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Nov 2, 2008 05:40 PM

napa wineries - timing advice please

after speaking with a few knowledgeable folks, as well as reading the CH boards, it sounds as if the tourist season begins dropping off mid-november. my girlfriends and i are planning a calistoga/napa weekender the weekend before thanksgiving. we were planning on hiring a vehicle to take us wine tasting on that saturday, along the silverado trail. would we be better off tasting on friday instead? or is that weekend fairly mellow? any insight appreciated!

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  1. I did a little wine tasting today along the Silverado Trail and was surprised by the size of the crowd. At 11am at Darioush, there were at least 30 people tasting at the bar. Very surprising given the post-rainy day Sunday morning.

    So, I'd try Friday if you have the option, even in mid-November.

    1. The weekend BEFORE Thanksgiving?


      1. I've been to Napa on a rainy weekend in February, and everywhere was packed! By the way, if you want lunch at any of the "known" places, be sure to book in advance.


        1. Let's see- rainy Saturday yesterday, and mobs at Frank Family at 4pm (many cars, a bus and three limos...), lovely Dutch Henry had 30 crowded in the barn. I work in the wine industry, and as a rule never taste on saturdays, except Jan-Mar. If you must, the general theory is to start down-valley (oakville, rutherford) as most people go all the way up-valley (calistoga) and drink their way south. This is a little less important on the Trail, which is always better than Rt. 29.

          So, Fridays always, and yes the weekend before Thanksgiving is typically pretty big (folks take 3 days off and get a 10 day vacation). Also, you have more opportunity to chat with folks at the winery on Fridays when it is quieter- and if you express a true interest in someone not being poured- you may find they can pull it out from under the counter. They know that they'll be able to finish over the course of the weekend. And, hey, they want you to enjoy your experience- ask some questions, and it usually comes back in spades!

          Also, you didn't mention how many of you there would be. Some locations will only pour for large groups (sometimes as small as 6-8) at certain times/days. Also, you probably know that most wineries now require reservations... most are very loose on this, but it never hurts to ask. All that said, you can still have a fabulous time on a saturday just winging it, but some planning (as you are doing) can really pay off. Any thoughts on where you were going to go? Types of wine you want to try?

          5 Replies
          1. re: SFfoodette

            Did you taste at Dutch Henry? How was it?

            1. re: wolfe

              Very nice- I've driven past a million times, and just had never stopped in. They still taste at a small table in the barrel room (the barn). Pouring five wines for $10, applicable to wine purchase. Chardonnay-no ML, Fr. oak, very good acid. Rose was very full-50%CS, 50%Mer! Pinot-Mt. Veeder fruit, didn't taste too big or hot, but 16%alc so not my bag. '04 Argos was knocking my socks off- 40CS, 25CFrnc, 35Mer. Big yum of smooth tannins. '03 Estate CS- still young, but good Howell Mtn fruit, needs abt 5 more years. On a sunny day, it would be nice to sit under the trees and taste, with the three dogs underfoot. They also have good olive oil & CabFranc vinegar, which are both good- vinegar is strong and unique.

                1. re: SFfoodette

                  very nice write-up...are you saying the Rose was 16% ABV?

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Thanks. Sorry if unclear... the Pinot was the heat-meister; I'm super sensitive to wines above 14.5%, but this one hid it well. Another interesting bit on the rose is that it is done saignee style, then fermented in 2-yr-old Fr. oak- didn't note the ABV but think it was under 13%.

            2. Have you ever been to Sonoma? My wife and I go to Wine Country twice a year and rarely go to Napa anymore.Check out the Russian River and Dry Creek areas...I guarantee you will be happy. Also, you might want to look into renting a house near Healdsburg, cheaper than a hotel and more fun with a group