Monday, June 9, 2014
Adventures in Wine...
We spent 5 days tasting wine at the most wonderful places you've never heard of. That isn't so difficult these days with around 600 wineries in Napa Valley alone. The wineries we visited were mostly small batch, boutique operations selling anywhere from 800 to 5000 cases per year. And though we were in Napa valley, for the most part with a few exceptions, we spent much of our time in the mountains that range on either side of the valley: Howell Mountain, Diamond Mountain, Pritchard Hill and Spring Mountain.
We started at Gamble Family Vineyards, where we were lucky enough to be staying in their guest house just north of Yountville because we had won this as part of a charity auction. We were welcomed so warmly: they came out to meet us as we pulled up to the winery, holding wine glasses already filled with their Heart Block Sauvignon Blanc. There was a recurring theme amongst nearly all the wineries we visited that they were producing Sauvignon Blanc that was made in more of a French White Bordeaux style rather than the tart New Zealand fashion. We had the opportunity to meet Tom Gamble, the owner, as he took us into the vines and began our education.
We learned how the vineyards on the valley floor practiced dry farming, where they didn't water the vines, and let them draw whatever moisture is retained in the soil. This soil sits on a higher water table due to the Napa River. However for the growers that sit high in the mountains, the rain is not held in the soil so irrigation is a necessity. Peter Thompson, of Andrew Geoffrey, told us of bringing a water witch in to help site a well. The water was right where Peter was told to dig….over 800 feet below the surface! We even learned how to spot Cabernet Sauvignon vines, with their distinctive "hole" where the segments of the leaves meet.
One of the interesting facets of this trip was meeting the diverse group of owners of the wineries. Some came across as farmers who really loved and had grown up on the land, others had purchased their property back in the 60s or 70s and gradually evolved into the business, some were newer entrepreneurs who had made their money and wanted to live their dreams of owning a winery. All shared a passion for making their gorgeous, unique wines that took advantage of the micro-climate and terroir of where their grapes were grown.
And all were incredibly hospitable. We had an unforgettable dinner on top of Diamond Mountain that started with sunset and ended under the stars, drinking a vertical of Andrew Geoffrey wines. Then a few days later, we enjoyed a lovely luncheon under the trees overlooking the vines at Clark-Claudon, sipping their fabulous wines and having amazing conversations. We enjoyed this so much we stayed and did clean up duty!
All of these producers prefer to sell direct, so if you are interested in experiencing some of the best that Napa has to offer, see the list of places we tasted below!
Gamble Family Vineyards http://www.gamblefamilyvineyards.com/
Marston Family Vineyard http://www.marstonfamilyvineyard.com/
Tamber Bey Vineyards http://www.tamberbey.com/
Chappellet Vineyards http://www.chappellet.com/
Andrew Geoffrey Vineyards http://www.andrewgeoffrey.com/
Gemstone Vineyard http://www.gemstonevineyard.com/home.html
Clark-Claudon Vineyards http://www.clarkclaudon.com/
Dunn Vineyards http://www.dunnvineyards.com/index.htm