It was day 6 of our encore flitterwochen, and it was time for some, or rather, more wine! As Ian put it, “You have to love a situation where drinking before 11:00 am is not only considered acceptable but actually kind of classy.” Napa Valley wineries are numerous and mostly located along a couple main roads, which made things easy and difficult at the same time. On one hand, there were plenty of options that were easy to find. On the other hand, neither one of us being overly knowledgeable about Napa wines made choosing somewhat difficult, especially since geography wasn’t much help in narrowing down potential candidates. Our choices mainly came down to what looked prettiest and most interesting and which wineries had special offers available through the wine country app.
We headed up Route 29, first stopping at Domaine Chandon, mainly because I just love bubbly so much. The grounds are also really beautiful, and the tasting room offers a lovely view.
During our tasting there, we learned a bit about the glassy-winged sharpshooter, which I mainly remember because its name conjured up images of insects outfitted in Western-style attire with cowboy hats and tiny gun holsters. The actual pest is not nearly so cute and has been a significant threat to the California wine industry.
Our next stop was Grgich Hills, another estate with absolutely beautiful grounds. We had gotten a preview the day before when we’d caught the wine train there, but we came back for a proper visit and tasting. I, apparently like many others, had assumed that the “hills” in Grgich Hills referred to the hills (and accompanying valleys) of the vineyard. In fact, Hills is a name, as in Austin Hills of the Hills Bros. coffee family. The Grgich, refers to Mike Grgich, who caused quite a stir in 1976 when his Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was chosen in a blind taste test by French judges as the finest white wine in the world. The 2008 film Bottle Shock was inspired by this story, but apparently, Grgich himself did not sign off on the movie.
From there, we headed to St. Helena, where we lunched on giant delicious sandwiches at Giugni’s Deli. Well fed and ready for more wine, we continued on to Beringer Vineyards. In my opinion, the wine at Beringer is really nothing all that special (not bad, just not outstanding), but the beautiful estate makes a visit worthwhile.
We took Silvarado Trail back toward Napa and stopped at Chimney Rock winery on the way. We chose it because of its lovely grounds and because the aforementioned wine app promised a free seasonal treat with the purchase of a tasting. The treat turned out to be an extra taste of wine. Actually, we got several extra tastes of wine. It was getting near closing time, and servers often become a bit more generous since whatever is left in open bottles by the end of the day has to be consumed or is wasted. Actually, our server even opened another a bottle of wine because he was just so giddily excited to meet people who were into Cabernet Franc. “Taste ALL the wine!” he demanded. Well, he didn’t actually say that, but he did offer us additional tastes that we turned down as our palates were a burnt out.
We returned to the inn, where we relaxed in the parlor for a while and pondered dinner possibilities. There we encountered some fellow Midwesterners–visitors from St. Louis. Despite stark differences in baseball allegiance, Ian found common ground with them when it came to light that they were all home brewers. As they shared thoughts on yeast and hops, I made the startling observation that, although they were Cardinals fans and Ian is a Cubs fan, they are all Brewers. Wah wah wah. See what I did there? Yeah, well, you had to be there…
We wrapped up the evening with dinner at Carpe Diem. If the wine industry conjures mental images of grey-haired men in sport coats and Oxford shirts, I should tell you about the bartender at Carpe Diem. This young, heavily tattooed guy told us how he had moved to Napa from Southern California to pursue a career in enology and viticulture and was part of the winemaking team at Crocker & Starr.
We returned to the inn for our final evening there, on the way passing a vacant building with this sign in front of it. What really gets me is not that the sign was blank, but that, despite its blankness, had lights shining on it. Was this actually an art installation serving as some sort of commentary on society? Probably not, but it did kind of make me wish I had been carrying a dry-erase marker.