Choicest pieces of real estate in California, slim lanes that vein the countryside of stunningly beautiful vineyards, an enviable weather of 70F plus or minus 5F throughout the year (Too bad, Californians have to think harder for conversation starters than the rest of the country), some of best restaurants in the world – Napa valley is not just about wine and wine tastings, although I wouldn’t disclude that that is the major motivation for many!
My first stop was at the Michael Mondavi vineyard on 1285 Dealy lane. I had tasted one of their cabernet sauvignon during my wine tasting classes and always knew that I wanted to go there. Dealy Lane has many other vineyards; and it is one you want to drive on with the car windows down. The tasting flight at Michael Mondavi included two packages; you can pick and choose one and switch as you go through. It is a smaller tasting gallery than the other more commercial ones, which tend to become a bit too touristy. The bartenders offered individual attention for the guests as much as possible and help you decide the wines you would like the most as you go through the list. I went walking around the vineyards to wear off a bit and would have loved to have an accompanied narrative, but I don’t think they organize one. They have a limited production and they don’t sell more than two bottles per person over the counter. Apparently, this policy is necessary to stop people from emptying their cellar! Their dessert wine – Oberon Moscato – a sweet peachy flavored with a slightly bitter aftertaste – was a spectacular end to my tastings.
I stopped at the Artesa vineyards before leaving San Francisco. Located at a vantage point on top of a hill, coupled with their mind-blowing sculptures and fountains, their property is a reward for photography enthusiasts. It was their closing time, and I was content with clicking away. If I had planned it a bit better, I might have been able to get on the 2 PM tour of their vineyards. Artesa can be a good starting point for those who don’t drink wine but want to go around Napa. I don’t know if the internet is going to be helpful here at all – Napa and wine seem to be just intertwined in the Google searches!
A good rule of thumb are that these vineyards generally are open from 11 to 5 and tastings are through the day ranging from $10 to $$$ i.e. if you end up buying all the wine that you liked during your tastings. That is less uncommon that you would think. But you may want to call ahead if you are particular about a certain vineyard. I wouldn’t say formal clothes, but some of kind of business casuals with solid colors and some elegant jewellery should help you blend in with rest of the tasting crowd. And by all means, ask for your favourite wine even if it is not in the tasting flight. They might consider even if you don’t write a blog about it!
After having wined and dined to full, I drove back, contentedly, to SFO international to catch my red-eye to Atlanta. I might have been bit cautious about the tastings though, because getting drunk and missing my flight was the last thing I wanted. Nevertheless, it felt good!