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Snooth User: wasatchwino

Birthday trip to Napa

Posted by wasatchwino, Apr 17.

Hello all! This forum and website has been very helpful to me since I found it last year, I'm glad to finally join. 

I will be taking my first trip to Napa in June for my birthday with a couple of friends! I will be looking for unique and/or big, oaky red and white wines on a budget.

We will be staying at the Old World Inn, and tentatively have visits to Chateau di Amorosa, Jarvis, Artesa, Rombauer, and Vincent Arroyo on our list. I would be particularly open to more off-beat wineries.

Any recommendations for places to go, things to do, wines to drink?  Thanks!!

Replies

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Reply by cgplayer9, Apr 17.

Hi Wasatchwino. My wife and I were in Napa last October. Some of our favorite wineries were St. Supery and Peju. I highly recommend the Peju Merlot (our favorite) - it's big and oaky. We also enjoyed our visit to Hess, up on Mt Veeder - more for the scenery and interesting tour.  

 

I'm sure you'll get lots of other input from other members of Snooth.

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Reply by EMark, Apr 17.

Welcome to the Forum WW.  Of the wineries that you listed as tentative stops, the only one I have visited is Vincent Arroyo, and I certainly endorse your idea to visit them.  It definitely fits you goal of finding "off-beat wineries."  I had never heard of Jarvis (maybe I'm a troglodyte), but I visited their web site, and agree that they sound pretty interesting.  I'm pretty neutral about the other ones.

On thing I might suggest is that you get off the valley floor and check some one or two of the wineries in the higher elevations.  CGPlayer has already made a great suggestion with Mt. Veeder.  I'm going to put in a vote for Spring Mountain (immediately west of the town of St. Helena).  I have visited three wineries on Spring Mountain:  Keenan, Pride and Terra Valentine (alphabetically).  All three of these produce outstanding wines.  While they all produce wines from "Bordeaux grapes," you will also be able to find things like Syrah, Sangiovese, Riesling or Zinfandel at one or the other of these.  Now I'm going to share my prejudice.  Of the three, my favorite is Keenan for a couple reasons.  

  • I like the simple very casual approach to their tasting room.  The tasting room is in the barrel shed.  OK, it's not a shed.  It is not an edifce.  The people are extremely friendly, though, I have to admit, that I find tasting room personnel are generally picked because they can engage with the public.  In all honesty my experience at the other two was cordial, but, really, not nearly as warm.
  • Keenan wines are outstanding--on the other hand, I would not necessarily say that they are better than either Pride or Terra Valentine.  Their reds are very robust, full of tannins, good acid and, generally, ageworthy.  I even like their Merlot.  However, if you like "Butter Bomb" Chardonnay's (like I have been told are offered by Rombauer), you probably won't care for the Keenan Chardonnay.  Keenan's shows a bit of fruit and very noticeable (and, to me, agreeable) acid.  I'm not sure, but I would not be surprised if Keenan Chardonnay does not go through malolactic fermentation.  
  • The kicker, though, is that I find their wines very reasonably priced.

I'm sure you will get more recommendations, WW.  You can also use the "Search the Snooth Forum" facility in the upper right hand part of this page to read about others' trips and recommendations.

On last thing.  We would very much appreciate it if you would come back here after your trip and tell us about it.

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Reply by Mmaietta, Apr 17.

James Cole on the Silverado trail is a hidden gem.  They make a Malbec and an ice wine made from Merlot.  You won't find many wineries in Napa that do either one.  

A tip to keep to your budget, (and extend your day) is to share tastings with a friend.  You'll find that when you start sipping at 10am you are almost ready to call it a day by 1.  :)  

Check out restaurants on Washington Street in Yountville.  There are some lesser known places that are very good.  

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Reply by outthere, Apr 17.

If I was going to spend the money to go on a wine vacation I would plan on drinking something I can't already buy on the grocery store shelf. Big oaky wines are $7 a bottle. There, I said it.

Depends on your budget. $25 tasting room visits can get kinda boring and repetitive. You can visit places where it's just you and the winemaker or you and the winery owner and the experience is much more fun. For example, Merrill Lindquist is the owner of EMH which is a small production (200 cases or so) Cabernet producer. She will host a tasting in her own home overlooking her small vineyard on Calistoga.

Robin Akhurst of Apsara Cellars will barrel taste one on one at the Envy Cellars facility in Calistoga where he makes his and their wines.

Many of the big corporte tasting rooms treat you like a tourist and just pump you full of rhetoric and wine speak. These smal producers are sometimes one man operations where every customer is important and treated thusly. They make powerful wines with great focus and turn your tastings into an experience to remember.

Not that your plans are not good. Who doesn't want to go to Napa to drink wine in a Castle imported from the UK? Kinda like going to Las Vegas to ride carnival rides. Sorry that's my snarky side coming out. There's just so much more to offer than Rombauer. Your palate will thank you too. Either way, have fun.

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Reply by EMark, Apr 17.

WW, take Outthere's advice very seriously.  He lives close to Napa Valley and is wired into the wine world there.  I was incredibly surprised to find Robin Akhurst's Apsara Syrah in a local retail store down here in So Cal.  65 cases of this wine were made.  I snapped up several bottles of it because Outthere has never steered me wrong.  I can report that it is a terrific wine.  I'm going to have another of his recommendations with dinner, tonight.  (Bedrock 2012 Evangelho, OT.)

OT, what's the name of that restaurant in Yountville?

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Reply by Mmaietta, Apr 17.

Bistro Jeanty... it's a little French restaurant that we tend to pop into pre dinner for a cheese plate and a glass or two.  Dinner specials are always fantastic!

 

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Reply by outthere, Apr 17.

Which one Mark? The one where FOX,  JD and I had dinner? That was Redd Wood. Great place. Kind of the equivalent of the Underwood Bar and Bistro of Napa Valley. The place where the winemakers hang out and eat.

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Reply by EMark, Apr 18.

Redd Wood.  That was it.  Thanks.

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Reply by JonDerry, Apr 18.

Actually that Peju Merlot is very good. Definitely better than Shafer.

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Reply by EMark, Apr 18.

W W, are you still there?  Check this out.  Myriad Cellars has a Concierge Page on their web site and I think it is a pretty neat feature.  This has their recommendations of interesting wineries, restaurants and hotels in the Napa area.  Several of the recommendations, here, have already been mentioned above by Outthere and Mmaietta (who is new to the Forum but appears to be also very wired in).  

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Reply by edwilley3, May 7.

Based on the 2 Rombauer 2012 wines I had this spring, I'd not only say "Pass!" but recommend that you go anywhere else. The California zin tasted like they blended Welch's grape jelly with water and ethanol. The chardonnay (basic...not sure if there is a reserve) quite aptly tasted like cantaloupe...for a minute. Then it dissipated into sawdust (surely Rombauer wouldn't be doing THAT, would they?) and pretty much no fruit, followed by a surprisingly hot finish for a not very hot wine. I realize that I can be a bit of a snob with my Morlets, Peter Michaels, and the like, but I am just telling you what I tasted. Some people might think the zin ok, but the chard was not even buttery and was even spritzy. I have no problem with oaked white wines and even liked some oak on a bigger sauvignon blanc, but this just happened to taste like sad barrels with light char and really nothing much else. A 2012 Fort Ross for the same money in the same time period **smoked** the Rombauer.

I will give them an A for marketing, however. 


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