Sunday, August 14, 2011

Being A Tourist in Napa

After living in the East Bay for over a decade it was so easy to visit Napa the same way everytime, head up Silverado Trail and see my buddies at my favorite wineries and stop off for a cheeseburger at Auberge. But's what it like to stay in downtown Napa and hit up wineries and restaurants that I've never been to? It was time to be a Tourist In Napa.

1245 Main Street, downtown Napa and its just around the corner from the AVIA hotel. This tasting room has over 80 wines to sample from an elite group of Napa winemakers. Including Ancien Wines, Gemella, Buoncristiani, Chiarello, Clark-Claudon, D-Cubed, Flanagan, Hestan, JC Cellars, Lamborn Family, Las Bonitas, Longfellow, Melka, Mi Sueno, Parallel, Phelan, Richard Perry, Showket and Vionce. Highlights: 2009 Ancien Chardonnay Carneros $34, 2009 Pinot Mink $45, 2008 Pinot Russian River $45, 2007 Buoncristiani Prop Red with Syrah $48, 2008 Chiarello Petite Sirah Roux $45, 2006 D-Cubed Zin Brown vineyard $45, 2008 Lamborn Zin Howell Mt. "Frosty" $42, 2009 Parellel Chard Russian Riv $44, 2007 Vinoce Cab Mt Veeder $45 and Prop. Red Mt Veeder $60 and Showket tasting. (707) 255-7150
Very cool place that you could visit everyday and not run out of unique wines to taste.

851 Magnolia Drive in Healdsburg. Proprietor and winemaker James MacPhail has worked for some of the valley's best producers including Merry Edwards so he's learned a thing or two about making amazing Pinot's. Tastings in the barn (not his cool house next door) by appt only and James does the tasting himself and I was impressed with his knowledge, business skills and marketing savvy to get so much positive press on his wines. But after tasting his Pinot's I now why there is such a big buzz. He oversees 23 different vineyards for his grapes of his wines. Highlights: 2009 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay-Gaps Crown $45 white Burgundy style this is his 1st Chardonnay. 2010 Rose Pinot Noir this very limited wine is fantastic and he is leading the charge for a "Rose Renaissance" in the valley, I'm on board! 2009 Pinot Noir Ray's Vineyard from Anderson Valley Mendocino $49 only 8 barrels made. 2009 Pinot Sonoma Coast Gaps Crown #1 region for Pinot $49, Something special 2003 Pinot Sangiacomo Vineyard 92pts in WS - WOW! (707) 433-4780

25 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg. David Ramey is another producer that doesn't grow their own grapes. Private tasting upstairs in a conference room above where they produce their wine. 8 wines on tap for the tasting. 1) 2008 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay a blend of vineyard only 5,500 cases. 2) 2008 Ritchie Vineyard Russian River Valley a Wente clone Chard originally planted in 1972 only 1,290 cases. 3) 2008 Hyde Carneros, vine selection is old Wente, Robert Young and Long Vineyards 2,300 cases. 4)2008 Hudson Vineyard Carneros only 1,120 cases. You would be happy with any of those 4 big Chardonnays with #4 being the most masculine.And now on to the reds 5) 2008 Sonoma Coast Syrah only $38 with 1,100 cases. 6) 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that is a blend of 88% Cab, 4% Malbec, 3% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Cab Franc very nice wine at $50 with 7,800 cases. 7) 2006 Annum Cabernet Sauvignon - Latin word meaning year as one year proprietary blend. The blend is 96% Cab, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Cab Franc and 1% Malbec. $110 with only 860 cases produced. 8) Pedregal Vineyard Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon another blend with 16% Petit Verdot with 600 cases produced. I end up buying a vertical of the Napa Cab. (707) 433-0870

In Rutherford on Hwy 29 is one of the prettiest tasting rooms in the Valley.
Highlights include 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay $36, 2009 Chardonnay $58, 2010 Rose $28, 2008 Napa Cab $84 and 2008 Prop. Red $88. (707) 963-9999

1695 St Helena Hwy 29. Rutherford
Purchases: 2007 Winemakers Reserve on sale $30, 2007 Rutherford Cab Sauv $45 and the 2008 Cab Franc $35. (707) 968-3633

