I have Spanish relatives visiting in a couple of weeks who want to spend a Wednesday in Napa. They know a lot about wine but I have not spent enough time in Napa recently to know the best places to take them for wine-tasting and for a reasonably-priced California-style lunch. I am considering stops at Sterling and Mondavi but have no real firm ideas. I ran a search on the board but did not see anything on point. Does anyone have any wine-tasting or lunch stops to suggest?
My thoughts: just don't wander in to a wine tasting or restaurant. Look at some alternatives and reserve well in advance. I have friends from the Midwest visiting this weeks and in 3 more weeks and have made these choices:
* Kuleto: above Lake Hennessey. More about a wine country lifestyle than wine tasting. Isolated and beautiful. We're bringing a picnic for lunch.
* Round Pond: wine tasting followed by Olive Oil tour, tasting and lunch. I think this would be very interesting to Spanish visitors as many of the olive groves here have Spanish roots.
* Pride Mountain. High above St. Helena. Tour includes a walk in the vineyard. Because of altitude, you may see some late harvest activities.
* Schramsberg: 19th century caves with excellent sparkling wine. Loved by any visitor I have taken there.
* Bouchon in Yountville: French bistro meets Californian. Great for lunch
* Redd in Yountville. Slick meets Napa Valley. Sit outside for lunch.
* Cindy's Backstreet in St. Helena: Excellent Napa comfort food in homey surrounding
Let us know how it goes.
Many of the wineries at the top of Spring Mountain have not harvested their Cabernet yet. They're taking advantage of the gentle weather to increase hang time and flavor development; since the weather isn't hot there is no danger of the grapes turning to raisins. Of course, all that could change in a heartbeat if the long-term weather report indicates solid rain, but it doesn't right now.
Sterling has OK wines, and a great venue. It's worth the effort, just to see the grounds and the cable car. Mondavi, like Beringer, is a bit of a commercial operation, usually filled with tour buses and people looking for a "free" glass of wine, or two, or three.
In that area, I'd look to some of the smaller producers, like Milat (Oakville Cross [NOT Oakville Grade] and Hwy. 29), where you will likely meet the growers and maybe their son-in-law, David Duckhorn, of Duckhorn Vineyards fame. Great reds, especially their Cab Sauvignon, which has wonderful eucalyptus notes - same notes that USED to be in Silver Oak Napa, but now go into their wines. Another, just up Hwy. 29, and next to Beringer is St. Clement. Great wines, small tasting room in a quaint house on the hill. They are now owned by Beringer-Blass, but are a world apart, if only next door.
If you go out of the parking lot at Franciscan, Galeron Lane, and drive about 10 buildings down (East), you'll come to Sullivan. Really big reds at Sullivan, and a neat tasting room in the barn/garage.
After you do one big tour (in this case Sterling), what you'll benefit from the most is a series of tastings. One tour is not that different from the next tour.
I'd end the day with a tasting at Joseph Phelps (across the Valley off of Silverado Trail) for a great final touch. Call ahead, as you WILL need a reservation. Great wines, in a very nice tasting room.
Thanks for the tips! I will check them out before we go and plan our trip in advance. The picnic idea is an interesting one if the weather holds. It would give us more time to taste wines if we don't spend 2 hours in a nice restaurant for lunch. I may just take them to Oakville Grocery to get picnic supplies.
I have made tour reservations at Del Dotto Vineyards, which I stumbled across. It seems to have an interesting tour (and wines) that differ from most other wineries. If anyone has been there, let me know what you thought. I think that is the only tour I plan to take them on. I agree that one tour is enough . . .
Here's a report on what we did: we made 11 a.m. reservations for the wine cave tour at Del Dotto. It was $40 per person, but I have to say it was the best wine tour I have ever been on. They did a very good job explaining wine (and barrel) making and I think we tasted at least 11 wines during the tour, including a port. All reds. While they are not cheap, between $38 and $85 a bottle, they had some really impressive wines and we ended up buying quite a few. They do a very impressive job of marketing you in a very subtle manner. While the tour was advertised as taking 1.5 hours, I think ours was 2.5 hours long.
After the tour, we took a picnic lunch to a nature preserve in the area. While we'd planned on visiting two other wineries after lunch (Milat and one other whose name I forget, perhaps Sullivan), we ended up having had so much wine that morning, and with lunch, that we skipped further tastings and just wandered Dean & Delucca and downtown St. Helena and then headed back home.
It was a good day, and the weather was perfect. I'd definitely recommend the Del Dotto cave tour if you are planning to make any tour a part of your day.
Thanks for the followup. Unfortunately, wine-tasting can easily turn into wine-drinking in a hurry. I've had trips, where I planned on doing four/day, and ended up spending the entire day at Joseph Phelps, doing four different tasting events. It happens, even if one plans otherwise.
I do not know Del Dotto, but will try to work it into my next trip.
I've done Del Dotto and enjoyed it- maybe too much? To taste the difference between barrels and terroir, this is a great tour. If you have a good group, you'll taste plenty!
A question though, as I plan my next trip:
If I want to go with 1 or 2 friends and we are willing to spend about $100 per person. What's the best way to go from San Francisco to Napa for the day without having to worry about drinking too much? Any particular tour companies or drivers? We do not plan to spend the night in Napa.
you might want to start another topic for this, since it's a little different than what the OP asked.
that said, i'll give you my $0.02. we rented a limo to take a bunch of us up to napa for the day a few years ago. i believe it came to less then $100 a person, although there were more that 2-3 of us. we used mr. limo (http://www.mrlimo.com/) the limos are a little on the older side, but it was by far the best deal and worth every penny. my only advise is to plan out where you want to go and tell the driver, otherwise they'll try to steer you to some cheesy, touristy places (eg. viansa).