Things That I Have Learned In The Napa Valley

Things That I Have Learned In Napa Valley

 “God made water, but man made wine.” –Victor Hugo

I’m not the right person to be writing about Napa wine or any alcoholic beverage. I’m a one drink one drunk kind of girl and wine just tastes like wine to me. Truthfully, I was much more interested in eating my way through the Napa Valley.  I do like the wine culture and the quiet beauty of the vineyard landscape.  I have visited them in many countries so it was fun to see it here. I learned a lot.

Four per cent of all the wine grapes grown in California come from the Napa Valley.

Ninety-five per cent of all Napa Valley wineries are family owned.

There are more than three hundred stone arch bridges in the Napa Valley.

Winemaking history began in Napa Valley in 1838, when George Calvert Yount, founder of the town of Yountville, planted the first commercial vineyards in the valley.

Napa Valley is one of the most renowned winemaking regions in the world, but it is also one of the smallest. The valley floor spans across five miles at its widest point and 30 miles at its longest point.

Napa Valley was once a little-known wine region, and nobody thought that its homegrown wines could beat the dominant, classic French wines. That all changed though in the Judgement of Paris, a competition where wines were judged through blind-tasting. Two Californian wines — Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon — overwhelmed the renowned Bordeaux and Burgundy, and won the top honors.

A Mediterranean climate is characterized by long hot, dry summers and warm, wet winters, where rainfalls are most scarce. Only 2% of the world’s landmass has a Mediterranean climate which is conducive to growing wine grapes.

There are over four hundred wineries in the Napa Valley.

The most popular grape in Napa Valley is Cabernet Sauvignon,

The sloping vineyards on rolling hills make up at least a dozen microclimates in the Napa valley  all known for being amenable to certain varieties of grapes.

Robert Mondavi had their first grape harvest in 1966 and has produced fine wine ever since.The wine is rooted in family generations, passion, knowledge, and experience. Robert Mondavi Winery Tours were some of the first to exist in the region.  There are a few different tours you can take. The signature tour includes a behind the scenes look of a well-known large brand. https://www.robertmondaviwinery.com/

Most of the wine being produced here is for premium or reserve bottles and we got to taste a few. The tour guide was knowledgeable and fun and clearly loves her job.

Calistoga’s Schramsberg Vineyards is a historic estate in the forests of Diamond Mountain and home to the oldest hillside vineyards. The tour will take you through the history of Schramsberg and its 125-year-old caves. These are the first caves dug in Napa for wine storage. You’ll learn about the method of producing Schramsberg wine as well as the fact that their sparkling wines have been served at official state functions by every US presidential administration. Perhaps you’ll find someone “riddling” the bottles to move the spent yeast into their necks, or catch a glimpse of the bottling process. Schramsberg is the first U.S. winery to commercially produce sparkling wine in the traditional method developed in Champagne. http://www.schramsberg.com/

K. Laz is a by appointment only, private sit down wine tasting experience in downtown Yountville.  It appeals to a high-end crowd. There is a personal lesson/tasting geared to your knowledge and what you want to learn and try. https://www.klazwinecollection.com/

 I made it very clear that I was just company on this tasting and was quite intimidated when I walked in. My lack of wine knowledge was very evident here. Garrett made me feel completely at home. We didn’t just taste the wines but heard the stories and back stories. I ended up buying some. I highly recommend this tasting for those interesting in learning about hard to find interesting wines.

Choosing a restaurant in the Napa Valley can be a tough decision with so many wonderful choices. Luckily the daughter made me a list. We got to some of them – Farm, Redd Wood, Oxbow Market, Cook and Ad Hoc – all good. For me, Ad Hoc was the standout.

Ad Hoc is in Yountville and from what I  can see, Yountville is Thomas Keller town.  There is Bouchon, the always crowded Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc and somewhere on that road is an unassuming ivy covered cottage which houses the French Laundry.

We couldn’t get into the French Laundry so back to Ad Hoc. https://www.thomaskeller.com/adhoc

For 55 dollars you get a price fixe menu of Thomas Keller’s food. It changes every day.

The delicious food is served family style with generous portions. – tomato fruit salad, steak, barley risotto, mixed green beans, cheese plate and milk shake with an oatmeal cookie.

The most important thing I have learned about wine is that decanting, swirling and sniffing wine does not make you a pretentious Ahole. Decanting really does make most wine taste better. It is important to swish but not like you are on spin cycle in the dryer. Swirling your wine is scientifically proven to increase aromas and improve flavors.  Sniffing the wine enhances the flavor by enjoying the scent first. Sniffing with your eyes closed and a fake gratifying smile while you inhale for a weirdly long time is not as scientific. Pulling out your phone and posting a photo of you holding the wine can have the pretentious Ahole look on Instagram and Snap Chat. 

If you buy a cork screw in Napa depending on if there is a knife in it, the rule of thumb is whoever is doing the screening at the time your bag is going through will decide if it will be confiscated. if you have a strict, observant TSA screener or “paratrooper’ it will be confiscated or checked. I didn’t see that it had a knife.

I came back from Napa relaxed, refreshed, replenished and totally glad that I had gone.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Ten Things To Do In The Napa Valley, California

Ten Things To Do In The Napa Valley, California

“The Napa Valley is Disneyland for alcoholics. Be honest, you’re not visiting wineries in four days because you’re an oenophile, you’re doing it because you’re a drunk. It’s the only place in America where you can pass out in a stranger’s house and it’s okay, because it’s a B&B and you paid for it.” Bill Maher

  1. Visit Wineries and Vineyards. There are many. You can do wine tasting, visit wine cellars, stomp grapes, blend your own wine, experience food and wine pairings or drink wine and view art. Ride the wine train. Purchase a wine tasting card to all the tasting rooms in downtown Napa. Drink wine and have a cooking lesson. See a winery with historic caves. Visit wineries owned by famous people.
  2.  Sample beer at micro breweries.
  3. Eat. The restaurants have more Michelin stars per capita than any other wine region in the world.
  4. Visit farmers markets and taste the local olive oil.
  5. Hike. Do yoga and have spa treatments.
  6. Visit Old Faithful Geyser of California in Calistoga which is not to be confused with Old Faithful of Yellowstone National Park. It is one of the three faithful geysers in the US due to regular eruptions. They are geysers that you can count on. It is one of the most photographed places in California. Add in mud baths and hot mineral pools when you are there.
  7. Go antique shopping and take a historic walking tour of downtown Napa or Yountville.
  8. Take a hot air balloon ride and watch the sunrise over the Napa Valley.
  9. Stop in at the Di Rosa Gallery. In the 1960s Rene Di Rosa introduced grapes to the Carneros region, but ultimately it was contemporary art that became his passion. With nearly 2,000 pieces created by 800 artists, Di Rosa has three galleries, a sculpture park, 35-acre lake and a wildlife preserve.
  10. Visit Greystone which is the original Culinary Institute of America in St Helena. Chances are good that if you are a wine connoisseur then you also like food. Take cooking classes or see chef demonstrations of food to go with all that wine. Maybe some hangover specials would be good to learn.

    Fly safe,

    JAZ