Saturday - Napa Valley
Hess Collection - Our first stop was one of the best. The tasting was $10 and there was a free 45 minute tour. The owner's personal art collection (all three floors of it) is free to view.
Ward the Tour Guide explains how Hess uses sustainable farming.
Next stop - Mumm on Silverado Trail. We did the Reserve tasting on the Oak Terrace because you could lounge under the oak trees. A little more expensive than the regular tasting, but the wine was fantastic and the lounging not so bad, either.
Our next stop after lunch was the Franciscan. We didn't like this one as much, but it could have just been us.
We finished at Beringer, but didn't taste there. It was pretty commercial, and one that I would probably pass on for this reason. They were having a special Father's Day NASCAR event and it was crowded, so we grabbed a free snow cone and got out of there.
Napa lessons learned: if/when we go again, we're going to rent bicycles and ride up the Silverado Trail. There are lots of wineries off this road and it would be a quick way to try a lot of different wines. You'll need the bicycles for this same reason.
We stayed in a B&B in Santa Rosa in Sonoma Valley called The Gables Wine Country Inn. It's a historic landmark and owners George and Pam live in the basement. We HIGHLY recommend staying here. Because it's in Sonoma and not Napa, the rooms were much more reasonable and we felt like we were out of the hustle and bustle of Napa. Every detail was perfect - homemade cookies available all day, wine and cheese from 5:00 - 7:00, and a four-course breakfast in the morning that was truly fabulous. The clean and adorable rooms had Aveda products and crisp white linens. George and Pam made themselves available the entire day to answer questions, call in dinner reservations, and give directions. Their dinner recommendations were wonderful...these people know food. They are my kind of people.
On Sunday we stayed in Sonoma Valley. Our awesome B&B gave us a card that was good for two complimentary tastings at 30 different wineries, so you better believe we used it!
Our first stop - St. Francis. Fun tasting experience, great wine. We ordered a half case (and are anxiously awaiting its arrival...any day now...)
Next stop - Chateau St. Jean. Tasty Chardonnay!
Then we drove a bit to get to Benziger and do the tour and tasting. They took us through the vineyards in a tractor and into the caves. Many wineries have paid millions to blast caves into the mountains to store their wines. Caves, although costly, are desirable because it always stays 55 degrees, the perfect temperature to store wine. I'm told that if you dig three feet underground anywhere on earth, the temperature will always be 55 degrees. Don't quote me on that...just something that Steve at Benziger told us.
Our last stop of the day was to Lancaster Estate. Our only set appointment was at this winery...and we actually got to taste in their caves. They had all our glasses set up already when we entered the cave, and our tasting expert (is that the appropriate title for this person?) sat across from us. I felt like we were in the Boardroom. He didn't get my joke...too East Coast for him, probably.
The wine bottles behind the table are just mounted into aluminum poles set into the concrete. Simple, but so cool.
When we got ready to pay for our tour, our guy asked if we had a Visa Signature card. Why yes, yes we did! "Oh, it's all free then." What??! Apparently the Sonoma wineries have a deal with Visa - if you have a Visa Signature card, make sure you mention it.
Our flight didn't leave until late Monday night, so we were able to see a few more things in wine country and also visit Point Reyes National Sea Shore before driving back to San Francisco. I also got to eat my garlic fries at Taylor's Automatic Refresher (now called Gott's) in the town of Napa, which was one of the only things on my Must-Do list for the trip. Sad, I know. Those fries were so good that I'll admit to being pathetic on the internet!
Broken camera...bummer. We have no idea how it happened, but every picture now has this line in it. Blech.