Friday, March 28, 2008

Napa Valley Delights for Everyone

Our vacation was amazing, though doing nothing but drinking and eating for several days in a row puts a damper on any sort of half marathon training. Well, we indulged anyway and enjoyed every minute of it.

With so many wineries lining the Sonoma and Napa Valley areas, I was intrigued by how successfully the wineries could compete and differentiate themselves. After visiting just a few, I quickly realized that nearly every winery had a distinct character and intrigue. We visited many wineries, but here are a few of my favorites, picked for their personality. I'll follow up with restaurant favorites in an upcoming post.

If you're a foodie, then Robert Sinskey Vineyards is for you. Located in the Stags Leap district of Napa, Robert Sinskey has a clear passion for food and wine. With an on site kitchen in the tasting room, the 'Gluttonous Flight' offers a tasting of 5 limited production wines, each coupled with a tasty food bite fresh from the kitchen. Peruse the area, and you'll find a cute shop sprinkled with recipes such as the Tofu and Bok Choy dumplings that I'm planning to pair with the 2006 Abraxas bottle. I also bought my first sushi mat here, so if you're inclined to buy kitchen trinkets, this winery could be dangerous after a few glases of wine.

Posh Socialite

If you are lucky enough to tote along a designated driver, visit the newly opened Del Dotto Estate Winery and Caves in St. Helena. You won't be disappointed, and you won't come out sober :) The Winery is opulent with perfectly manicured lawns, Italian marble and mosaics to please your eyes. Oh, and the wine is delicious as well. On the tour, our humorous and entertaining guide, Steve, led us to the Italian brick lined caves and provided us 'side by side' barrel tastings to demonstrate the amazing effect the Oak used in the aging barrels has on the taste. Apparently, I prefer Missouri Oak while hubby preferred the French Oak. He's always more sophisticated than me. After what felt like the 20th pour of wine, I couldn't tell the difference anymore. The tour fee is a little steep here ($50) but is well worth it, and you'll certainly get your money's worth in wine.

Family Man

Baldacci Family Vineyards is a quaint, family winery with excellent wine. We probably wouldn't have stumbled upon this winery if it weren't for a recommendation. Each of the vineyard's bottles is made and named with a family member in mind, and we loved the Four Sons Cabernet. Because we visited in the off-season, we were lucky to have the grounds to ourselves and enjoyed a tour of what our guide called a "working cave" minus the bells & whistles of Del Dotto. The tour was equally educational and we enjoyed sipping our wine on the patio.

The Artisan

A life of art galleries and sparkling wine....sounds good to me. A visit to Mumm Napa is a special treat as you can sample some very tasty sparkling wine then tour the grounds filled with artwork and a permanent Ansel Adams exhibit. Mumm offers complimentary guided tours, though we opted to stroll on our own. This was also the last winery we visited, so we might have been a little tired at that point! Courtesy of Mumm, here's a recipe that I am quite intrigued by:

Black Velvet, courtesy of Mumm Napa
1 part stout beer, slightly chilled
1 part Brut

Black Velvet is smashing when layered. Pour the stout into a half-pint glass or flute. Carefully add the sparkling wine on top. When you sip, the heavier stout will slip under the wine, so you’ll enjoy a taste of both. Experiment with dry Irish stout and brut, or a sweet Imperial stout and a less dry sparkling wine.

History: The death of Prince Albert, beloved consort of Britain’s Queen Victoria, inspired this cocktail in 1861. It’s widely attributed to a bartender at Brook’s Club in London, who thought Champagne too festive for such a somber occasion. By blending Champagne with stout, he created a cocktail cloaked in funereal black.


Mo said...

Wow, looks wonderful. My husband and I LOVE wine (hence, the paws and pours blog.) We were going to go to Sonoma next month for our first year anniversary, but now it looks like I will be going to Indianapolis for 3 weeks instead. (I got a new job, and will have training.) We will postpone the trip to June, and I'm taking down notes on what you suggested. I've been to Napa several times, and haven't been to any that you wrote about. Looking forward to it. Thanks for a great review of your trip!

Sharon said...

Hi Mo, we also visited Sonoma though I didn't post any of the reviews here. If you're interested, I can send you some recommendations. Also, try out the Girl and the Fig restaurant in Sonoma...its right in the plaza. Yum! Good luck with the new job!