Tag: Napa

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The awesome setup at Sainsbury

Day 4 allowed us to catch a couple on the way out of town. Definitely glad we made the trip to stumble upon Saintsbury – it was DYNAMITE.

Day 4… Two Wineries on the way out of town:

  • Artessa (Southwestern Napa):
    • Pros: Interesting property with great views of Sonoma/Napa
    • Cons: “Modern” property actually feels dated, fairly un-personal tasting experience
    • Overall Score: 3/10 –  not worth the trip
  • Saintsbury (Southwestern Napa – between Downtown Napa and Downtown Sonoma):
    • Pros: Welcoming and warm staff members, smaller facility with tour included, beautiful grounds, best Pinots that we tasted over the whole trip
    • Cons: Off the beaten path, tasting requires an hour minimum (reservations recommended)
    • Fun Fact: they have a great selection of “large format” wines that I “accidentally” indulged in
    • Overall Score: 8/10 –  worth the trip
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One of my last “artsy” pics of the trip

Til Next Time,

Michael

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I figured I would start off my review of vineyards from the trip in sequential order, starting with the first afternoon we spent in wine country – over on the Napa/Silverado Trail side of the valley. I’ll try to give as much relevant information as possible while not being too grossly overwhelming. I feel like any time people start trying to nitpick the wine itself, something is lost. I’m just trying to share information I would want to know prior to going (in other words – “is Vineyard XYZ worth the trip”… which is much more than just “is the wine delicious/economical/etc” as far as I’m concerned).

Day 1… Four Wineries in Napa/Silverado Trail:

  • Frog’s Leap (Mid-Napa):
    • Pros: Beautiful grounds, comfortable atmosphere, snacks provided with tastings, and extra stuff to see and do around the property (e.g. The Barn, garden area, etc)
    • Cons: Requires appointment, only selected wines are not distributed (i.e. you can get majority of their wines across the country in retail environments)
    • Fun Fact: their corks say “Ribbit” (a nod to the other frog design and brand aesthetics)
    • Overall Score: 7/10 –  worth the trip
  • Round Pond (Mid-Napa):
    • Pros: Great rooftop patio, scenic views of the whole Napa Valley
    • Cons: Requires appointment, very limited tasting capacity (i.e. They often will not even allow all of their tables to be filled if they are at all short on servers/employees)
    • Overall Score: 6/10 –  worth the trip, but not a “must”
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The “Ribbit” corks at Frog’s Leap

  • Robert Sinksey (Silverado Trail):
    • Pros: Recently completed patio construction and other related property updates, good lesser-known varietals and blends of wine
    • Cons: Not a ton of “wow” factor, tastings are fairly expensive, a bit dark/void of light on the inside if that is where you do your tasting
    • Overall Score: 5/10 – I’d go back but not unless I was already over in that part of the Silverado Trail
  • Regusci (Silverado Trail):
    • Pros: Dog-friendly property, laid back atmosphere, very helpful and friendly staff
    • Cons: Not loaded with memorable wines, a bit of a hike out of the way unless you are deliberate about wanting to get over to the South end of the Silverado Trail
    • Overall Score: 5/10 – same story as Sinskey

Til Next Time,

Michael

Having been to wine country a number of times now, I always find myself coming back with modified opinions on the age-old debate of “which is better” – Napa or Sonoma. I initially fell in love with Napa, but then cheated on it with Sonoma – and am admittedly probably still more attracted to the new kid on the block. But they both really are magical and I would never turn down a trip to either. Below, I’ve listed an updated set of thoughts and reactions for each.

Napa:

  • More expensive tastings ($15-30 apiece)
  • Less picturesque, aside from the Silverado Trail, where the topography starts to yield better views of the valley
  • Generally yuppier clientele
  • More hidden gems than I recall (e.g. Saintsbury)
  • Bigger and more famous vineyards
  • Much more corporate and quick to push product on tasters
  • Upscale, recently-reconstructed downtown area
  • Less residential areas (more of a Bed-and-Breakfast scene)
  • Best Pinots around, with other varietals the compliment the portfolio (but don’t hold a flame to the Pinots)

Sonoma:

  • Less expensive tastings (mostly $20 and under)
  • More picturesque, with rolling hills, and a generally “greener” landscape
  • More laid back clientele
  • More hidden gems than I recall (e.g. Cast)
  • Smaller and more quaint vineyards
  • Less corporate, more independent, and you feel less pressured to purchase product
  • Older, more quaint downtown area
  • More residential areas (more ideal for an Airbnb)
  • Less impressed with their Pinots, and more impressed with varietals I didn’t previously associate with the area (e.g. Zins, Cabs, Syrahs, blends, etc)

All in all, I think Napa probably still has a higher ceiling, with more of the top-end names (both wineries and restaurants, like French Laundry). It definitely has more money invested in it, and it shows – as evidenced by comparing the town squares. But I still prefer Sonoma because of the quaint and less arrogant feel.

Much more to come as I review some of the stops along the way!

Til Next Time,

Michael

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The view from the tasting patio at Cast (a personal favorite)

This will start a mini-series of (non-work) posts stemming from a recent trip to wine country. I’ll go over a little bit about my thoughts on Sonoma vs Napa (I’ll call this my “updated view” since I’ve already been to both before and reviewed them previously), and list some of my “must see” places and favorite vineyards. Some of the information will resemble a beginner’s guide to wine country, while other areas will dive deeper into trade secrets I’ve learned (mostly from the hundreds of dollars I’ve probably lost due to poor decisions) over the years. Hope you enjoy it!

As a teaser, here is a list of the wineries I was able to get to on this trip (pictures coming as well):

  • Napa
    • Frog’s Leap
    • Round Pond
    • Robert Sinskey
    • Regusci
    • Saintsbury
    • Artessa
  • Sonoma(ish*)
    • Buena Vista
    • Gloria Ferrer
    • Deerfield Ranch
    • Kunde
    • Ferrari Carano
    • Cast
    • Dutcher Crossing
    • Sbragia
    • VJB
    • Chateau St Jean

*a lot of my “Sonoma” wineries aren’t really in or near Sonoma proper – but since they’re all Sonoma County, I’m going to count them as being Sonoma even if they’re really Dry Creek, Healdsburg, or some other town not named Sonoma

Til Next Time,

Michael

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