Thursday, November 1, 2012

3 Wineries - 3 cases of wine

Our phones work well for navigating, so we're not missing the GPS too much today.  After a slow start - traveling is exhausting especially with all the delays we've had - we head up Napa Valley aiming for V. Sattui in St Helena which has tasting, a recommended deli and a picnic area. Before leaving the hotel, we downloaded a wine finder app for the Napa/Sonoma region that has lots of two for one tastings coupons. Looks like the days of free tastings are over and most seem to want $15 or more per person. Some will waive the tasting fee if you buy.
V. Sattui Winery and Deli


Tasting at V. Sattui is great. Wines are sold only at the winery, but shipping is only $25 per case. We buy a case of wine with a mix of white cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and zinfandel. We saved one slot for a bottle of Angelica - a blend of moscat juice and brandy. A great after dinner drink.


From the deli we purchased French bread, cheese and grapes for a picnic lunch. The weather was partly sunny and mild, perfect for a picnic on the first day of November, don't you think? The mild climate still shows fall - trees are turning color - the vines are likewise shades of yellow and red.  We've noticed that roses are often planted at the ends of the vine rows. They and other flowers are still in bloom and add beautiful colors to the winery landscapes.

 Next stop was Louis Martini. We had tasted a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon (red) at a wine tasting a few weeks ago. Our wine host told us it was unavailable in the stores locally, but it was on the tasting menu. It was the one I loved and so we bought a case. Case number 2.  Unfortunately, shipping was around $70, so any savings in purchasing from the winery are eaten up in shipping.

We learned throughout the week that wineries use different shippers and that the shippers are the ones who maintain the agreements with the states.  (When shipping wine, it must be signed for on delivery by someone over age 21.) They also are the ones who set the shipping prices.

 Wine tasting works pretty similarly in all wineries.  You belly up to the bar where there is a list of the wines you can taste.  You often have a choice of a classic or normal tasting or reserve tasting (the more expensive wines the winery produces.)  There are generally 4-6 wines in each category.  There's usually a container for pouring wines you don't like or if you are watching how much wine you are taking in.  Some places offer crackers or breadsticks or water to cleanse the palate or rinse your glass between tastings.  The wines are tasted generally from lightest whites to darkest reds.

Next and last tasting stop was Charles Krug. Christie and I had bought wine here in 2005 and Dave remembered these being the among his favorite wines. So we stopped, tasted and agreed that Charles Krug wines really suit our taste. Case 3. Time to stop tasting for the day! Too much money, too much wine.

Although, I was the drinker and Dave was the sipper today. Tomorrow he gets his revenge - I drive, he drinks while we explore Sonoma County.

Coming off-season is such a joy. We typically had the tasting server's undivided attention. There were few others in the tasting room with us. We got tips, extra tastes (one was a $75 Cabernet Sauvignon - so smooth) and vineyard stories. Just plain nice folks, very little salesmanship.

The day started foggy, lifting by the time we arrived in Napa Valley. We worked our way up Highway 29 through Napa, Yountville, St Helena and Calistoga. The sun on the mature yellow and red vines was beautiful. So different from the spring sun on the emerging vines when we were in Languedoc. I'll post photos once I get home - I'm currently working on my iPad and there's no way to input photos to this device. (Why would you build a tablet that couldn't talk to other devices? But I digress.)

 Napa is so beautiful with it's rolling hills and low mountains ringing the valley. Except for the occasional palm trees, you could convince yourself that you were in Tuscany. Golden sun, Italian cyprus trees - you know those tall skinny trees on every Italian landscape painting. Much of the architecture is Tuscan feeling and the vineyards rolling across the low lying hills and broad valleys look perfectly groomed, resting from the harvest in the fall sun.

 Once north of the town of Napa (population about 75,000), the vineyards line up in a row along both sides of the highway. More than 450 fill the region. Way more than could possibly be visited in a week... sigh.

Some vineyards still had grapes on the vines.  They tasted really sweet!  Not sure why they hadn't been picked - some were clearly on the edges of vineyards and so possibly missed.  Other varieties of grapes are harvested at different times.

We finished the afternoon by side-tripping to a geyser advertised as the Old Faithful of the West. Privately owned, viewing the geyser that thankfully erupted every 5-10 minutes cost us $6 each after the senior discount. The setting in the valley was pretty, luckily, because the geyser is a bit underpowered if you've actually seen Old Faithful. It shoots tree high in a skinny spurt for a few seconds. (I missed the first eruption because I went to the bathroom. Luckily we stayed a few minutes longer and I saw it twice before leaving.) 

We also drove down petrified forest road and stopped at the *yes* private Petrified Forest site. I didn't want to pay the $9 entry for seniors, but Dave likes this kind of stuff, so he paid and spent a half hour walking the trail. He thought it was really cool.

We're back at our home base now, drinking a V. Sattui rose with our Roquefort and Red Leicester cheeses. Who needs to eat out when you have French bread and great cheeses to go with your bottle of wine?

Life is good.

November in Napa

November 1, 2012

A break from football weekends allowed us to book a week trip to Napa for the first week of November. What could be better - Napa in the fall in low season.
Psyched for wine.

Our trip from Madison to Napa was derailed a bit by some Halloween tricks. We thought we'd be ok getting out of Madison because we were headed west and the Hurricane Sandy devastation was all to the east of us. If they had a plane, we reasoned, we should be able to fly. Well, sort of.

Turns out our plane arrived with something malfunctioning in the landing equipment. We waited while the mechanic looked at it, then waited longer while a part was sent from Detroit to fix it. Finally. 3 hours past our departure time and long after our Sacramento flight departed, we were on our way to Minneapolis.

Not a total loss as we stayed with Christie and Alex and got to see all the changes going on at their house.

Since our flights were messed up, we had to rebook. Delta managed that with minimal difficulty thanks to cell phones. However, our new tickets required pre-flight check-in for seat assignment and as could be figured, we were sitting in the very last row, middle and window.

I arrived in Sacramento in a foul mood. Picked up our rental car - Ford Focus with no GPS (Dave wouldn't pay the extra $50 for the week's rental.)

One hour drive got us to our hotel in Fairfield, just a few minutes drive from Napa and lots cheaper.

This is our first Orbitz trip. We usually make all our own plans, but this was a really cheap vacation package - basic hotel, basic car, and round trip ticket for just over $1200 for both of us.

Lunch at a salad buffet place improved my humor a bit. Fresh clothes and a change of shoes helped more.

We spent the afternoon in Napa getting oriented via the tourist office and our guide books. We found wine, bread, and cheese at a deli, then picked up napkins, plates, etc at Target before heading for the hotel for an early night.

Tomorrow we taste!