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Aug 18, 2008 05:06 PM

Reporting back: Napa area wineries

Thanks to all of you who gave me advice on which wineries to visit during my Napa visit. We just got back from a great weekend there, and I thought I would report back on my impressions.

1) Mumm - Very interesting tour that is actually free. And at the end of the tour they give you a pin that then entitles you to 15% off tastings and purchases of bottles. We had a tasting on the patio after the tour. There was a lovely view, and very friendly table service. Husband and I split generous pours of their 5 best sparkling wines (I think the tasting of their 2 DMX wines was around $23 and the other three that were the next level down were $18, before discount?). We really enjoyed everything we tasted, and ended up buying two bottles: DVX 2000 ($55 before 15% discount) and Reserve Brut ($30 before discount). A very nice experience. We would definitely go there again on a future trip to the area.

2) Jarvis - The tour was very interesting, and the underground caves, complete with a waterfall, were beautiful. But the whole experience was a little snobby for our taste. I should mention that we are wine novices, so what is too snobby for us might be a perfect fit for someone else. While the cave was beautiful, we were not allowed to take pictures inside—something we had never encountered before. We enjoyed all the wines we tasted—I think we had a total of 7, all very good. They ranged from $75 to $165, which was out of our price range for bottle purchases. But the $30 fee for the tour and tastings was certainly worth it, given the number of excellent and expensive wines we got to taste. But this wasn't a great match for us, as relatively low budget wine novices, so we would not visit here again in the future.

3) Del Dotto (Napa) – This tour was very interesting, and our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable as well as very friendly and approachable. (The Mumm tour guide was good, but a little green. The Jarvis tour guide was very knowledgeable, but we didn't feel as comfortable with her.) Thierry from Del Dotto was an expert with a sense of humor, someone we felt comfortable asking any question. This tour was especially interesting because we drank wine tapped directly from the barrel, and we got to see how different aspects of the barrel affect the taste. In general, we learned a lot. I'm not sure how many wines we tasted (8?), but the tour was well worth the $40 we paid. I would definitely go again next time we are in the area. Unfortunately our very favorite wines were $125 (too pricey for our budget), but the wines we tasted were about $35 upward, and we ended up purchasing a nice bottle of merlot for around $55. All in all, we had a lot of fun.

4) Gloria Ferrer – We did not go to an official tour or tasting here, but we attended a wedding and had a wonderful experience. Very pretty grounds, and excellent sparkling wine.

Well, I hope that this write-up is helpful to others in the future. I learned a lot from all our tours and tastings, but I probably learned the most at Del Dotto. Happy wine drinking!

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  1. Nice report back, Nicole. Your descriptions will be of great value to those that follow. Glad you got to experience Del Dotto.

    1. Jarvis...reminds me of our tour there a few years back. I concur with the snobbery factor but, nevertheless, we did enjoy the visit and purchased a 1/2 bottle of I don't remember what for $45.00 on our credit card. Our experience soured some two weeks later when we received a letter stating that they had made an error in the wine price and would be charging us an additional $5.00. We couldn't believe it. Yes, we could have refuted the charge with the credit card company, but the paperwork involved wasn't worth the hassle. We did write them a stinging letter pointing out their utter lack of professionalism and bad image this silly decision projected and, of course, the loss of our future business. Never heard anything back and yup, the charge showed up on our bill.

      Jarvis...never again a visit, never again a purchase.

      1 Reply
      1. re: buoncibo

        Wow, that is so petty that they charged you the extra $5 after the fact! You would think that a snobby place with expensive wines could swallow the $5, especially since it was their own mistake. Seems like our experiences were similar in that while we both enjoyed the visit, we wouldn't return.

      2. Thanks for the report! Del Dotto is an expensive tour, but unlike some of the other expensive tastings in Napa, I think they really give you the goods. I know for a fact they 'pride' themselves on their tour (I have friends who work there) and I'm really glad they delivered for you.


        3 Replies
        1. re: whiner

          Thanks for the comment. Yes, we didn't mind that it was expensive because it was really worth was a fair price for the excellent experience we got.

          1. re: Nicole

            Del Dotto is expensive, but the old cave tour was quite memorable! (Haven't toured the new ones yet). We set our appointment for a Friday afternoon a few years ago and landed up being the only ones on that particular tour! A private tour/tasting with a tour guide who knew his stuff/loved wines. Once in a lifetime! Caution though - be careful with the port at the end. It's powerful!

            About Jarvis, we are scheduled to tour their winery this September and have never been before. Does anyone have tour guides they can recommend asking for who aren't on the snobby side?? Any wines we shouldn't miss tasting?

            1. re: ButterflyWest

              Regarding Jarvis--It's hard to explain, but it's not that the tour guide was particularly snobby (she was actually nice), the whole experience was a little snobby...Jarvis just has a very exclusive feel to it that made us less comfortable than we were at some other places. The fact that the cheapest wine was $75 and that we weren't allowed to take pictures probably contributed to this overall feeling, as well as the guide to some extent, but it wasn't really any one thing that made us feel that way. We still enjoyed ourselves very much though. As for what wines not to miss, they pick out a very nice assortment for you, you don't actually get a choice.

        2. Thanks for the nice reports. With all the requests for info for winery info, so few people report back. As mentioned, this will help others looking for info about these places.

          Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves
          23555 Carneros Highway, Sonoma, CA

          Mumm Napa Valley
          8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford, CA

          Del Dotto Wine Gallery
          1055 Atlas Peak Rd, B Napa, CA

          Jarvis Winery
          2970 Monticello Rd, Napa, CA

          3 Replies
          1. re: rworange

            Thanks for providing the addresses and links to go with the review! That is very helpful.

            1. re: Nicole

              I also loved the Del Dotto tasting experience. My wife and I were staying at the Silverado just down the street and stumbled on this winery. Truth be told, we serendipitously stopped there because there was a limousine parked in front, or we would have missed the unassuming facade altogether. Dave Del Dotto himself was laying out a bunch of bottles at a front table and invited us to join him while we waited for the cave tour. Idiot that I am, I had no idea Dave was someone other than a vintner trying to sell some bottles. He poured some generous portions for us "on the house." At one point, he admired a turtle necklace my wife was wearing and said "Ah, Honu... do you guys like Hawaii? I replied we loved it, how about you? Dave gave me a funny look then simply said" I like it there also." I was still flying a little high from a previous wine tasting stop, when a few minutes later, I remembered where I had heard the Del Dotto name. I whispered to my wife - this is the guy that had those late night infomercials from Hawaii in the 90's, selling some get rich system. The guy still looked the same... anyway, I later learned Dave was setting up the wine for some friends who were stopping by. When the friends got there they brought along high end snacks to go with the high end wine Dave was pouring, along with Dave's stories on each wine. I was in vino heaven. When they alerted us they were ready to start the cave tour, I almost told them to forget it. I reluctantly went on the tour and it was a kick in the pants. The guide was very informative and our palates got a great education on the effects differentwood and aging had on the grape. When we finished, Dave was still pouring and we hung around to listen to some pretty funny stories about Dave's experience with the government when they went after him for his money making system. I tried to be a responsible taster, but I barely recall how we got back to the Silverado.

              1. re: fresnohotspot

                I enjoyed reading this, and you captured the serendipity perfectly!

                This happens around the Valley more often than is reported. Glad you made it back to your hotel safely.