3 days of Wine Tasting and Touring throughout the Napa Valley
Posted on June 4, 2009 by admin
I’ve been very busy the last two weeks driving visitors throughout the Wine Country. Usually the midweek days are slower but as you can see by my calendar (in the right column) that I’m becoming increasingly booked on weekdays. Typically wine tours are about 6 hours on average, but lately I’ve been doing a lot of Napa wine tours with San Francisco and Napa pickups that start as early as 9:30am and end as late as midnight. Yesterday I picked up a group in Napa for the last of 3 days touring the Napa Valley. They had me pickup Sandwiches for them at Oakville Grocery on my way to pick them up so they could enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the Wineries they were visiting that day on Spring Mountain in St. Helena. After the Wineries I took them back to their Vacation Rental in Napa to freshen up before returning them to dine at Terra in St. Helena. They left the Restaurant at about 9:20pm and were back in Napa by 10:00pm. By the time I got home it was 11:30pm making for a 15 hour day. This has a lot to do with my lack of updating the last 10 days, as the last thing I feel like doing when I get home after that long of a day is to post. It looks like my days will be shorter for a few days anyway so hopefully I can catch up with some of the videos of made or am in the process of completing.
I’ll tell you about my last three days while they are the freshest in my memory.
Saturday May 30, 2009 (Day 1)
Pickup 9:45am in Napa
Joseph Phelps 10:30am appt
Revana Winery 12:00pm (noon) appt
Swanson Vineyards 2:00pm appt
Rubicon Winery (walk in)
Silver Oak (if possible)
Dinner at Rutherford Grill 8:30pm
The group had been to Joseph Phelps on a previous visit to the wine country and really enjoyed the Wine and their visit so they naturally wanted to visit an old favorite. The enjoyed the winery this time but they seemed to like the last visit more than this one. It was more of a weather related issue than anything to do with the winery. They scheduled a tasting on the terrace overlooking the Valley but the weather has been overcast until about noon making for a little cooler than expected Tasting experience.
We left the Joseph Phelps winery and had a little too much time on our hands before the next appointment at Revana so I suggested we stop by Rombauer Vineyards for a quick tasting in between appointments. The group was very happy with the Rombauer Tasting just as most of the visitors I bring to the Winery are.
Our next stop was at the Revana Winery in St. Helena. The Revana Winery is owned by Dr. Revana, a heart surgeon living in Houston, TX when he’s not enjoying his home at the Winery in St. Helena. The group enjoyed a private tasting for about an hour. On the way out one member of the group told me that he had just tasted the best Cabernet he has ever had.
At this point the group was hungry and a little tipsy so they decided (with a little suggestion by me) that they should get a little something to eat. The problem was that they were already cutting it close to their next appointment and had no time to stop. I suggested that they have me pickup some sandwiches at Oakville Grocery (cutt them into fours) and bring them back for them to enjoy while tasting wine in the Swanson Vineyards courtyard. I brought back the Sandwiches and brought them out to the courtyard for the group to enjoy. The group really enjoyed the quiet courtyard setting as well as the Wine at Swanson’s Vineyard’s, the near perfect may have helped out as well. After about 1 hour 20 minutes at Swanson’s we headed out for a final tasting at Silver Oak Winery.
The group wanted to fit Silver Oak Winery into their schedule sometime over the 3 day visit and I felt this may be the only opportunity as Silver Oak is closed on Sundays and Monday was booked with Wineries a little off the beaten path. We arrived at the Silver Oak Winery about 30 minutes prior to closing and the place was very busy. The group was already familiar with the Silver Oak Wine and just wanted to stop in to see the new Winery. If you haven’t already heard Silver Oak Winery burned to the ground a few years ago and just opened their new facility in the later part of 2008.
After Silver Oak we headed over to the Rubicon Estate Winery to wind down before the dinner at 8:30pm at Rutherford Grill. I drove the group over to Rubicon and the dropped them off on the Red Carpet (yes they have a red carpet). The group stayed at Rubicon for about an hour but I think may have left earlier than expected because the winery was preparing for a private event that evening. The Winery was being taken over by a High School Prom and many of the guests have started to show up.
The group decided to go to Rutherford Grill for an earlier than expected Dinner. They were a little concerned about going back to the vacation home and taking a nap, then not wanted to get up again for dinner. I think this was a good choice as I’ve actually had this situation before where another group canceled a Dinner reservation at Auberge Du Soleil because they went home to rest after a day Wine Tasting. Although Rutherford Grill takes no reservations and is casual dining I think it was perfect for the group on their first day, and I think they would agree.
After the first day the group told me their favorite Winery was Revana.
Note: We passed a Sobriety Checkpoint on Trancas Rd. in Napa on the way back to the vacation home. I purposely drove through the checkpoint on my way home and shot this video, check it out! Napa Sobriety Checkpoint!
Sunday May 31, 2009 (Day 2)
Pickup 10:00am in Napa
Del Dotto Caves in St. Helena 11:00am appt.
Chateau Montelena (drop in if we have time)
Castello Di Amorosa 2:30pm appt
Grgich Hills Winery (drop in if we have time)
Dinner at Brix
I picked the group up at 10:00am and headed over to the Del Dotto Estate in St. Helena for their 11:00am appointment for a tour and tasting.
