I woke up early and made my way out of Sacramento and towards Napa Valley. Today I decided to drive all the way north on the Silverado Trail and stop at wineries while driving south on Route 29.
The first winery that I stopped to visit was Sterling Vineyards. I soon found out that the building I was walking towards did not contain a winery but a cable car station that would take me to it up on the hill. I decided to continue on to the next winery because I felt that this would consume too much of my time. I made a note to myself to visit the winery next time I'm around.
I was already on Dunaweal Lane when I turned right into my next winery of the day. The winery was Twomey Cellars. I thought that this was a peculiar name, but that doesn't mean that their wine isn't good. What was special about this winery that it produces wines mostly from Pinot Noir, and a few from Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. There are plenty of wineries that make wines only out of Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel, maybe also with the occasional white grape, usually Chardonnay. That's why I was happy to arrive at a winery that produced something a little different. I tasted 3 Pinot Noirs and one Merlot. Each Pinot Noir was from a different area, one from Russian River, one from Anderson Valley, and one from the Sonoma Coast. The Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2007 was my favorite. The wine had a real full body and a captivating uniqueness. Its color was ruby with a red hue, and aromas of plum, cherry, vanilla and spices. Tastes included cherry, burnt oak, plum and dark chocolate, with a full body and fruity dry finish. I really enjoyed this wine. I bought my 6th bottle opener as well.
The next winery on my list was one that I already decided to visit yesterday. When I was in the Napa info center, I also received a warm recommendation to visit this winery. I missed the turn a couple of times until I finally caught the sign hiding in the shade. I turned into Castello di Amorosa which is located at 4045 Route 29. I drove up the hill and was amazed at what I saw, a huge medieval castle. According to the winery's website, the castle was built using medieval building methods in order to accentuate the castle's authenticity. That means no cranes, no cement trucks and other modern day techniques. I paid $16 which was the cheapest entrance ticket. For this price you receive 4 wine tastings which take place in the castle's cellar. Before you walk down you can also walk through a fancy ballroom and a sunbathed courtyard. There are also other tours that maximize your castle experience such a private group tour that includes visiting more of the castle's rooms and reserve wine tastings. You can also reserve a castle and vineyard tour upon a horse carriage.
Anyway… let's get back on track. After photographing the ballroom and courtyard I made my way down to the cellar for the wine tastings. All I can say is that I really wasn’t ready for what happened next. All the wine servers behind the bar were from Italy. I consider myself a person who can understand people who talk with heavy accents, but this was truly ridiculous. The server didn't understand me and I didn't understand him. In the end everything worked out and I received what I wanted, but talking with your hands around wine glasses is not considered very safe. I tasted four wines – a dry Gewürztraminer 2008, a Sangiovese 2006, a Merlot 2006, and a Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. I've tasted much better Sangiovese wines from Italy and Israel as well, but this was the best I tasted this afternoon. The wine had a ruby color, with aromas of oak, cherry, plum, dark chocolate and earth. Tastes included oak, a bit of leather, cherry and blueberries, with a full body and round oaky finish. After the tastings I roamed around the cellar wishing I had one under my house.
I finally left the winery continuing south on Route 29. For no apparent reason I turned left onto Lodi Lane and ended up at Duckhorn Vineyards. Even though there were small "Sauvignon Blanc" signs in the vineyard, I was glad to find out that the winery also produced red wines. After being seated I picked all the red wines that I could out of the wine menu. Because the server saw that I liked only red wines, he gave me two more red wine tastings. I tasted two Merlots and 3 Cabernets. Each Cabernet was from a different vineyard – Monitor Ledge, Candlestick, and Patzimaro. I enjoyed the Patzimaro Cabernet 2006 the most. The wine had a ruby color with a purple hue, with aromas of oak, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, earth, and butter cake. Some tastes included plum, cherry, strawberry, and oak, with a full body and fruity round finish. All through the tastings I finished all the crackers and olives that were served in order to soak up the wine. All the wine was good, especially the Cabernets, it was a shame to spit them out, so I drank it all. I walked out the winery with a slight lightheadedness. I walked around the vineyard and also to the winery entrance in order to photograph myself with the sign. After some more rest in the car and about a liter of water, I was ready to keep on going.
