The Napa Valley is quite unlike any other place in the US. Flanked by mountains and covered with vines; it represents to many the stronghold of some of America’s very best wines.
About a month ago, devastating fires ravaged many parts of California’s wine country, and recovery will be a project for years to come. However, some parts of The Napa Valley were sparred.
Earlier this fall, a small group of us booked a trip to visit my uncle, who is the President of Treasury Wine Estate an Australian wine company. They have a strong stake in Californian wines and we were his guests for Thanksgiving weekend.
For those who may not know, California is known for their Cabernet Sauvignon and their Chardonnay wines. I am not well-versed in these varietals and it was a highly educational experience to get to visit these vineyards and learn the lore of the land.
We began at Beringer – the oldest vineyard in the region. With a deeply rooted history, Beringer’s estate was first bought in the 1850s and has undergone intentional expansion ever since. Fun fact – they are also the only vineyard which had a permit to continue to produce during Prohibition. We did a blind tasting, something I am still woefully unskilled at – but when you are tasting four delectable wines, one of which being a 97 Pt. Cabernet Sauvignon, no one is judging.
After a quick bite at Model Bakery in St. Helena, we were off to Sterling Winery. This vineyard offers guests a variety of different experiences to choose from strating with a trip up to the Cellar Door in the Gondola.
Glass of wine in hand, you may tour the property, meandering around the majestic and elegant Cyprus trees. The winery has strategically placed tasting stations at information points as well as videos on the wall projecting some of what goes into making their exquisite bottles of wine.
We opted for the Platinum experience – which offers exceptional value. With four wines and a dessert wine to taste, each paired perfectly with specifically curated food; your experience of wine is taken to the next level. Sterling has a few new experiences they are about to role out – so keep a sharp eye out for them. You will also want to invest in their newest bottle aptly named Iridium. At $250 a bottle it promises a value which will exponentially increase if you have the will power to delay that gratification for about 5 years.
That evening, we visited Harvest Table for dinner – a wonderful restaurant located inside a hotel property. Pork belly, mushroom risotto oh – and you can BYOB to any restaurant in The Napa Valley, so the value once again, is amazing.
The following day included trips to Etudes – a smaller vineyard excelling in Pinot Noir. Although I appreciate a heavy red, my heart goes out to the lighter, spicier varietals. Etudes was thus my favorite. Their space is simple and light and their sense of identity is comforting and indicative of the loyalty of their Wine Club members. As a dancer, I loved their dedication to the ‘study’ of something pure and artistic.
Our final vineyard was Stags’ Leap, saving one of the region’s most highly regarded vineyards for last. As Tammy, our leader for the afternoon mentioned, any Cabernet Sauvignon is measured against theirs. With 50% of their estate grown vines producing Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Petite Syrah and 10% Merlot, their wines are known for their deep color and robust depth of flavor. Mostly, I loved the vineyard, it felt like home – not to mention they had a speakeasy which was open all throughout Prohibition.
To tie off our experience, we finished with a meal at Bistro Jeanty. We brought French wine and compared the notes of our tastings, excited for all we learnt and for the joys this kind of knowledge brings with every new bottle we open in the future.
Wine is an art and it is history. Visiting the people who dedicate their lives to the story of their wines reinforces my love for this important nectar. Cheers to every bottle of wine you open and enjoy whether alone or in company, but always in the creation of new memories.