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The Wonders of Wine Country

GASTRONOMY Wines + Spirits + Cigars

The Wonders of Wine Country


The Wonders of Wine Country

Have you ever been to a cocktail party where you did not use the proper wine terminology, and everyone rolled their eyes. Did you suddenly feel out of place?  Have you ever gone out to dinner at an upscale restaurant where the wine steward waits for your approval, and you look at him and just blurt out, ”It’s Fine”. 

Well it doesn’t need to be awkward or intimidating any more. All it takes is a four-day getaway to Napa or Sonoma Valley to immerse yourself in the heart of America’s wine country. Abandon any preconceived notions that Californians are wine snobs who snub the eastern invasion of tourists.  Au Contraire! 

Visitors often get confused when touring the California wine country. They don’t know whether to choose Napa or Sonoma.  Each has intriguing vineyards, and if you don’t mind a little driving, you can enjoy both while you are in California. The query begins with what type of vineyard do you want to visit. With over 600 wineries in Napa alone this can become quite a dilemma. The internet is always a great resource, but let me give you a treasure map of sites I discovered during my past few visits.

My personal preference is to find wines that are not readily accessible on the retail market. I was on a quest to find that distinctive bottle of wine for my daughter’s twenty first birthday. I found “the little gem of Napa Valley” when I discovered Goosecross Cellars (www.goosecross.com ).  This small family owned vineyard is quite charming and makes it worth your while to set your GPS for 1119 State Lane, Yountville. 

Colleen Topper, one of the owners, enlightened us about the intricate process of making wine which commences with pruning the vines.  It is quite interesting to see how properly maintained vines effect the end results. This was evident when Colleen enticed us to taste their prodigious releases.  Goosecross has made giving a bottle of wine an au courant experience. You will be pleasantly surprised to know you can select your favorite wine and have the bottle totally enrobed in a gourmet chocolate.  What a great way to pair a decadent confection with wine for a special occasion!  They are luscious and can be shipped anywhere in the US. 

The second treasure they offer is a personally engraved bottle to commemorate a birthday, anniversary, thank you or just telling your significant other you love them.  EUREKA, this was exactly what I was looking for my dear daughter.  The etchings were exquisite and the Chenin Blanc was the consummate choice for her sweet palate.  I highly recommend this winery if you want to WOW someone with a magnificent present.

Unleash the true romantic in your soul and call O’Brien Estates (www.obrienestates.com) for an appointment while you are in Napa valley. Bart O’Brien is the epitome of the 21st Century, Renaissance Man. He and his wife Barb are releasing a six bottle series aptly named Attraction Chardonnay, Seduction Bordeaux, Romance of the Heart Red Blend, Flirtation Rose, Passion of the Soul Cabernet Sauvignon, and Reflection Late Harvest Cuvee. Imagine sitting across a candlelight table, looking into your loved ones eyes and having them recite the poetic label off the Romance of the Heart bottle: Extend to me the hand of conversation. Twirl me with laughter. Embrace me with kindness. Will you be mine for a moment? Or for a lifetime? How can you resist wanting to buy this wine by the case? I know I am ready to place my order.

V Sattui (www.vsattui.com )is an immensely popular winery located right off Rte 29. It became my personal favorite when I received a gift  bottle of their Muscat. There is no hiding my love for desserts, so why shouldn’t I be enamored with the perfect complimenting libation? Tom Davies, the president of this gregarious company, invited us to literally taste their Cabernet directly from the barrel. This is a courtesy normally reserved only for their club members.  What a climax to the wine tasting experience. 

This winery has a vast array of varietals that includes Zinfandels, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlots, Rieslings, Sauvignon Blanc and Port. Our gracious Wine Consultant, Claudette, made sure we sampled each in their entirety. Their Madeira Port was overwhelming.  It derives from a blend of 121 vintages dating back to 1887 and veritably arrived in the US on a clipper ship with the founder Vittorio Sattui.

Let’s escalate to the sparkling wines.  History claims that a french monk, named Dom Perignon, pioneered the first effervescent wine by accident in 1690. Today he would be elated to discover the “piece de resistence” at Domaine Chandon (www.chandon.com). They have cultivated an expertise in the sparkling wine industry that is second to none. Their skillful technique compiling centuries- old practices with rich regional fruit from the valley results in superb sparkling wines.Even their rolling barrel architecture reflects their impeccable attention to detail. 

There are many other engaging Napa offerings which range from the more prominent vineyards such as Cakebread , Robert Mondavi, Fransican Winery, Black Stallion to the smaller boutique vineyards like Newton and Prager Ports. All offer a rare trait and are definitely worth exploring.

Take a quick detour north to Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma and saunter through the plush gardens of Ferrari and Carano. As you approach the Villa Fiore, you’ll feel like you stepped onto the nostalgic set of Dynasty.  You must tour and view the grandiose underground, double-vaulted barrel cellar. Here you will view countless rows of french oak barrels aging select limited productions of Zinfandel, Tresor and Sangiovese. The pinnacle of your sojourn is arriving at the “Enoteca” Reserve Tasting Bar.  The elegant Venetian plaster walls, opulent alabaster pendants, and handsome herringbone tiled floor enhance the dramatic 37-foot barrel tasting bar. You can’t help but indulge in these fine wines while relaxing in such a magnificent haven.   Don’t forget to rub the snout of Benvenuti, the boar for good luck, as you exit Ferrari and Carrano.

Sonoma has a myriad of amazing wineries which would take you weeks to peruse.  Some alternative favorites along the way are Dry Creek Vineyard which appeal to nautical lovers. Their picturesque labels focus on antique schooners and classic 12 meter J boats tacking in pursuit of the perfect wind. Their wines are as elegant as the presentation of their bottles. Chateau St Jean, Benzinger, Imagery and St Francis are just a few of the other wonders of this region. Each charge a nominal tasting fee which is often waived after a purchase or joining their respective wine clubs.

By now I hope you have the urge to head west and become a true wine connoisseur.  Here’s a simple alliteration to assist your wine tasting venture.

Sight (Look at the wine’s color) Swirl, Smell, Sip, Swish and Swallow.


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