Napa: If You Pour It, They Will Come
Napa is majestic! Even a tumultuous fire couldn’t ruin its beauty. While fires began north of Calistoga, the devastation failed to reach Napa’s main tourist areas, such as downtown, Yountville, or Oakville. It is in a serene and tranquil place where we were able to lodge called Carneros Resort and Inn.
We were initially invited to attend a benefit for the Napa Valley Community Foundation Disaster and Relief Fund as they helped rebuild California’s most heralded wine country…and the event did not disappoint! Live music and the aroma of exquisite and innovative cuisine filled the air. Guests feasted on dishes such as Marin Miyagi Oysters, Superior Farms Lamb Chops, and Roasted White Prawns. We also enjoyed wines from local wineries such as Domaine Carneros, Patz & Hall, Bouchaine Vineyards, Gundlach Bundschu, and Merryvale Vineyards, as well as libations from Spirit Works Distillery.
I admit. I did not enjoy or appreciate wine before. To me, most wines tasted like mud mixed with alcohol. But then I was able to taste the wines of Napa and I had an epiphany. I now understood what people talked about when they said wines, such as those found in Napa and France, are fantastique!
In California, Napa’s soil and climate are different than Southern California’s. Northern California typically gets more rain and that translates into its soil. Wine makers in this region also regard wine making as an art form. And you can taste their heart and soul in the wine they produce.
The next day we visited the Darioush Winery. This winery is modern with a middle-eastern flair. Our server was wonderful (all servers at every winery we visited were lovely and enthusiastic, by the way) and she even gave us a private tour of the beautiful wine cellar, where guests gather for a 90-minute invitation only wine-tasting experience, and the owner’s family dine after hours. Their wines are rich and smooth, and the environment is relaxing and friendly.
After Darioush, we headed to Plump Jack’s. Don’t let the quaintness of this place fool you. Their wines are to die for, especially the cabs! To get a sense of what a California red wine should taste like, sample one of their cabs! Then, head outside and enjoy it in the beautifully rustic environment. The servers are friendly and as down-to-earth as the setting. But don’t take that as a negative statement. The winery is humble, yet lovely and inviting. There is heart and soul in this place and in their wines. But you’ll see what I mean, once you taste it.
We also visited the Opus One Winery and it lives up to its reputation. This winery is the collaboration of famed wine maker, Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothchild of Chateau Mouton Rothchild. It is one of the most elegant wineries in Napa. We were able to sample their 2012, 2014, and Overture selections. Each smooth and full-bodied, yet distinct in flavor. There is no hard sell here (or any of the other wineries) because the wines sell themselves. Opus One is taken seriously and it’s easy to understand why.
Next stop, Silver Oak Winery. The grounds and buildings are very well-appointed, and the tasting room was bustling with wine enthusiasts. Silver Oaks has a large selection of wine and a beautiful souvenir section. It is one of the must-see wineries in Napa. But be aware, since it is very popular, you may encounter a large crowd. We did, however, get to keep our wine glasses (with their logos etched on them), which are superb!
To top off our visit, went to Kelly Fleming’s Winery for a family style sit-down dinner to celebrate her new wine, the Big Pour. The entire property is 300 acres and we dined with about 50 others in an open-air dining room. The table setting was California Wine Country elegant. The Big Pour (which is a named after Kelly’s nickname) contains generous layers of fruit aromas, spices, tea. We were also able to visit and chat with Kelly, who is very approachable and charming. The dinner experience was definitely one of the highlights of our journey.
I must also mention something about the cuisine in Napa. I was raised in Southern California, and although we have fine dining here, Napa takes the culinary experience to another level. Like France, the food (as is the wine) is looked upon as art. They create it with an expression in mind, with the goal of producing an experience that is more than ordinary. And indeed, there is nothing ordinary about Napa.
During this journey, I began to understand about the notes, aroma, and palette which wine and food connoisseurs speak. I realized why it was so important to them and how these things distinguished excellent wines and fares from the mundane.
As I flew back home, I sat, sandwiched on the plane, by two gorgeous men. This was the icing on the cake, not to mention a well structured, elegant finish to my Napa holiday!