Post contributed by Vanessa McDonald
In early October 2010, I had the pleasure of a weekend stay at The Vino Bello Resort in Napa Valley, California. This resort is a wine lover’s dream and I can recommend the location for a quiet retreat or even a meal from the restaurant.
A trip to Napa is not complete without some sort of winery tour and the county offers tours and tastings for every budget and pace, from private limo, coach and train tours that take you to 11 vineyards in a day to the more leisurely option of hot air ballooning at sunrise.
I was with my elder parents so the hotel recommended Platypus Tours. This tour company picks you up and drop you off at your hotel or B&B, provides a picnic lunch and generally keeps you plied with bottled water and bread as needed throughout the day. Our driver and tour guide (Karl) was born and raised in Napa and an absolute font of knowledge on everything in the area. If you can seek out local recommendations, do so as we were able to visit those wineries who were in the midst of harvesting that day and meet the owners of several wineries in the process; not always an option on the larger, more formal train or bus tours. I’ve detailed the 3 of the wineries visited below, enjoy and hope that you get to sample the delights for yourself soon:
Alpha Omega: This winey is located in the Rutherford valley and is one of Napa’s few boutique wineries. Jean Hoefliger has teamed up with the influential Michel Rolland to create a stunning series of wines. This was by far the most sophisticated wine of the day but, also the priciest with their flagship wine going for $170 a bottle. Napa is famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon and AO’s does not disappoint with a rich fruit taste of dark cherry, blackberry and cassis giving way to velvety aftertaste of rose petals and fresh plum.
The grounds are also stunning, with a relaxed feel despite how modern and sophisticated the tasting bar area is. There are plush white couches that encourage visitors to rest and take in the stunning surroundings. This is where we sat had our picnic lunch overlooking the winery.
Hagafen: this was the only winery I made several purchases at during the day. Renowned for being Napa Valley’s only kosher winery, this stuff is no Mankiewicz. The winery also gained notoriety when Regan served it at a White House luncheon (it’s since been served at luncheons by every sitting President –the walls of the main hall are covered with menus detailing what was served). The Sauvignon Blanc is truly delicious; clean and crisp with a hint of pineapple and a creamy mix of apricot, citrus, and grapefruit. The creaminess is said to come from the hot days and cool nights these Eastern Foothills receive. A clear winner on the day for me!
The Andretti Winery: Full disclosure, I had had enough by this time so I stayed in the courtyard and ate the fresh grapes that we were able to help ourselves too from the field but, as you’ll see from the link –the courtyard in the late afternoon sun is stunning and genuinely feels like you’re sitting in Tuscany. The specialty here is the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Zinfandel that were offered for $30 for a tasting which I found to be too expensive. Those who chose to imbibe were also offered a tasting of the port style wine, made from grapes of a single vintage and bottled after three years in French Oak. It had a strong aroma of dark chocolate, blackberry and caramel as well as hazelnut. It’s possible to purchase here.