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Wine country question - I really did search first!

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What is the best site to figure out what vineyards are where and which are the most fun to attend... I think we'd like fab mom and pop places or smaller vineyards that we can't just taste here in VA easily. Or base of operations will be pretty far north - 3 days at a hotel in St. Helena and then 3 days at a hotel in Calistoga.
The info is overwhelming. Our friends who have been are all into big name super expensive reds and that's fine but I can buy them here if I feel like splurging and don't know if it's really my style anyway.
THANKS!!!!
Sorry but I really couldn't find great info on the boards (not saying it wasn't there). And if someone has great food ideas, I'd love those too - I know I'm being greedy. Other than the Italian one I just saw, when you search the two towns there's pretty much nothing since 2007 and I know quality changes. You chowhounds are the best! I'll help if you're ever in OH or VA...

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  1. Hmmm ... I know we had a discussion about Calistoga just last week, and St. Helena comes up all the time. Maybe the search engine went wonky on you. Try again. I'd do separate searches for "Calistoga restaurant" "Helena restaurant" and "Napa winery small."

    In addition, when you get your search results, right under the number of results line there's a bar that lists the number of results in different categories, including "places" -- if you click on that it will give you a listing of all the places people have noted, and if you click on each one you'll get more info about the place and a list of threads where that place is linked or mentioned.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      thanks. will try again. i got millions of hits from 2002 to 2005 and literally like NOTHING after. maybe it was a funny search day. i couldn't imagine no one asked!

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        You know, it is surprising when you try to use search sometimes nothing comes up. Often people don't mention the town when discussing well-known restaurants.

        One alternative is to search the places data base by town like this search for Calistoga
        http://www.chow.com/search?Search.x=1...

        Then look for restaurants like this for Wappo which has recent linked reports attached.
        http://www.chow.com/places/27306

        While there are records for many of the wineries with links to websites for those two towns in the Places database, it seems the restaruant info needs to be added.

        One casual little take-away place I'd like to try in Calistoga that gets a postive mention now and again is Busters BBQ
        http://www.chow.com/places/28214

        St Helena restarants that are often mentioned on the board are
        Martini House
        Tra Vigne Restaurant
        Go Fish
        Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen
        Meadowood Napa Valley
        Terra Restaurant

        So if you search on those you should get some info.

        Wherever you go, hope you report back so we have fresh info to help others like yourself.

      2. Well, for figuring out where they are, I like Wine Country Maps http://www.winecountry.com/maps/ especially the Napa Valley interactive map linked there, it has lots of great information in there about what is close to what, and helps you figure out where you are geographically when you're thinking about going to these places. Here are a few good threads to get you started: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/503020 and http://www.chowhound.com/topics/480600 both have some good suggestions for smaller wineries.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JasmineG

          Thanks both. Researching I did find more. No idea why it didn't work at all last time - although this time it first said it didn't like my request of last 2 years. Maybe my computer is moody! :)

          1. re: AMFM

            Computers can be that way. It looks like because of multiple edits and board lag, part of my first answer got lost. After your search, go back up to the search options and resort the search by relevance. That resulted in some helpful looking threads popping up to the top, especially the "napa winery small" search.

        2. Be sure you're using "Search this board" and not the main search.

          This search string will find the recent useful topics:

          title:winery napa

          http://www.chow.com/search?search[que...

          1. thanks all for being so nice! and helpful. looks like there are plenty of great places up near where we will be - and will definitely check out bakeries for loaves of bread. good advice.
            i definitely want to check out the open house at diamond ridge - we'll be there july 11-13th weekend. and have people tasted at phelps with/without "membership"? they certainly push it on the site.
            looks like the solbar ,we're staying 3 nights at solage calistoga where it is, is getting ok reivews too. and one night at the hotel is good! we get bikes there - so if sober enough hope to check out the town. course if we're not sober enough for bikes...
            where does one "get a driver?" like cabs in the city? dumb question i'm sure the concierges could answer but... it's our tenth anniversary trip without kids and while i hope to have great fun, no stupid tragedies are necessary.

            5 Replies
            1. re: AMFM

              Yep, I tasted last month at Phelps without a membership, and had a great time tasting there. You have to pay without a membership, but the price is about what is elsewhere in the valley, and the wines were great, and the setting is fantastic. Two people can also share one tasting, which is also nice. It's also a great place for a picnic, I know that you can reserve the picnic tables there, just check the website. One thing that I would recommend (for a lot of places, actually) is to bring along some crackers or something with you, because I was in need of a palate cleanser in between tastes the last time I went tasting, and wished that I had something like that with me.

              1. re: AMFM

                In mid-May we did a blending seminar and tasting at Phelps. We tasted all their wines (we even requested a couple they didn't have out and they got them for us, no questions asked). We blended our own Insignia, and had a couple of glasses of their Insignia (maybe more), the final one out on their terrace. It was very interesting, a lot of fun, and an absolute bargain at $25 each. I highly recommend it.

                1. re: JPAub

                  That's interesting that Phelps has regular blend-your-own seminars (looks like weekdays only and call ahead to be sure you get blending rather than another topic). I've encountered those only at special events.

                  http://www.jpvwines.com/hospitality.html

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    we're doing a wine appreciation seminar (figured it couldn't hurt to learn more and it appears they're good at the seminar thing) and an insignia blending. sounds fun. they're up to $30 each though. but considering the prices of other things a bargain. gasp - $65 each for the tour and tasting (with cheese/canapes) at quintessa but still!

                    1. re: AMFM

                      That seems very high for what Quintessa is offering.

              2. Some of my favorite "mom and pop" type vineyards:
                Frank Family Vineyards (the tasting is always fun and informative)
                Praeger Winery and Port Works
                Pride Mountain Vineyards

                I also love V. Sattui, where you can only buy the wine at the vineyard (but the tasting room is huge)!

                6 Replies
                1. re: rahir

                  Most of V. Sattui's wines aren't so tasty. Detailed discussion of some exceptions on the Wine board:

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/381428

                  1. re: rahir

                    WAHAHAHHAHA!!!!
                    Ok, I'll give you Frank Family. Here is the lowdown: same winemaker as Rombauer
                    (way over the top fruit bomb Zin and Chard) and super popular. They hardly count as a family vineyard just because the word family is in their name. Also the other vineyards that are mentioned above are not mom and pop operations. V. Sattui is a circus. It gives California wineries a bad name. I find it hilarious/heartbreaking that theyhave a sign in front of their winery proclaiming them winery of the year. If you really want to taste what Napa Cabernet is supposed to taste like, visit Corison winery on 29 just past Grgich or Honig off Silvarado trail. For the love of god stay away from V. Sattui unless you wanna to be another face in the "we don't know what this is all about , we just came for the free wine" crowd.

                    1. re: wineweasel

                      The nickname they're given in the link Robert Lauriston provided is great.

                      1. re: wineweasel

                        Well, I'm sorry to say I disagree (to a point). I've gone several times and always enjoy the Gamay Rouge and the sweet whites. Yes, it's a madhouse inside, but I find it's worth it. To each his own, I guess!

                        1. re: wineweasel

                          I don't see the point of recommending Corison. The style of Corison's wines couldn't be further from the ones mentioned as preferences for Rahir. Plus which, I like Corison's style and want their prices to stop climbing so eventually my income will come in line with their price point.

                          1. re: SteveG

                            The purpose of suggestion Corison is sipmly that it is very good although "varietal" and thus not popular. If you are interested in what Napa cab used to taste like before the high alcohol fruitbombs of late.