Wednesday, September 30, 2009

San Francisco Day 3 or "A Slice of Heaven and Some Liquid Gold"

With a belly full of bread, Bry and I headed out to Napa Valley for day 1 of our wine adventure! The ride out to Napa took about an hour and we arrived to our first winery a few minutes before 10am. We decided to try out Plump Jack winery first.

Plump Jack was recommended to me awhile back by a friend; it's owned by the mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom and is famous for it's Cabernet (as are many of the wineries in Napa). The tasting was held right in the store/bar area and cost $10 for 3 glasses. The wines were good, but none really jumped out at us. Apparently, their higher end tasting that costs more has some wines that are really noteworthy. We were in and out pretty quickly and honestly, we soon forgot about Plumpjack after we tried some other wineries that were a bit more memorable for us.

Our next stop was Nickel & Nickel which is located next to Opus One and across from Robert Mondavi. From the minute we pulled into Nickel and Nickel we felt like it was going to be a special experience. We first had to call and be buzzed into the grounds which was fun to do. As the white farm gates opened we slowly drove past a pasture with horses and a windmill. To the right was a gorgeous old Californian style home from the 1880's and a beautiful red barn. We parked and headed inside where we were greeted by our friendly tour guide in a cozy sun room. We checked in for our tour and headed into a beautifully appointed living room where we were given a crisp cool glass of chardonnay. The atmosphere was just perfect and so was the chardonnay (it ended up being one of our favorite wines of our trip). Our tour guide Brendan soon rejoined us to tell us a bit about the history of the winery before we toured the property. N&N is a relatively new winery, founded in 1997 and is devoted to producing 100% varietal, single-vineyard wines. Brendan took us through the grounds (N&N runs very "green". It receives all it's power from an acre of solar panels and if that isn't green enough, 11 sheep live underneath these panels to keep the grass mowed), the fermentation barn and another barn that was recovered and restored. The inside of this barn was actually from another barn that dated back to Revolutionary times, needless to say, it was gorgeous and it housed the lab in which the wine was created. From the barn we moved back outside, past a few workers that were processing grapes for the "crush", and into the basement of the house for our tasting. We tasted four different Cabernet Sauvignons, each from a distinct region of Napa: Stags Leap, Rutherford, Yountville, and Oakville. Our favorite was the wine from the Stags Leap district called Regusci Vineyard-Block 4 (2006). There was a burst of fruity flavor which is characteristic of the area and it was perfumed with mixed red fruits. Our second favorite was the John C. Sullenger Vineyard from Oakville (2006). This wine is produced from the vines directly behind the Nickel & Nickel homestead. It's 30 acres of clay loam soil are planted exclusively Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine had considerable volume and graceful tannins. It focused on ripe fruit flavors of plum and cherry with hints of blackberry. In third place, State Lane Ranch from Yountville (2006). Lastly, we enjoyed the Witz End Vineyard from Rutherford. Rutherford is known for it's distinct aftertaste of soil....something people call "Rutherford Dust". We were lucky enough to finish our tasting with "Napa's Liquid Gold" a.k.a. Dolce. Selling at about 80 bucks for 375ml Dolce is perhaps the best dessert wine Napa has to offer. It's sweet and rich but not syrupy and it's taste is worth it's weight in gold. We left Nickel & Nickel totally satisfied and ecstatic that were were able to experience such an amazing part of Napa.

After a quick lunch at Dean & Deluca we headed over to Caymus Winery. After N&N, the Caymus property didn't really blow us away but it was still pretty. We were excited to taste the wines since we've had some before and always were happy with them. We were able to taste four different types of wine: a Sauvignon Blanc, a Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2006 special collection Cabernet Sauvignon (which retails at $130). Our favorites were the Sauvignon Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon. One man kept commenting on how simple the wines were and the wine educator, as they are called, kept saying thank you. I guess having a simple delicious tasting wine is compliment!

The last winery we went to for the day was farther up north. Chateau Montelena is known for the 1976 Judgement of Paris. It was in this tasting that their chardonnay won over every single French wine. This wine, along with Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon put Napa on the map and gave it the world-wide notarity it has today. Bry and I shared a wine tasting and at $20 for five glasses of wine, it's a good deal. We got to try the Chateau's Reisling, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and their Estate Cab. The wine was all very good. Bry and I had their Sauv. Blanc in NY and we thought that was the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, they only made 300 cases and the only times you can taste it are at their library tastings or buy it from the one specific store in NYC that we just so happen to find it at. The grounds of the Chateau were nice with a large Japanese Pond as its center-piece.

Our first day in Napa was wonderful and we ended it with a bite to eat at the Rutherford Grill where we sat out in the warm sun and cool breeze on their patio and enjoyed a burger and enchillada and two very big glasses of water. It was the perfect end to the perfect day and we were both excited to do it all again tomorrow.

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