Thursday, October 16, 2008

A few Napa offerings

This weekend welcomed my mother for her first visit to California in over twenty years. We dined in San Fran, walked across the Golden Gate, toured Sausalito, and spent two days in beautiful Napa Valley. Since it was mom's first time in Napa, we of course had to stop at a few wineries. Here's a recap of those we hit up for my industry discount.

Clos du Val
Quickly becoming on of my favorites here in the valley, Clos du Val is located at the southern tip of the famed Stags Leap District, right on the Silverado Trail. Brain child of the legendary Bernard Portet, the winery was formed in 1972. Their somewhat whimsical marketing and fun attitude are fabulously contrary to the serious wines they specialize in. In addition to their Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignons and Meritage blends, they also work with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Carneros. They are no stranger to great press, and the winery itself is beautiful. The coolest thing is the grapes planted right in front of the entrance - more for show than actual use, they demonstrate several of the different trellising techniques used by the team, and provide a great educational tool for the tours. At this point I've been so many times with visitors that I'm starting to make friends with some of the staff, which provides me with a total wine-geek thrill.

Mumm Napa
A solid domestic sparkling wine producer - not something to be taken for granted - Mumm is located in the Rutherford district of the Silverado Trail. Tastings are done in a sit-down style, so you grab a table on their beautiful patio, order a flight, and enjoy the view. Lucky for us, the weather was absolutely beautiful. It's hard not to enjoy the wine in a setting like that. Surprise of the day - one of our favorites was their 2006 Pinot Gris. Who knew that Mumm did such nice still wines, too?

Sterling Vineyards
I had only been to Sterling once before, on my inaugural trip to Napa over seven years ago. I remembered the famous gondola ride, but had no recollection of what a huge production the whole tasting was. Think, Busch Gardens, except you're allowed to carry a real glass around the park. After you get off of the ride, you are ushered on a self-guided tour of the winery which includes scenic overlooks of the crushing facility, bottling lines and barrel room, and is peppered with different tasting stations throughout. One of the stops is a sweeping patio that overlooks most of the northern part of the valley with plenty of tables to sit at and photo ops to snap. The industry insider in me would love to scoff this winery off as too big of a production - probably corporate and heartless - but the thing is, there is no denying that it is beautiful. It's also completely impressive and educational, especially for beginners. The wines are so-so, but for these purposes it's ok. I think this is a great place for Napa newcomers to stop, if for no other reason, to enjoy the views of this truly spectacular thirty-seven miles of earth.

So there you have it, folks! My newly-insider opinions of some of Napa's most famous offerings. For what it's worth...


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