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Sal and EV Taste Their Way Through Napa and Sonoma

02 Mar

This past weekend we headed up north to wine country to try new wines and visit old friends.  We had a many wineries on the agenda to visit and were excited to taste the new vintages of some great wines as well as some new releases.

Friday, bright and early, we attended a trade tasting featuring wines from over 60 fantastic Napa wineries in the caves at Chateau Boswell. This limited invite-only tasting event was a treat for us to try new releases of outstanding and highly sought after boutique wineries. Winery highlights include Altamura, Arietta, Buccella, Cavus, Fairchild, Grable, Hudson Vineyard, Melka, Ovid and Orin Swift, to list a couple. There were too many great wines to mention them all, but needless to say, the cream of the crop was at this event.  We were able to chat with Dave Phinney of Orin Swift and Luc Morlet of Morlet wines and remind them of our little wine shop in Claremont that is doing great things.

We ran into our friend Ed Skupien of Frank Family Vineyards who invited us to a couple more industry tasting events later in the day.  So, we headed over to Peju Vineyards where another fantastic event was occurring.  We tasted wines from Alpha Omega, Frank Family, Hall, Round Pond and a little beer from Napa Smith Brewery.  Last but not least, at our last tasting event of the day at Hall Vineyards was another success with wines from Joseph Phelps (Insignia), Silver Oak, and of coarse more Hall. And again just to name a few. When all was said and done it was quite a day.

For dinner we were lucky enough to eat at John Ash & Co. in Santa Rosa where our good friend Les Goodman is the Chef de Cuisine.  His creativity and attention to every detail was quite a treat after such a long day of wine tasting.

Saturday morning we decided we needed a break from Napa Valley’s rich red wines and headed through the hills of Sonoma wine country. Our friend Les suggested we head over to Willow Wood Market Cafe in the small town of Graton for breakfast; boy was he right! Good fresh comfort food was exactly what we needed before another full day of tasting.  If you ever find yourself in Graton, stop and eat at Willow Wood café.  I highly suggest the piping hot polenta.

With full stomachs we headed to Sonoma ready to taste.  Our first stop in Sebastopol was Red Car Wines whose new tasting room is set to have its grand opening in the upcoming weeks. While they are well known for their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, we were excited to taste their new releases. Driving through Forestville, Sebastopol, and Windsor, we enjoyed the scenery all the way through the Russian River. Along a quick little corner we stumbled upon Packinghouse Rd in Forestville.  We had to take a picture.  We visited several more tasting rooms, Lynmar Estate, and Arista, before heading back over the hill to Napa to Ehlers, Honig, Elizabeth Spencer, and a few others (again too many to mention).  Yes, we are Olympic tasters!

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For dinner we went to downtown Napa and enjoyed BBQ at The Bounty Hunter. Nothing like a big plate of pulled pork, applewood smoked brisket and ribs (with a little local brew from Napa Smith) to relax after a long day of wine tasting.  This BBQ alone is worth the drive to Napa.

Bright and early Sunday we headed to downtown Yountville for the most amazing pastries from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. We can’t go to Wine County without some of his macaroons. If you plan on visiting, don’t be scared off by the line.  It moves fast and is well worth the wait.

Our good friend Maria decided to join us for tasting in Napa and with this being her first visit to the Valley we had to take her to Opus One. A view of the Napa Valley from their tower was beautiful in the crisp morning and a good opportunity to see the lay of the land.  Next stop was Rubicon Estate.  We were quite impressed with their Cask and Rubicon Estate wines. We had to stop by Alpha Omega to see if we could sneak away and more of their ‘07 Chardonnay and ‘07 Era which were quite popular when we had our Alpha Omega event last year.  Unfortunately they are all out, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Burgers and chili at Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena for lunch was great afternoon treat. No wine here, just a nice cold shake. We had always passed up this place because of the long line and crowds, but we decided we had to give a go, and yes it to is worth the wait.  The Western Bacon Blue Ring burger was crunchy and fresh with perfect smokiness. If you are a fan of chili with a little spicy kick, this is the place for you.

With the end of the day upon us we made quick stops by Plumpjack Winery and Silver Oak.  Plumpjack is always a fun winery, great wines and NO arrogance here.  We were able to try wines from both the Plupjack wine as well as there Cade line. Silver Oak was tasting their 2006 Alexander and Napa Cabernet releases.

We squeezed in a lot of wine in 3 days, but we enjoyed every minute of it. Visiting Napa and Sonoma wine country is important for us to continue to learn about the region, wineries and vintages.  Every visit we come back excited about the upcoming winery releases and hopefully to the new wineries we have found. Great food, great people and oh ya, REALLY great wines. We hope that over the next few months some of these great gems will begin to trickle in.

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