Two weeks ago my husband and I were lucky enough to visit Napa, California. While I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I had never visited Napa before. Before two years ago, I wasn’t even that into wine. My favorite wines were Moscato or Riesling – VERY SWEET!
During Chanukah two years ago, my mother in law introduced me to the Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon and my life forever changed. Now I am lover of red wine and have a more diverse palate. We were fortunate to visit some great wineries and restaurants. It really was an amazing trip! I put together little reviews of all of the places we visited. Anywhere listed below I would highly recommend!
Where to Stay
We actually rented a house via VRBO in Napa for the long weekend. It was nice to have our own space and not have to eat out every meal. We ate breakfast at the house each morning. There was a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s about a 10 minute drive from the house which made it easy to stock the refrigerator with all of our local favorites (READ: Fage Greek Yogurt, Cow Girl Creamery Cheese and Trader Joe’s Truffle Cheese). Renting a house was significantly less expensive then staying in a hotel.
Where to Drink
After visiting the Napa Valley sign, we stopped into Opus One for a tasting. My boss had mentioned that it was one of his favorite wineries so we decided to give it a try. Upon arrival, I was first blown away by the modern architecture. The building and grounds are pretty spectacular.
We opted to share one tasting as they are a bit expensive. They were pouring two different red blends, one from 2010 and one from 2012. While the wines were good, none of us thought they really were worth their $300+ per bottle price tag.
My first Napa love. We stopped in for a quick tasting and to see the grounds. There is a CASTLE! My husband’s family had already been to Chateau Montelena once before, so we didn’t spent a lot of time here, but we shared a tasting. The Cabernet Sauvignon did not disappoint. We were fortunate to be able to taste the 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which was AMAZING. So smooth and luscious. It really melted in my mouth. Since 2012 is the year E and I were married, we bought a bottle and are saving it to open on our 5 year anniversary!
One of the days we had a driver who transported us from winery to winery. If you are considering a trip to Napa, I would highly recommend it, as the wineries are all very spread out. Our driver knew A LOT about wine. He carefully selected wineries for us to visit based on our palates.
The first stop on our tour was the Fontanella Family Winery in the Mount Veeder district. To get there you have to drive up a mountain. Don’t worry. It is worth it! Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by our server and Burt Reynolds, an adorable schnoodle, who we just couldn’t get enough of. A table was set up for us with glassware as well as a cheese plate and jams. We worked our way through their wine list one by one and, at the end, were privileged to taste their special Beckstoffer wine. Looking back, this was one of our favorite wineries we visited. THANK GOD we ordered several bottles so we will be able to enjoy them for months to come!
Our second stop was the Yates Family Winery, also located in the Mount Veeder district. The grounds are pretty special. All of the vines are located on hills around the main production facility. It was a beautiful sight, especially in the rain. I can’t even imagine what it would look like on a sunny day.
The Yates Family Winery truly is a family business. The property has been in the Yates family for decades. Michael Yates started producing wine on the property in 1999. His daughters joined the operation in 2005. Now they produce a mix of red and white wine. Our favorites were their Alden Perry Reserve and the Cabernet Franc. The winery had a homey feel. The tasting room is located within a home on the property. It has a long dining room table that you know was the venue for big family dinners and special occasions. There are family photos hung throughout. Right in front, there was a beautiful dogwood tree blooming in bright pink. It made for a beautiful backdrop for family photos.
Our third stop was the Terraces. It was definitely a different kind of place. When driving up to the vineyard, look out for the two bright pink polka dotted cows hanging out amongst the vines.
Upon arrival we were greeted by Dominic, the assistant wine maker. We sat on a big red couch and slowly made our way through the wine list. Along the way we peppered our server with questions, and he had interesting answers to each and every one of them! It was nice to learn more about the intricacies of wine making process from him. The tasting room was decorated with an eclectic mix of art and furniture. It was one of the more laid back tastings we had.
Our final stop with the driver was Failla Wines. The tasting room is in an adorable little lodge. It felt so warm and cozy inside. I just wanted to curl up on one of their comfy couches with a blanket and a bottle of one of their famous cool climate Pinot Noirs! Failla is one of the few wineries in Napa that produce Pinot Noirs. I recently became a fan of Pinot Noir after being introduced to the Frank Family Pinot Noir. Our server, while brand new to Failla, was very knowledgeable about the winery and shared very interesting stories about their owner Ehren Jordan. He has lived a VERY interesting life! This was a great way to end our tour.
My sister in law used to live in San Francisco and, as a result, was a frequent Napa visitor. The last time she was in Napa, she stopped into Quixote Winery and instantly fell in love. She insisted that we visit this trip, so we scheduled a tour and tasting.
Quixote is located within the Stags Leap district and has a beautiful view of the Stags Leap Palisades. Upon arrival, we were first struck by the interesting architecture of the winery building. Our tour guide and server, Ben, later explained that the building was designed and built by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a Viennese painter, architect, ecologist and philosopher, together with the original owner of the winery, Carl Doumani. The design is free flowing and colorful. It makes for a really open and welcoming space. After wandering the building, production area and barrel room we were seated in a private tasting room at a long wooden table. We then proceeded to taste ALL OF THE WINE. Our favorite, of course, was one of their most expensive offerings, the Helmet of Mambrino, “a dark, fragrant and expressive red, showing accents of fresh forest floor and loam to the flavors of wild blueberry and blackberry, along with licorice, rosemary and espresso details. Thick, velvety tannins and a spicy finish give this wine extra charm.” Have I mentioned that I love wine descriptions?
FUN FACT: Quixote is the ONLY building designed by Hundertwasser in the United States.
On our last morning in Napa, we couldn’t decide what to do. We had a lot of wine over the course of the trip and weren’t sure we could handle another winery. Ben, over at Quixote, highly recommended that we visit Pine Ridge Vineyards (and was kind enough to give us 2 for 1 tasting coupons). We called over to see if they had any availability. Sure enough they said to come on over!. And boy are we glad we did. Pine Ridge serves a variety of red and white wine. My favorites were their Petit Verdot and their Port. I loved them so much that we ordered a bottle of each.
Pine Ridge stores all of their wine barrels in their wine caves (YES, they have their own wine caves – many wineries in Napa do!). After our tasting we wandered through them and were amazed! They host parties in the wine caves all the time. Definitely a different kind of venue for an event!
After we were done drinking and wandering we were all kinds of hungry. We weren’t sure where to stop for our last meal in Napa. Our server and tour guide recommended that we stop in to Heritage Eats before heading back to San Francisco. Another great recommendation from a Napa local!
We stopped in to Duckhorn Vineyards at the recommendation of a friend of ours. Their tasting room is amazing. The building has windows all the way around and a beautiful deck. I imagine it would have been perfect to sit at for ours on a sunny afternoon. Unfortunately, when we visited it was raining and slightly humid, so we chose to sit indoors. The night before our visit we had tasted their Chardonnay, which we quite enjoyed. We were looking forward to tasting more of what they had to offer.
To be completely honest, we weren’t blown away by any of the wines we had here. We tasted one Chardonnay (different then the one we had the previous night) and several Cabernet Sauvignons. It is the only winery besides Opus One where we didn’t purchase bottles. Would I buy a bottle of Duckhorn if I saw it at the liquor store? Yes. The wines were good. They just didn’t stand out compared to the other wines we tried throughout the trip.
NEXT TIME ON WHAT’S FOR DINNER ESQ. – EATING MY WAY THROUGH NAPA