Looking Forward To Wine Tasting Experience In Napa
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Our road trip in California brought us to many different wine regions. Early in our trip, we started with wine tasting in Temecula. Although we travelled through the vineyards in the Paso Robles area, we did not get to wine taste. But we finished with a long weekend in Napa. It gave us such a great wine tasting experience in Napa Valley Area.
Our friend Amber from WineTravelEats set up a series of wine tastings for us during our stay. She wanted to show us a smaller, more intimate and personal wine tasting experiences. And boy did she excel! We travelled around the various wine areas in and around the Napa Valley. The views were stunning. The wines were delightful. And the hospitality could not have been better.
Wine Regions Surround Napa Valley
When we visited Napa on our last trip, we learned that the wine areas of Napa and Sonoma are in separate valley areas beside each other.
There are a growing number of wineries in Green Valley. The Green Valley AVA (American Viticulture Area) is about one mile long and four miles wide. Many of the farms provide grapes for Napa Valley wineries. But there are also some great wineries in this area. We stopped at GV Cellars for a tasting. This small family winery produced 6 distinct varietals and a specialty wine every year. My David and I shared a mixed tasting of white and red wines. We just drank what we liked. But Amber took a more professional approach to her sampling. And shared her thoughts on the wines. Since she was the driver, she could only taste and spit.
Amber then took us for a drive through the lush and green valleys. Right beside Green Valley is Suisun Valley. They claim to be the Petit Sirah capital of the world. We did not stop for a tasting although we did pass several wineries.
Touring the Green Valley and Suisun Valley AVAs was a great way to start our wine tasting experience in Napa Valley area.
We Started Our Full Day Wine Tasting At Keller Estates
We were excited when we learned that fellow travel bloggers Shaun and Kevin were in Napa at the same time we were. They are wine experts like Amber and we knew we would learn a lot about wine as we toured the Napa area wineries with them.
Our first stop was at Keller Estates wineries. It had rained for days in Napa and the fields and roads were quite flooded. Two cell phones and the GPS each had a different routing to get us from Napa to Petaluma around the flooding. It was a good thing that David was patient as the directions changed regularly.
As we pulled up the long driveway, we were greeted by a long set of poles with what looked like owl statues on top of them. When we pulled closer, we realized they were live turkey vultures. And one by one they spread their wings. Luckily the sheep in the other fields were much less interested in our arrival.
We headed up and were buzzed through the gate. Keller Estates does wine tasting by reservation only. As we topped the hill, we got our first view of the rolling hills of Keller Estates. We later learned that there were 36 acres of olive trees. And the estate produces a spicy olive oil in addition to a broad selection of wines.
The large cave and processing facility was closer to the gate. We did not do a tour of the cave. But it is something I would do on a return trip. From there we followed the drive to the parking area for the tasting room.
As we approached Keller Estates, we were excited for our next wine tasting experience in Napa Valley area.
Keller Estates Has Wine And So Much More
The first thing we saw as we approached the tasting room was a beautiful model car statue in the front entrance way. We late learned that the man in the car was the founder Arturo. Around the walls we found more interesting wine-themed art.
When we entered the tasting room, we were stunned to see a beautiful black classic Jaguar. There were 200 classic cars on the estate. We were sure that a tour of the car facility would be another stunning way to visit Keller Estates.
We were settled in and learned a little bit more about this winery. The winery was bought by Arturo in the mid 1980’s and they were open for their first tasting in 2007. Since 1998, Arturo’s daughter Ana has been guiding the winery. We were delighted when we got a chance to meet Ana and see her passion for the winery.
Our wine tasting started with a 2015 Brut Rosé made from Pinot Noir grapes. Bubbles are always a great way to start.
We went on to taste a oaky and smooth 2015 La Cruz Chardonnay. Comparison tastings of the 2015 La Cruz Pinot Noir against the 2015 El Coro Pinot Noir let us see the difference that region made to the taste of identical grapes. The La Cruz and El Coro areas are at different elevations. But the process was the same. We certainly could taste the difference in the two wines. Our final wine was the 2014 Rotie. This was an interesting blend of Sirah and Viognier grapes.
We had a lovely personal visit to Keller Estates. The wines and winery were great. And there was so many more interesting touches to this spot. This was definitely a great way to begin the full day tour on our wine tasting experience in Napa Valley area.
A Bubbly Stop At Domaine Carneros
We had a little time before our next wine tasting reservation so we stopped at the beautiful Domaine Carneros winery. This was a regular stop for Shaun and Kevin since it brought back great memories of their wedding. As we approached the grand staircase up, we could certainly understand why this was a great spot for a celebration.
