theCorkHead.com

theCorkHead.com

The online home of Mark “The Cork Head” Stuart, Certified Wine Professional, speaker/educator, judge, and columnist.

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May 2017
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Entrance to the World Famous Napa Valley

Entrance to the World Famous Napa Valley

When visiting the Napa Valley, finding a special winery to enjoy a tasting is as easy as absorbing the magic that makes this one of the great wine regions on earth. Cruising along Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail (the two most traveled roads that border the majority of the wineries) the vineyards sprawl from mountain range to mountain range, from San Francisco Bay north past Calistoga. There are literally hundreds of wineries to choose from, the vast majority willing to share their history, character, and beautiful views while tasting their vino for just a few dollars.

Keep in mind that Napa is all about business. It is the 2nd largest tourist attraction in the state behind Disneyland with over 5 million visitors each year! The incredible surge in the area’s tourism business has allowed the wineries to put together fabulous vineyard tours and create upscale tasting rooms, many with gastronomic delights to pair with the wines that are offered. Some of the wineries that offer high dollar wines now require appointments and even restrict wine sales in their tasting rooms. Incredible…what sort of business would limit the amount of money a customer could spend? Well, that is the business of wine and will be the topic of another story…I digress…

Sorting through all of the different wineries, though incredibly fun and educational (and hard on the liver:)) is not an option for the average weekend traveler so I have assembled the list below to get you started when visiting “The Valley”. My selection criteria is a bit esoteric, but then again, so some of the wineries on the list! Wineries numbered 1-3 require an appointment.

5) V. Sattui Winery: This is a funky place smack dab in the middle of Hwy. 29 just south of St. Helena. Upon entry, guests find themselves in a fabulous cheese shop so tantalizing that you may hardly notice the delectable deli on the left. Continue on through to the tasting room to sample the wines that made this the 2006 and 2007 California State Fair Winery of the Year. As a bonus, this place may be the only major league tasting room in the valley that still offers no charge wine tasting! Best of all, V. Sattui Winery has continued to maintain the strong aroma of a family run business. Pick up some cheese, pair it with your favorite wine, and enjoy their outdoor picnic area under the valley sun.

4) Merryvale: I stumbled upon this place on my very first trip to wine country and it still is on my hit list every time I return. Merryvale’s Cask Room is perhaps the very best place to sniff and slurp anywhere. They offer great food with wine classes on weekends and organize all sorts of fun activities with their wine club members including their annual lawn croquet matches! I find all of their varitals to be palate pleasers, topped by their flagship wine, Profile. Like most Napa cabernet and blends, it is bold and fruit driven, however this wine has a softer mouth feel that keeps you wanting more.

3) Rubicon Estate: Owned by movie mogul Francis Ford Coppola, this venerable estate is as beautiful as they come. Re-branding the estate from Neibaum-Coppola to Rubicon Estate allows the visitor an inside look in to how they make their top notch wine from vineyard to bottle. While there, make sure to take a look upstairs at some of Coppola’s personal collection of film artifacts, including the famous Tucker automobile. The tasting and tour fees are high, but they do make sure you get what you pay for.

2) Viader: If this is your first stop of the day it will make for difficult comparisons the rest of the afternoon. The property takes you up Howel Mountain through a commanding private drive to a stone enclave tasting room overlooking the entire northern portion of the Napa Valley. Oh yeah…the wines are as spectacular as the view. Viader wines are superbly balanced and among the most age worthy from the Napa Valley. Make reservations early for this upscale and unforgettable visit.

1) Reverie: This very out of the way place is a must visit…if you can find it! Hidden off the beaten path up the hillside of Diamond Mountain, their unique tasting leads you from fermenting tanks to the wine cave on through to their magical circle of redwoods that brings you a feeling of peace and tranquility only a setting like this can provide. If you are lucky, Julius or Grant will be there to lead you through your journey of the estate. I must warn you that I have never been there with anyone who has left with less than a case of their finest!

Remember, it is not what is in your glass, it is who you share it with.

~ Mark

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