some of the vineyards

For the second winery we headed to Domaine Chandon, which specializes in sparkling wine. Located on a sprawling property on California Street, this was much bigger in scale than Rutherford Hill.

Prosciutto & Honeydew at Chandon
Prosciutto & honeydew melon for lunch

We did the Classic and Prestige tastings and also ordered some appetizers to hold us over until dinner. The tastings are held in Chandon's Etoile restaurant, an open area of white countertops....and pink neon. For such a big winery we did not feel rushed or lumped in with other wine swillers. For more information on the tastings, see their website. No appointments are necessary. On Fridays and Sundays they do Bubbles & Oysters, where they pair their sparklers with my favorite mollusks. Sorry to have missed that as well but we did walk with their sparkling Rose, which is staying cool in the fridge.

Monarch at Domaine Chandon
Monarch butterfly in the garden

After our tasting we were feeling pretty giddy so we took a walk around the property and spied this butterfly, snacking on some flowers.

Artesa Winery
Artesa Winery

Our last stop was Artesa Winery, which is located in Henry Street, a little out of the way. Despite this, it was quite crowded. Situated on a hill, Artesa focuses on Spanish wines, the seeds of which are imported from Spain and grown on California soil. Featuring a rotating roster of sculptures and artists, this was definitely my favorite.

View from Artesa Winery
View from Artesa

And the view isn't bad either. We bought a bottle of their Tempranillo, which sadly isn't for sale on their website. Very easy to drink - fruity and backed with peppery vanilla flavors. Definitely try to check this one out if you make the trip to Napa.

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