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Napa Valley Wine Tasting

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My husband and I love everything about Napa, especially the wine, and try to get down there a couple of times each year.  I constantly get emails from family, friends and friends of friends asking where to go wine tasting so I thought a post about some especially good – not to miss spots – would be great!

There are wineries that take reservations and others that don’t.  Personally I prefer the ones that are reservation only simply because it means there will be no tour buses, less people, and more one on one time most likely with the owner or wine maker.  What’s not to love about that?!  One of the downsides to reservation only wineries is that sometimes that means there’s an expensive tasting fee.  At the end of the day I think you need to figure out what your goal is.  Are you looking to just have the experience of wine tasting without buying?  Are you wanting the convenience of just popping into a place off of Highway 29?  Are you interested in buying hard to find wine not accessible to the general public?  Whatever your answer is, I’ve got plenty of places for everyone.  Below I have them categorized to help you narrow down your selection.

*I highly encourage anyone and everyone to hire a car service for their day of wine tasting.  It might make your day a little more expensive but it’s a lot less cheaper than a DUI and will make the day safer and more relaxing I promise.  Just remember, “You booze, you cruise, you lose!”

Napa Valley Tours & Transportation

Appointment only:

Fleury – $35 tasting fee.  This is hands down one of our favorite wineries!  The winery itself isn’t anything to write home about.  It’s a warehouse with tasting tents set up inside however the wine is the true star here.  Go here if you’re looking for some great wine to purchase.  Our favorites are the Passionne, The “F” in Red, Le Fleur 29 and Rocket Juice.  Yum…makes me want some now!

Schramsberg $45 tasting fee.  If bubbles are your weakness, then this is your place!  I typically recommend people start their day here since drinking champagne is a little easier to do earlier in the day in comparison to red wine:)  You’ll definitely get your $45 worth of champagne, they serve generous pours and you’ll learn a lot about the history of champagne as well as the winery itself.

Quintessa $65 tasting fee.  One of the most expensive tasting fee I’ve ever paid at a winery but the architecture and winery itself are stunning.  By visiting this winery you’ll get a full tour of how the grapes are grown, harvested, sorted and processed into wine.  It’s a beautiful set up and the wine is really delicious.  Just a heads up if you do end up buying – we suggest cellaring their wine for a good 5 years.  It tends to taste a bit young before letting it age a little longer.

HALL Rutherford  – My husband and I had our rehearsal dinner in the gorgeous wine cave here.  Situated up in the hills, HALL Rutherford has stunning views and is overall a lovely wine tasting experience.  From whites to reds, their wines are delicious.  The “Bergfeld St. Helena” is a favorite in our house.

CADE $35-$60 tasting fee.  Located atop Howell Mountain with breath-taking panoramic views of Napa Valley, this winery is a bit of a trek but worth it!  I happen to love their Sauvignon Blanc but I also never say no to a Cabernet Sauvignon:)

Gabrielle – This is such a special winery and not one to be rushed.  I believe I spent about an hour and a half here and probably could have been there all day had it not been for my other appointments.  Gabrielle takes you on a walking tour of her beautiful property and then brings you to a charming table set by the pond and under the trees for some wine tasting, as well as her salts, herbs, honey, etc if you’re interested.  The Silver Stallion is incredible as well as the Cask 321.

Caldwell Limited appointments each month.  Another winery set high in the mountains, this too is a very special place with the most charming owner (John).  This is probably one of the most exclusive wineries I’ve ever visited and they don’t offer many tastings a month so call ahead if you want to go.  All of John’s wines are stunning but something that also stood out was the wine his workers sell as their own.  John has been nice enough to gift them land on his property to make their own wine which is a pretty incredible opportunity for anyone let alone a very generous and thoughtful gift if you ask me.

Pride Mountain $20-$75 tasting fee.  Set up one of their tastings or tours for you and up to six to twelve other guests and enjoy the view and stunning wines.  I personally love their Merlots.  2010 was a phenomenal year for them which is unfortunately sold out at this point but I’m enjoying their current release now and it’s delicious!

Merus – Since visiting Merus, I now see on their website that it says, “Because our production is so restricted, the winery and its tasting salon are closed to the general public and may only be visited by invitation”.  I would check with your hotel concierge to see if they can get you in because it’s well worth it.  Their wine is outstanding!

Open to the public:

Robert Sinskey

Duckhorn

Freemark Abbey

Sequoia Grove

Frank Family

Silver Oak

Castello di Amorosa

I recently did a fabulous caviar tasting at Seattle Caviar Company and now I’m hooked!  I knew I liked caviar before but I didn’t know how many different types of caviar there are and what the differences were.  Owner Betsy Sherrow and her friendly staff are so helpful and make the tasting so much fun!  They do a caviar tasting with champagne every Thursday so sign up and go…you’ll be happy you did:)

This post is very overdue but I just wanted to say congrats to local chef Tom Douglas for his much deserved win for Outstanding Restauranteur from the James Beard Foundation.  I may be biased because I’m from Seattle but Tom is outstanding in all that he does.  From the restaurants that he has opened and runs to the cookbooks and spices and to the events and philanthropic work he does…he’s amazing!  Short and sweet…congrats Tom…you earned this!!!

Quoin offers a variety of drink concoctions that change regularly and will have you wanting to try every one on the menu.  There’s a throw back to old cocktails but with Quoin unique twist on them.  On a recent beautiful Saturday night, I chose the Mighty Seventy Four (or Five…I can’t remember) but holy moly it was tasty!  Gin, Earl Grey syrup, soda and Prosecco.  Need I say more?!

Quoin serves the whole Revel menu in the bar and on the deck so in case you get there and your wait is just too long, remember that you have options!  On the weekends try a Kimchi Bloody Mary with your breakfast!

I have honestly never tasted a better orange than the Sumo variety.  If you haven’t had one I highly recommend you drive to your nearest Whole Foods as soon as possible to get one or a dozen before they’re gone.  My regular grocery store already ran out of them so you can only imagine how excited I was to find them this week at Whole Foods.  I stocked up!

They’re easy to peel (which I love), SUPER sweet and juicy…overall everything you could ever ask a perfect orange to be:)  Not to mention they’re packed full of Vitamin C and flavonoids and contain a good amount of dietary fiber.  YUM!

On a nice sunny weekend day there’s nothing better than visiting the farmers market.  We are lucky to have so many close to our house.  Both the Fremont and Ballard farmers markets are on Sunday and are fairly close to each other so it’s actually easy to hit both.  Ballard caterers more to the produce and food items whereas Fremont has more vintage home wares, food trucks and prepackaged foods such as jams, cookies, etc.

Be sure to check out Hot Cakes – Molten Chocolate Cakery.  Need I say more?  These take and bake molten cakes come in personal sized mason jars that couldn’t be cuter!  Talk about a great hostess gift, birthday treat, and/or dessert for a dinner party!

You can’t go wrong with any and all of the produce.  There’s nothing better than local organic fruits and veggies.  And the eggs!  They just make me want my own chickens even more.  Someday:)

Deluxe Foods makes awesome apple butter which is great on hot biscuits or even in your oatmeal in the morning.  They also make the most interesting syrups.  The one we bought is Earl Grey which you can add to soda to make your own flavored soda.  Sounds amazing to me…can’t wait to try it!

I highly recommend going on an empty stomach which might be hard at the same time because there are temptations every turn you make but the food stalls pump out the most amazing food which should be taken advantage of for lunch.  There’s everything from gourmet quesadillas to homemade sausages to crepes.

Go to your local farmers market and support your local farms!

*We actually found these at the Fremont Farmers Market on our bike ride home:)  So good!

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