I was back on the Silverado Trail heading south. Yesterday when I saw this sign I didn't think anything of it, but now that I saw it again I didn't think twice and turned left onto Taplin Road. After another kilometer I entered Joseph Phelps Vineyards. After paying $20 for the "Terrace Tastings", I was escorted to the terrace. The terrace had a few benches and tables and had an amazing view of sloped vineyards and the green hills around the area. It also had a small tasting bar where the wine servers poured whatever wine you wanted to taste. Of course you were able to taste the same wine twice or more, which gives you the opportunity to spend here to whole day just drinking wine (at this point I really wished I had a designated driver!). I tasted 7 wines, real good wines as well – a Chardonnay 2006, a Viognier 2007, a Pinot Noir 2006, a Merlot 2006, a Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, the Insignia 2006 (a blend of Cab and Petit Verdot), and the Eisrébe 2008 (an ice wine made from the scheurebe grape which is artificially frozen, then thawed a little and pressed). Of the white wines I enjoyed the Viognier the most. The wine had a
strong golden color, with aromas of pear, pineapple, mango, butter and lichee. Tastes included apple, lemon and pear, with a medium body and dry fruity finish. The Insignia was the best red that I tasted that afternoon. I've encountered this wine a few times while reading the wine magazine that I'm subscribed to. The high scores that the wine receives aren't of interest to me, but the way the wine is always described and talked about sounds like a wine that I would enjoy. I'm real happy I was able to taste this wine, a great and amazing wine. The Insignia had a dark ruby red color, with aromas of cherry, oak, plum, and a hint of cigar and leather. Tastes included cherry, oak, plum, vanilla, lavender and coffee, with a full body and a fresh round and elegant finish. I remember the wine gliding down my throat and just leaving a great impression. A bottle of the Insignia costs above $200. I sat and stared at the amazing view, all the while getting my wineglass filled with the Insignia 2006. What a great visit!! I truly enjoyed myself!!
I continued on. I tried to visit Quintessa Winery, but they only accept visitors with reservations. Maybe next time.
After a few more kilometers of driving south on the Silverado Trail I reached another winery – Ruthorford Ranch. I paid $10 for 4 tastings. Out of the 6 wines on the tasting menu I picked the 4 red ones – a Merlot 2007, a Zinfandel 2006, a Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007, and the Rhiannon 2007 (a blend of Cab S, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Syrah). Because the place was fairly empty, Lisa (the wine server) and I had a great conversation about wine. She let me taste some handmade chocolate; it was so good that I bought some. Lisa also gave me two more wine tastings – a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 and a port from Zinfandel. I enjoyed the Cabernet 2007 the most. The wine had a dark ruby color, with aromas of earth, oak, plum and raspberries. Tastes included chocolate, plum, lavender and earth, with a full body and a sharp round finish. Besides the tasting room, the winery has a couple more rooms that you could sit or walk around in. One room has a long table with comfortable chairs that you could reserve for a special occasion. I thanked Lisa and kept on going.
I drove back to Route 29. I decided to stop at one more winery. I found that Cosentino Winery was still open so I turned into their parking lot. The Italian flag on one of the flag poles indicated the owner's roots. I walked in, and once again, the place was empty. I tasted 5 wines – a Chardonnay 2007, a Sangiovese 2007, a Cab S 2005, a Zinfandel 2007, and the Poet 2005 (a blend of Cab S, Cab Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, a bit of Malbec). The winery's best wine on that late afternoon was the Poet. The wine had bright ruby hue, with aromas of plum, wild berries, and butter cake. Tastes included cherry pie, dough, plum, oak and leather, with a full body and round oaky finish. At the end of the tastings I wanted to buy a wine bottle opener but they didn't have any in stock. I tried to convince the server to sell me his, but he said that the opener was the only one he had and he needed it to open more wine bottles if he had to. Oh well, maybe they'll send me one by mail.
It was another amazing day touring around Napa Valley. I enjoyed conversing with people about wine and of course drinking it. The wine seemed to just pour from everywhere in the valley… which it did. I drove back to my Aunt and Uncle's house in Sacramento for Friday night dinner, feeling that another bottle of wine would surely be opened.
Now for some more of today's pictures.
Tommorow is a much shorter day…