Monday, October 29, 2007

Napa / Sonoma Valley Review

Napa / Sonoma Valley Wineries

I have just returned from a few days in the Napa, Sonoma Valley in California. I had a wonderful time, and got to experience a true wine trip. I will be giving you my ratings of wineries in the order of preference, not in the order of my visit.

Rubicon Estate (Formerly Niebaum-Coppola)

This was by far our favorite, and had the best tasting wines. It's $25 per person, this includes, valet parking, wine tasting, tour and access to the museum. The museum is complete with a showcase of the Oscar for the second Godfather movie. I've been here two times before, and this new experience is well worth the price.
Ken walked us outside to sit in the wonderful sunshine while he gave us the 125-year history of the estate. He made it not only informative, but very interesting. We then followed him into the caves where the casks are kept and he gave us a treat. We got to taste some 2006 cask Cabernet straight from the cask. It had a black cherry, brown sugar taste and had aged in Missouri oak for eleven months.

Then we were left to our own devices and treated to the best wine of our trip. The downside was that all were only available at the winery. This winery had a 5 for taste, 5 for beauty, 5 for information and a 5 for hospitality.

We had so much fun here Toni got a little toasted. Well I did too, but luckily no blackmail pictures were taken.

I give this winery a 5

Sebastiani Winery
This was actually our first winery. It's in the Sonoma. I'd never been into the town of Sonoma, cute and quaint. On to the winery. It was on the smallish side, but very nice. The people were very friendly. Ron (my hubby) had expected the Cabernet to be excellent, he was disappointed. However, I felt it was very good. Unfortunately Ron had a sinus cold, so I think his taster was a little off. I loved their Zinfandel.

I give this winery a 5 in hospitality, 4 in tasting, and 5 in atmosphere.
I give this winery a 5

Beringer Winery
This has always been one of my favorite wineries. I started my wine connoisseur career with Beringer White Zinfandel. I can feel your cringe through the computer. However, I've graduated onto full bodied reds, and have never looked back.

Our friends wanted to visit this winery. Toni, is a beginner, and like me, when I was a beginner, loves the White Zin. (Yes I now want to wear shirts that say 'friends do not let friends drink White Zin'). So I'm trying to educate and gradually introduce her into the wonderful world of real wines.

We shared our tasting, mostly because we didn't want our husbands to have to roll us to the car after every tasting. At Beringer we tasted three reds that I wanted and all the light bubbly wines they offered for Toni. A white Zin, a white Merlot and a white bubbly white zin. My favorite was the wonderful Estate Cabernet. The white bubbly, wouldn't be bad for a Sunday brunch or with appetizers.

Above you see a picture outside the winery. Our friend Bill has to check out everything that says, do not enter, or no guests beyond this point. (If you can't read the sign). This winery I give a 5 for old world charm, 3.5 for tasting--however, I'm sure Toni would give it a 5--, and a 5 for hospitality.
Overall I give this a 4

Sterling Winery

This winery is up on a hill that overlooks the valley of Napa. It is $20 which includes your tram ride to the winery, tasting and a self guided tour. The view is worth every penny. I have visited this winery three times, and the view is what keeps me coming back. The winery itself is decorated in Old Spanish (anyway that's what it looks like to my uneducated eye.)

We didn't enjoy the wines as much, which is surprising since Sterling has a non-distributed Red Carpet Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon made just for Oscar night, and it's paired with Wolfgang Puck's menu for the governors ball.

Anyway, I give a 3 for the tasting, a 4 for hospitality and a 5+ for the view.
Overall I give this a 4

Hess Collection

I love this winery because it's so pretty. It's out of the way, you have to travel through beautiful country side to get to it. And when they say 'collection' they mean it. There are two floors of art. Some very abstract I admit, but very interesting.

It's worth it for the drive. I give this a 5 for the art collection, a 5 for the drive, a 3 for the tasting and a 3 for the hospitality, they were pretty snooty, maybe even a 2 for hospitality on second thought.
Overall I give this a 4

The rest of our trip mostly consisted of favorable, enjoyable experiences, but ones that we'll probably not visit again. There are too many wineries to continue to visit the ones that blend together. Here are a list of the wineries we visited, nothing to write home about, but we did enjoy them. I've given you the links so that you may check them out if you'd like.

Black Stallion
Andretti (I loved this place because they were playing Buffett in the background)
Ravenswood
Darioush (Very Expensive, I was afraid to touch anything)
Overall these wineries I give a 3
As for our overall Napa experience I'd give it a 5

Dining experience:
We ate our first night in downtown Napa and celebrated Bill's 40th birthday. We ate at an Italian Restaurant named Allegria It used to be a bank, and you can even have your dinner in the vault. It was excellent, and well worth the money. I had one of the best Margarita's there I've every had.
I give this a 5
Thanks for listening!

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