Things have been pretty quiet on the blog front (not that I haven’t been drinking wine over the past several weeks), as I’ve been working a bunch on my podcast and also got pretty busy with work and life, so apologies for my radio silence. But….
Drumroll, please…….It’s official: I’ve been to Napa!
For as much as I’ve gotten into wine, I have only ever been to Australia’s vineyards…and that was 12 years ago, when I probably couldn’t tell you much about the difference between grapes, let alone taste the difference. I’ve gone on and on throughout past blog posts about how I couldn’t wait to set foot in what is undoubtedly one of the world’s most iconic wine regions. It finally happened and I’m going to take a few blog posts to share some of the details of my trip with you.
My mom and I went on an amazing trip to Napa last week so I could get my first taste of what it’s like out there and learn on-site about wine production, while also celebrating my mom’s retirement. Woohoo!! Cheers for freedom and new experiences!
It all started during a slightly intoxicated conversation with my parents about how one of my goals this is year to go to at least one of the US’ wine regions AND how one of my bucket list items is to stomp grapes at a winery. Jokingly, my mom found a spot in Napa and suggested I go. I asked if she’d come with and, long story short, she agreed! Now we didn’t stomp grapes (too early for harvesting!), but we did tour some amazing wineries and drink some fabulous wines you won’t be able to find outside of the walls of the wineries themselves (unless you order from them or become wine club members!). So pour yourself a glass of wine and get ready to read about our experience in beautiful Napa Valley.
We flew into San Francisco, rented a car and made our way north to check in at The Meritage, on the edge of the city of Napa. Because flights can be so unpredictable, we didn’t even bother with making a reservation to taste anywhere, but we did set our sights on Gloria Ferrer, known for their sparkling wines. We arrived at the perfect time – sun shining, plenty of room on the patio with a gorgeous view, and an opportunity to try two different tasting flights: one called the “Winery Exclusive Flight,” consisting of sparkling wines exclusive to the winery property (aka, you can only drink them there!), and the other called the “Glorious Flight” which included two sparklings and two still wines.
The Winery Exclusive Flight are the three that seem to be off to the right a bit – the back row if you’re sitting directly in front of them. The Glorious Flight is the two flutes and white wine in the front along with the red wine to the right.
While my favorite was the Sonoma Brut, their “flagship” sparkling (which you can get outside the winery), and the Brut Rosé and Blanc de Noirs (the slightly lighter rose in the front row), my mom’s favorite was what we learned was the most similar to Champagne: Carneros Cuveé. One of the most shocking things I learned about these is that even the nearly crystal clear sparklings had pinot noir in them! You’re probably asking the same thing I was – how can they be as clear as if they’re made from white wine grapes alone?! Apparently, Gloria Ferrer uses this thing called a bladder press, which essentially has balloons on the sides, slowly filling with air to gently squeeze the grapes from the side, allowing the juices to flow freely down without crushing the skins, seeds, or stems, so there’s literally no color imparted on the juice! Isn’t that amazing?! I was floored – and then I just wanted to keep drinking because I couldn’t believe it. Many of these are award winning wines as well, and I can’t say that I’m surprised.
Their staff is incredibly knowledgeable and so wonderfully warm and welcoming. In fact, the girl serving us brought us to their bottling facility – sadly, it wasn’t moving, but exciting nonetheless! – to show us some of the behind the scenes stuff. We also learned that the foil they use on each bottle of wine they make is meant to mirror the color of the wine inside the bottle! Clever, huh?
Sidenote: I mentioned that one of my bucket list items is to stomp grapes, right? Well, another is to saber a bottle of sparkling (not still wine, people…it will not work!).
Once we got back to our seats and had a few more sips of bubbly, I had to ask our server if she had ever sabered a bottle of sparkling before. She said that in fact she had sabered a bottle for the first time only a few months ago at Gloria Ferrer! And what happened next blew my mind – she went and got a bottle from her manager, along with a special Gloria Ferrer saber, and performed the feat for us! I took a video, but apparently can’t post on this blog, so here’s a link to see Wine Folly’s Madeline sabering a bottle, safety goggles and all. But here’s a photo of Gloria Ferrer’s saber:
It was such an awesome place to start out our trip, and I’m so glad we stopped. We even picked up a bottle to open while at our resort for later on the trip!
We finished our first day in Napa, going to the little downtown area and dining at a Mediterranean restaurant called Tarla. The food was delicious – grilled octopus salad and cabernet braised short ribs over risotto – and just the right amount so we weren’t too stuffed but were definitely full. After walking a bit more through the downtown area, we headed back to The Meritage to rest up before our next adventure: the wine trolley!
Day 2 deserves it’s own blog post with some wonderful wineries, including finishing the day in a most unexpected way! Just you wait! So I’ll leave you with this joke that my father in law recently shared with me:
A lot of people have been leaving California and seem to be complaining quite a bit….they say they’ve been doing an awful lot of wine-ing. Ha! On that note….
Cheers, and don’t whine – um – wine too much. 😉