2970 Monticello Road, Napa - up in the hills is a great cave that contains Jarvis.
The Cave tour is $40 and includes a sit town tasting and you get to see an inside waterfall that helps regulate the temperature and humidity of the cave.
Jarvis produces some outstanding award winning wines. Highlights of the tasting included; 1) 2007 Estate Chardonnay $48 sold out, 2) 2008 Unfiltered Chardonnay 92pts WS $95, 3) 2007 Will Jarvis Science Project 92pts WS $105, 4) 2007 Merlot $75, 5) 2007 Lake William Blend $115, 6) 2005 Cab Sauv $95 and 2006 Cab Franc $65. I was so impressed with the quality of their wines that I joined their club and received an invite to the Emerald Masquerade Ball on Saturday, Oct 8th, 2011. (707) 255-5280

They have two tasting rooms in Napa one on Hwy 29 and the original one on Atlas Peak road. Bar tastings for $30 and Cave Experience/Barrel Tasting for $50. Highlights - 2007 Napa Valley Cave Blend 80% Merlot, 10% Cab and 10% Sangiovese their take on a super Tuscan. Plus a 2009 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Cinghiale Vineyard $75 and 2009 Napa Valley Cab Franc $85.

1500 Diamond Mountain Road, Calistoga. During this year's City of Hope Charity Wine Dinner the big winner was a bottle of Red Rock Terrace Cab so I've really wanted to visit the winery. And this weekend they were doing a big open house up at the mountain lake, where had I know you can pack a picnic, go fishing and swimming too and make a whole day out of it. Diamond Creek makes exclusively Cabernet Sauvignon from three regions of their estate; Red Rock Terrace, Volcanic Hill and Gravelly Meadow. After the tour the highlights is tasting the barrel samples from the 3 different vineyards which I seemed to like Red Rock and Gravelly Meadow the best. Special wine offered that day 2003 Red Rock Terrace , 2005 Volcanic Hill and 2006 Gravelly Knoll all $175 and some really special bottles 1999 Volcanic Hill $225, a 1999 Lake $400 a wine they have made only 13 times and 1.5L Lake for $800. I found it interesting how they achieve natural blending and that Merlot and Cab Franc is planted along side the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and ends up being in the blend every year as determined by Mother Nature. They do have a separated Petit Verdot vineyard to complement the blends. I'm going to plan ahead for the next open house and bring the suit and fishing rod. (707) 942-6926.

1440 First Street in downtown Napa. Tasting room open until Midnight Thursday - Saturday nights. Tastings include Sauvignon Blanc $20 to a 2006 Cab at $84.


4040 Sonoma Hwy, Napa Cuvaison Napa Carneros Chardonnay 2009- 1/2 bottle with Fish Tacos (Rock Cod) (707)-299-4821

6480 Washington St, Yountville. Just down the street from French Laundry. Lobster Risotto, Skate, Scallops and nectarine Arugula pecan salad. Shibi Knoll 2009 Pinot Noir. Great food and great prices on their wine list - a definite repeat. (707) 944-2222

Downtown Healdsburg in Sonoma County. People are waiting to enter and I can see why the Kobe burger was amazing, but broke up the wine tasting with Lagunitas IPA. Very cute place.

Italian Restarant located across First Street from the hotel. Serving quality artisanal pizza, cooked in an imported a wood-fueled Acino oven from Naples to bake authentic pizza Napoletana. Great pizza, but sadly no California wines by the glass. (707) 252-1022

On Hwy 29 in St. Helena. They have a great new wine section - see Allan Bree the in house wine specialist. They have assembled an amazing collection of great California wines. This is a great place to get breakfast or lunch than walk next door to Flora Springs, sit out back and do your tasting while enjoying your sandwich. (707) 967-9980

Located inside the Westin Hotel on 1314 McKinstry Street in downtown Napa. This is the cafe sister to LaToque. You can sit at the bar or outside by the firepit. Try the Miner Chardonnay and the Etude Pinot Noir by the glass. This would be another great hotel to stay at in Napa.

Other Places to check out in downtown Napa:

• Oxbow Market

• Bounty Hunter

• Carpe Diem

• Angele

• Celadon

And several great Mexican Restaurants located in walking distance of the hotel.


1450 First Street, downtown Napa. Have never stayed in downtown and was pleasantly surprised how nice it is, next door is a winery tasting room John Anthony that stays open late on Friday and Saturday nights. The Oxbow Public Market is a few blocks away and there are great restaurants all over. 707-224-3900

or try:

Westin Napa

Napa River Inn