This stop gave us a chance to try 4 different sparkling wines back-to-back. We started with the 2014 Ultra Brut and went sweeter through a sparkling rosé to the sweetest 2014 Vermeil Demi-Sec.
It was great to be able to move between the sparkling wines experiencing the bubbles. I was surprised when David did not like the sweetest one the best. For me, the rosé hit all the right notes. We ordered a small nibble plate. And of course the sparkling wine was enhanced when we tried it with chocolate.
There was a wide selection of sparkling wines to taste test and to buy. This winery was open and did not require reservations in advance. Since we had not planned this stop, we just settled in with everyone else and enjoyed our wines. But it was a little different than the rest of our wine tasting experience in Napa Valley area.
Clif Family Estates For Food And Wine
Amber had set up our reservation at the Clif Family Estates for us to do a wine tasting and have lunch. When we learned that this winery was established by the family that created the famous Clif bars, we were not sure what to expect. When we arrived at the estate, we saw the bright green Bruschetteria food truck that prepares all the food. But when our lunch arrived, it did not look anything like food truck fare. It was a delicious way to start our wine tasting.
The Clif Family Estates has a very long wine list. There were two different tasting menus. But our great host made sure we tasted so many more than just one list. If there was one we seemed interested in, someone got to try it. The Zinfandel and the Viognier we tasted were a great addition to the basic menu choices. One of the early wines we tried was the 2018 Rosé Grenache. I like a lot of the wine we tasted but this was one of my favourites.
Through the wine tasting we got to try a number of wines back-to-back to see the differences. We also got to see the wide variety in the labelling of the bottles. Many of the vintages had great scenes of the family’s favourite cycling locations.
We started with two Sauvignon Blancs – the 2018 Oak Knoll and the 2017 Rte. The effect that oak makes was strikingly obvious in these two blends. We also got to try the 2014 Cold Springs Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon against the 2013 Croquet Howell Mountain version. The Cold Springs area is a higher area with volcanic soil and the grapes have to fight harder. The Croquet site is lower on the mountain and with so much more sunshine is harvested a month earlier. The two versions of Cabernet Sauvignon definitely tasted different. Chocolate was the obvious choice to try with the robust red wines.
Our stop at the Clif Family Estates provided us with tasty food and an amazingly broad range of delicious wines to try. We were so glad this was part of our wine tasting experience in Napa Valley area.
The Old World Wines Of Luna Vineyards
The final stop on our wine tasting trip was at Luna Vineyards. This was a smaller tasting venue but there was a large bar area that looked like a great gathering spot. We started our wine tasting with a lovely crisp 2017 Pinot Grigio. We stayed with white wines and tried two different versions of Chardonnay (2017 Wente and the 2016 Dijon). One was finished in stainless steel and one in oak. We could definitely taste the difference in the two vintages. Neither of these convinced me to add Chardonnay to my favourite wine list.
We then moved into the more unique wines produced in the Napa region. We were happy to try two different Sangiovese wines. Both the region and blend of grapes were different in the 2015 Classico and 2015 Reserve. For me, the Reserve had the right level of smoothness I love in a hearty red wine.
We stayed with red wines and tried two different Cabernet Sauvignon wines. One was a 2015 from Atlas Peak and the other was the 2014 from Howell Mountain. We certainly enjoyed the Howell Mountain wines that day. The Howell Mountain wine was served with a Coravin gadget. This allows a bottle of wine to be open for a longer time and poured out as required. This was my new favourite gadget find on this trip.
We were curious about the 2015 Mille Baci and were told it was a late harvest wine. This was a great dessert wine. We love Canadian ice wines. And had we not had a large supply of ice wine at home, we would have taken a bottle of this with us. It was great to finish up our wine tasting experience in Napa Valley area at Luna Vineyards.
An Awesome Wine Tasting Experience in Napa Valley Area
We tried the wines in the Napa area on our last visit. But on this return visit, we got the most amazing wine tasting experience in the Napa Valley area. We really saw that there was more than one great wine region (or AVA). The wines and wineries were all so varied. But the wine tasting experience in Napa Valley area we got was exemplary. It was great to have the doors opened by Amber.
Our 3 days in Napa sped by. We did enjoy some time to just explore the town of Napa. But we definitely need to plan another return trip.
Did you have a great wine tasting experience in Napa Valley area? Did you have a favourite winery? Is there one that should top our list for a return visit?
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