Thursday, July 29, 2010

Napa done right.

The vineyards of Napa, California

Thursday morning we awoke refreshed and ready to see what Napa Valley is all about. It didn't take long to realize it was wine. Lots and lots of wine.

Based on recommendations from Adam's mom, we started our day with the walking tour at the Sterling Winery. It's a beautiful Mediterranean-style building perched on a mountainside - the cable-car ride up provides some great views of the vineyards.

It's a self-guided tour through the winery, filled with interesting facts and explanations about the winemaking process, as well as the chance to sample five of their wines.

The Sterling Winery tasting patio.

After Sterling, we headed to the Silverado Trail - a stretch of road in Napa lined with 40 wineries! Our friend Bryan pointed us in the direction of a few places to try, so we followed his advice and started with ZD Winery (the "ZD" stands for "zero defects"). The wine was great - we bought a bottle of their Pinot Noir.

The ZD grapes are ripening slower this season - it's been a chilly one.

We then headed to our next stop, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, who (according to Wikipedia) made Napa Valley world famous in 1976 when it won the Judgment of Paris, a promotional wine competition among French and California wines.

The first in the "Emily Krause Wineglass Collection"

While enjoying the wine at Stag's Head, we met a guy named Jon who was tasting some of their more fancy wines. It turns out he was the wine maker from Silverado Winery right up the road, and he told us to stop by and taste his wines for free - an offer we couldn't refuse.

The view of the vineyards from the Silverado patio.

The view of the Silverado patio through a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

The view of Adam through a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

At this point we needed something to eat, so after a quick stop for sandwiches at the Soda Canyon Store, we made our way to the last winery on our tour, Van Der Heyden. This turned out to be a great last stop for two reasons. One, they are open until 6, which is much later than most wineries in the area stay open. Two, we got to spend quality time with Mr. and Mrs. Van Der Heyden.

He sounded just like "Goldmember."

Andre Van Der Hayden is a Dutch immigrant who has been making wine at the same spot in Napa for over 30 years. He is a quirky but passionate man, and his wife is the same. Their wine tasting room is a shack next to their house, their storage facility is a tent in their front yard, and their dogs (Rosie, Syrah, and Zinny) roam all around. It's a family business here - from the grape-picking to the blending to the bottling, all of it is done by the Van Der Hayden family and their friends, and all of it is done by hand. It was a very fun, very different place than anywhere else we saw in Napa, and it was the perfect end to a perfect trip to Wine Country.

Next stop, San Francisco!

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