Monday, June 15, 2009

Honeymoon in Napa Valley - Part 1: Napa Valley Wineries

Our trip to Santa Barbara reminded me that I never posted about our honeymoon in Napa Valley. I probably didn’t write about it because there wasn’t much to say – we drank, we ate, and I took several two-hour naps. On the last day there I asked Andy, “Do you think that we should have done SOMEthing?” His response was, “At what point did you see yourself hopping on a bike for a 30-mile ride through hills?” He had me there.

I used to receive e-mails requesting winery suggestions for honeymooners, so here is our list of wines tasted in Napa Valley. (Sonoma will follow tomorrow.) Many of these were suggested by our well-to-do wine diva pals – Aunt Ruth and my friend Laura – as our goals when we go to Napa are:
  • Taste stuff that we can’t get in Chicago.
  • Taste stuff that we can’t afford to drink in Chicago.
  • Taste stuff that we CAN afford and CAN get in Chicago.
Also, we always split tastings to save money and avoid getting drunk. I hope that no one from Wine Spectactor stumbles upon this, as my descriptions would probably make them cry.

  • Andretti: This will be one of the bitchiest things that I’ve ever said on my blog, but when I saw that the tasting was only $12 and noticed the people that were in Andretti, I decided to walk out without tasting. Andy told me he was ashamed to be married to me when we walked back to the car. (Mockingly, I think.) But the place smelled like cat and the tasters had on fanny packs!

  • Cakebread: Cakebread is awesome! This was our second visit to Cakebread and we really enjoyed it both times. The tour guides are so nice. I think that they’re all retired dads and uncles. On this visit, we did the Wine & Food Pairing “Experience” for $40. It was so fun! It started with a comprehensive tour of the winemaking facilities and ended with a wine and food tasting. Our host was funny and the other guests were nice. A word to newlyweds, if you hold up a tour because you’re running late, don’t tell a table full of strangers that you were back at the hotel screwing. (It wasn't us, it was some trashy girl who had the tour guide take their photo toasting their wine glasses. Losers.)

  • Chimney Rock: So delicious! Absolutely love it. Definitely one of my faves. I insist that everyone taste this.

  • Cosentino: Andy and I always go to Cosentino while we’re waiting for a table at Mustard Grill. (I say "always," when we’ve done it twice.) Cosentino is good, affordable wine. And they tend to over pour if you shoot the breeze with them. (Wink, Wink) Cosentino distributes to Chicago and the price is definitely right. The wine won’t change your life, but it can soften the harshness of a rough day at work. Andy and I oftren bring Cosentinos to parties and BYOBs.

  • Del Dotto: Del Dotto winery is modeled after the opulence of Venice, Italy. It looks like Piazza San Marco with a disco ball. We attended a cave tour at the Saint Helena facility. First of all, it's not a tour. It's just a tasting that happens to be conducted in the barrel caves. They don't really explain anything about wine-making unless you ask a question. We probably would have shared a tasting and saved $50 if we had known that. That being said, it was a fun tasting. We tasted about eight wines directly from the barrel, which was kind of neat. It was followed up by some tiny snacks while they gave you the sales pitch, which we didn't actually hear because the owner was there after over-imbibing at lunch and CRANKED the music. I mean, fingers-in-the-ear LOUD. And he was like a human iPod shuffle because he went from Bocelli to Stevie Ray Vaughn. Dig it.
  • Duckhorn: Duckhorn was OK. The wines are pretty good, but their tasting is a total production. Reservations are required, as they serve you on their patio, which is very nice. It just seemed very unorganized when we were there. We switched seats to get out of the blazing sun and, even though it was empty, our waiter was so confused that he looked like he was going to combust.


  • Frog’s Leap: This place was appointment only, so we couldn’t try it. The grounds are beautiful. I hope to get there next time.

  • Merryvale: Merryvale is delicious. It’s definitely a family favorite, as Aunt Ruth serves it a lot – including at my shower! Their “Profile” wines are $$$, but you can get their poor-man’s wines for $25-$35.
  • Mumm: We popped into Mumm on a whim. It was pretty good and the grounds are beautiful. The pours were huge, so we sat on the patio for a good half hour and relaxed.

  • Opus One: My friend Laura suggested Opus One “just to say you tasted Opus One - the tasting is $25 for 1!!” That summarizes it well. It is delicious and the grounds are beautiful and very quiet. They require an appointment, but I don’t know why, because the place is empty. And they don’t actually talk to you. They hand you a (small) glass and instruct you go to sit upstairs and bring your glass down on the way out.


  • Peju: We stopped here on a whim while killing time before an appointment. This wine was not my bag at all. I remember thinking that it was “heavy” and “spicy.” I was a little buzzed before this tasting, took one sip, and gave it to Andy. Then I took a nap in the car. (And the sales guy was kind of slimy.)

Image: Soiree

  • Robert Sinskey: Andy and I both love Sinskey. It’s the first tasting that we did together on our first trip out. The employees are friendly and the wines are delicious. Their wines are foodie-driven, even more so than other wines. I think that if I were to ever surprise Andy with a wine club, this one would be it, as the two times we left there he’s said, “I wish that we could join wine clubs.” My friend belongs to it and said that they often include spices and recipes with their shipments. I’d like to do their culinary tasting sometime.

  • Rubicon: I always thought that Coppola wines were cheesy grocery store wines, but heard a lot of good things about the winery. OMG. So worth it. We took the Vinifera Journey Tour – which was excellent. For only $20, you get a tour of the vines and the tasting.  DO NOT WEAR WEDGES on this tour. You’ll look like an ass, your feet will bleed, and your new husband will be distracted from the tour guide as he will have to spend the entire time holding your arm to balance you as the whole tour takes place on hills (from which you can see Francis Ford Coppola’s house). The winery itself has a movie museum, which is a nice break from gift shops with “I love to cook with wine – sometimes I even put it in the food” aprons. The Rubicon Reserve and CASK wines are really, really good. Reservations are recommended. 


  • Silver Oak: MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE WINE. I love, love, love visiting Silver Oak. It’s $25 for two small glasses of wine, but I don’t care because I love it. The winery itself is pretty no frills and the employees are always panicked – which makes me laugh, as working a tasting room has to be a pretty low rung on the ladder of stressful jobs. I wish that they’d keep their glasses (which I leave behind anyway) and give you more wine. Love it. I need to try Twomey next time, as it’s the same owner and is cheaper. (Not to mention that I love me some Pinot Noir.)

  • St. Supery: Pretty grounds, self-guided tour and some interactive displays, wine was so-so, but affordable.

Up next – Sonoma Wineries (There aren't as many. I promise.)


Terese said...

this is awesome, tina. we're planning our 2nd trip out there this fall and i will definitely be taking your advice!

Maggie said...

I love your descriptions -- thanks!! :-)

Mel said...

Your Rubicon, wedge-wearing story cracked me up! And I love me some Pinot Noir too!