Friday, February 22, 2013

City Guide - Napa Wineries

This is a continuation of the Napa City Guide Part 1 - if you are just starting out, I recommend that you start at the beginning (unless you only care about the wineries)!

Wine Visit Planning - Ok - I am OCD. I admit it and embrace my illness. Now that we have estiblished that as fact, let's get to it!

That said - you will be royally screwed if you do not take out a map and plot out your path. Napa is BIG. Last thing you want is to be driving like a maniac rushing to an appointment! Not fun. I typically break it into day plans taking into account the location as well as the start times. Map out your day ahead of time.

For example, Silver Oak opens at 9am (yes, I drink wine at 9am in Napa...don't judge) and it is generally my first stop on my first day. Then I look at the other wineries close by that I might be able to pop into without an appointment for a quick tasting (i.e. Plumpjack) and I also look for those wines that you can only get at the winery. Here is a great map to start doesnt have every one but most of the big ones. There is also a small book called the Napa Valley Guidebook that lists all of the wineries with their addresses and times.  Don't leave home without it...worth every penny of the $5.95.  Plus it's small enough for you to carry around if you find yourself in an area with some time to kill!

My Unbreakable Rules - I reserve the right to break that at any time without notice or explanation. Deal.

1. I do not ship things I can get at home...this sounds like a "DUH" but you get in there, get talking and tasting and before you know it you will be shipping a crap ton of stuff home just because you get into the moment.

2. If I do not LOVE it - I do not feel obligated to buy after tasting (learned the hard way).

3. Keep a log of the things that you have purchased and set a budget ahead of time. Just do it - you will thank me.

4. You will amass a lot of glasses from your tastings. Take an extra bag for the ones you want to keep!

5. Eat a substantial meal before any cave or barrel tastings. You will also thank me for this advice.

6. Build in enough time into your schedule to really enjoy yourself and talk to the wonderful people working the tasting rooms. And walk the properties - they are lovely! I generally don't schedule more than 2 appointments in a day if at all possible.

Favorite Wineries - First off - I LOVE WINE. LOVE IT.  I think I enjoy my buying trips as much as I enjoy drinking it.  Naw - forget I said that cause it's not true.  My winery picks reflect my feelings about wine!  If you are looking for a)free tasting and b)shitloads of wasted people on small vans/limo's just looking to drink - turn away now.  RUN, in fact. Different strokes, peeps!  I mainly go to places that have amazing wine, and are off the beaten path (i.e.  reservations required).  Generally my favs require appointments....for those below that do not, I will point it out!

Del Dotto - Hands down my favorite. 

Keep in mind they have 2 locations...both very different.  I will start off with the new location which is over the top in most every way.  A barrel tasting is like $40pp but it is an experience people.  Candlelight caves, Andrew Bocelli wander through the cave with a small group your guide just pulling tastes out of the barrel with a wine theif. 

If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to have David Del Dotto take you into the caves yourself....well...prepare yourself.  He might hurt you and you may or may not have to take a short nap afterwards since he will introduce you to his favorite barrels (i.e.  hurt you).  I love that they try very hard to teach as well - tasting one wine in Missouri Oak then tasting the same in a French oak (from different forests in France as well).  It's a great time and I highly recommend it. 

I'm going in...

Ignore the dude that got in my shot...

See how happy Del Dotto makes me - not even buzzed yet!

If you are interested the old cave is located on Silverado Trail and is a TOTALLY different experience. I sometimes still go visit both on one trip...  It is much smaller and more intimate...and less crowded!

Artistic yet a little freaky...

Chinese immigrants carved out this hand!

Far Niente - Lovely, AMAZING property and fantastic wines.  They do a property tour with a seated wine/cheese pairing.  Delicious and fun!  They have a barn filled with all sorts of different cars guaranteed to make your mens so happy. Their cave is lovely but my pictures were crappy!  Sorry!

Perfect except for the lone port a potty in the field....

Frog's Leap - This is a seated tasting outside overlooking the Mayacamas Mountains and their organic gardens.  Truth be told, even though they are appointment only, you can generally call them and say "I am down the street in the parking lot) and they will tell you to come on in!

Jarvis - Wonderful, can't say enough about 'em wines.  That said, the tasting is a bit phoo phoo for that a word?  The entire cave is underground and it is worth the visit. 

Joseph Phelps - Again - property is to die for!  Wines are good but not really my favorite.  We got an appointment at like 9:10am, if that says anything.  You taste from the outside patio overlooking beautiousness....

Almost ready for crush!

Amazing Casks
Paraduxx - This is a lovely tasting....It was quiet and relaxing and a great way to spend and hour or so.

Pride Mountain - I seriously love this winery and their wines.  Their vineyards are split at the top of the mountain dividing napa and sonoma...

The drive up is amazing!
Caymus - I never taste here since they do not have a library (i.e.  they only have current release...refer back to the rules, people!).  HOWEVER - they sell a Zinfandel that is available only at the Winery.  I run in after Silver Oak and grab my allocated 2 bottles.  Then move on!

Silver Oak - one of my staples.  Love.  They also have a fantastic library of wines.  No Appt necessary!

Regusci - I LOVE Regusci and and in the wine club.  If memory serves Grandpa Regusci purchased the 135 acres back in the depression era for $25 an acre. I could weep.  Built in 1878, the T.L. Grigsby-Occidental Winery, located on the Regusci Ranch, is an example of a "ghost winery" (the name given to the few remaining early Napa Valley wineries that were in existence between 1860 and 1900) that has been impeccably preserved. Don't miss the Zinfandel if they still have some...and their olive oil is amazing as well. No Appt necessary!

I just noticed that I do not have a picture of the manly eye candy of the kilt wearing hunk of a man that works their tasting room.  He is beautiful and hysterical but I have no picture so just imagine it....

Olive trees on property

One of my favorite Winery Dogs....Adorbs....

Merryvale - Typically our last stop since they are open until 6pm (others starting closing at 4 or 5pm). No Appt necessary!

Amazing Cask room - I wanna have dinner here!

Constant - This one is difficult to get into since they are small.  However - if you can sort it out it is a one in a lifetime!  Freddie Constant built as close to a bit of heaven as I can imagine at the very top of Diamond Mountain.  He replicated a lake house from his childhood below.  They were featured in Architecural Digest here.

"the movie room" ?  Shut the front door...

Pine Ridge - Gorgeous property.  Can get quite busy and I cant stand it when it is might have to come back but definately worth it!  No Appt necessary!

Peju - A fun place to taste...not necessarily my favorite wines but some that are great "every day drinkables"...No Appt necessary!

ZD - lovely building and a nice place to pop in for a quick taste!  No Appt necessary!

Hope you enjoyed this!  I hope to make another trip this year and add some new favorites to the list!

I will publish some sample itineraries once I locate them in my organized shithole of a filing system (if you call it that!)

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