I am an East Coast boy through and through. But, I have to admit, there are some things to appreciate when it comes to the Wild West. Up there would have to be the wine regions of California, in particular Napa Valley.
Invariably, when someone hears the words Napa Valley the first thing that comes to mind for most people is wine, and rightfully so. You will find few spots in the United States that have the climate or terrain to grow the kind of grapes necessary to produce such a fantastic variety of wines. For me, it brings to mind a few things in particular. First, and most obvious, excellent wine. Second, some excellent food. As I stated before, while I certainly don’t mind wine or alcohol in general, I really am all about the food. Napa Valley does not disappoint in this regard. Finally, it brings to mind one simple word: Loser. I’ll get to that in a moment. :)
The primary reason for our visit to Napa Valley last spring was to do what most do when visiting Napa Valley: To drink some wine. We made it to two wineries in particular that stood out. The first was Rutherford Hill. Our group of six had a private tour of the wine cellar where we tasted six or seven excellent wines. My preference was for the medium-bodied malbec. Most people think of Argentina when it comes to malbecs, but this was a particularly impressive one. After the tour and tasting, we had a boxed lunch at one of the picnic tables overlooking the valley. Un-believable view. Truly a worthy winery to visit.
Our second winery was Rubicon. This place was truly amazing. Rubicon is owned by Francis Ford Coppola of Godfather fame. Not only does this man know how to make films, his winery produces some of the best wine I’ve ever had the pleasure to imbibe. We had a private wine tasting along with the chateau ambassador, Harold Francis. A nicer, more entertaining gentleman, you will not meet. Our tasting was followed by a walk around the estate, and then finally a visit to the wine cellar. Since our visit to Rubicon, the Coppola’s have managed to acquire the Inglenook trademark (the original name when the estate was first established in 1879). The winery is now known as Inglenook .
Now mind you, one of those in our traveling party (The Foodie Journal’s own Jersey Kid) has an “in” when it comes to wineries. The experiences we had were above and beyond a typical wine tasting and tour. That being said, both of these wineries are deserving of visits.
I know I mentioned this as the third thing I think of, but as this story is directly associated to wineries, I thought it fitting to tell now. We visited a third winery, which I unfortunately can’t remember the name of. While that would infer that I was in a state that wouldn’t allow me to remember, that wasn’t the case. The most memorable moment of this particular visit, though, was the following.
We were pretty tired by the time we got to this final winery. So we found a small area with some tables and chairs to take some rest. Near us was a a knee-high stone wall, next to a grassy area. One of the ladies in our party, seeing the sun shining on the grass, thought it would be a great spot to lay down and enjoy a little sunbathing. We’re all sitting quietly. Suddenly we hear, out of nowhere, “Look her! She couldn’t handle it. LOSER!”
I looked up to see the man stumbling away from us, his wife (or caretaker?) coming to his aid, as he could barely keep his feet. We laughed and laughed.
The moral of the story? A) We were all feeling just fine (most definitely better than THAT guy), and B) people in glass houses… should probably stop talking when they no longer can form complete sentences. :)
Hope he managed to find his way back to the gutter.
For dinner, we decided to go to Terra in St. Helena. This place was outstanding. I also liked the simple fact that there was a selection. Granted it is a prix fixe menu. You get a specific number of courses for a preset amount of money. But, they still offered you selection. You could select any of the dishes from either their “savory” or “sweet” menus. The menu has since changed, but my selections at the time heavily involved both foie gras and bone marrow.
UPDATE: I was reminded by the Jersey Kid (via the comments below), that the third winery was Mondavi. No slight meant to them in any way. Rutherford Hill and Inglenook simply went above and beyond expectations, making them easier to remember. I also would like to extend a very warm thanks to Neb Lukic of Southern Wine and Spirits as well. It was an amazing day!