While the group was enjoying their Wine Tour I noticed a guy getting into his mini SUV Mercedes that looked like the owner Dave Del Dotto. If you aren’t familiar with Dave Del Dotto you may remember him if you saw his photo from the 1980’s. Dave Del Dotto is probably one of the original infomercial creators as he pitched his “Make Money in Real Estate” Videos and Books on Television. I guess his program really worked, at least for him anyway. I saw one of the senior staff members walking by the Limousine Parking area and asked him if that was Dave Del Dotto that just left and he told me that indeed it was. He told me about the Limousine Drivers Lounge (hey, it’s nice to know were appreciated) were I could go and relax while my clients were tasting. We spoke a little about both Wineries that Dave owns, the original Del Dotto Winery in Napa on Atlas Peak Rd. and the newer Winery in St. Helena (the one we were visiting) and he told be Dave was actually in the planning stages of opening another winery a little closer to the St. Helena hills (Mountains). I asked the guy what his favorite Winery was and he told me the ones on my groups itinerary are some of his favorites as well. He told me about a place in downtown Napa that he really likes called the Vinter’s Collective. He says a lot of up and coming Wine makers sell their wine from this collective. Apparently the wine is a very good and a great value because the Wine makers haven’t made a name for themselves yet. I’ll have to stop by one of these days and see what they have to offer.
While my clients were tasting at Del Dotto I shot this video of the Winery to Share. Del Dotto Winery (St. Helena). The group spent nearly 2 hours at the Del Dotto Winery. This was their new favorite so far for their trip. The couldn’t say enough about the Wine and the informative tour. The group could quite agree on which Cab was better though. The plan on having a side by side taste test when they return home.
After finishing up at the Del Dotto Winery the group stopped for sandwiches at Dean & Deluca in St. Helena. We were going to try and stop for a tasting at Chateau Montelena in between appointments but it was just a little to far North for us to make our 2:30pm appointment at Castello Di Amorosa so we stopped instead at the Frank Family Vineyards as this Winery is only about 5 minutes from the Castle. We ended up being a few minutes late to Castello Di Amorosa because the group was having too much of a good time at Frank Family and couldn’t seem to leave. We left the Winery about 2:35pm which made us about 10 minutes late for the 2:30pm tour & tasting at Castello Di Amorosa.
One common comment I hear from the groups I have taken to tour and taste at Castello Di Amorosa is that the Castle is Amazing but the Wine is so so. Because I knew the group I was driving were very much into Fine Wine I tried to talk them into visiting a Winery more their speed but they had already paid for the tour in advance so they weren’t going to change the itinerary. As I had expected most of the group were not thrilled about the Castle, and one in particular call the place the Disneyland of Wineries, whatever that means.
After the castle we stopped for a little shopping in St. Helena. We were quite a bit early (again) for the groups Dinner Reservations at Bottega in Yountville but were able to get in just after opening for Dinner about 5:30pm. The group spent about 1 1/2 hours in the restaurant and came back with a lot of positive feedback about the restaurant. The restaurant is fairly new but is in a historic Winery building in Yountville. After dinner I returned the group to their vacation rental in Napa.
Monday June 1, 2009 (Day 3)
Napa Vacation Rental pickup 9:30am
Pride Mountain Winery 10:30am
Schweiger Vineyards 12:00pm (Picnic at Winery)
Terra Valentine 2:00pm
Dinner @ Terra Restarant in St. Helena 7:30pm
On the way to the pickup I stopped at Oakville Grocery and picked up the groups picnic lunches for the day. The Limousine service made arrangements for the group to eat lunch at Schweiger Vineyards on Spring Mountain Rd.
Picked up the group at the Vacation home at 9:30am and headed to Pride Mountain Winery on Spring Mountain Rd in St. Helena. The drive took about 50 minutes from Napa to the Winery. As we pulled up to the Winery we noticed a flat bed cart being being pulled by two large horses that appeared to be clydesdales. One of the staff members told us the horses were actually Belgium Draft Horses and were actually much stronger than Clydesdales. The winery uses the horses for various jobs on the areas of the vineyards that are too difficult for the winery equipment to reach. I spoke to one the the guys steering the horses and was told they usually take the horses for a walk between 10:30am and noon daily, weather permitting. Video of the Pride Mountain Winery and the Picnic area The group spend a little over 1 1/2 hours at the Winery which made us a few minutes late at our next stop Schweiger Winery. The group agreed that the Wine was amazing but still thought Del Dotto was the best.
The next stop was the Schweiger Family Vineyard about 5 minutes east from Pride Mountain on Spring Mtn Rd. I really like this winery because you will almost always find Fred Schweiger the wineries owner working in the vineyard whether it’s grooming the vines along side the other workers or driving the tractor. My group spent about 2 hours touring, tasting, and enjoying a picnic lunch (from Oakville Grocery) on the Wineries grass terrace overlooking the hillsides and Mountains on the other side of the Napa Valley. Don’t forget to say hello to the Winery dogs, especially if you plan on picnicing. The group purchased several bottles of wine to bring along for the ride and has the rest shipped home.
After the tour and tasting at Schweiger we headed over to Terra Valentine Winery about 5 minutes away. I pulled right up to the front door to let my passengers out. The entry doors take you through the barrel room to the tasting room. I love the smell of red wine soaking through the barrels, it smells similar to the Napa valley during September crush (Yum). As always the group loved Terra Valentine.
The group wanted to head back to Napa to change and get ready for their last evening in the Napa Valley. I waited about an hour for the group to get ready then we headed back to St. Helena for dinner at a newer restaurant called “Terra”. This was the first group I’ve taken to Terra and the feedback I received was fabulous. They told me the food was a little pricey but worth every penny. They told me to recommend Terra to people celebrating a special occassion or just a meal to remember.
After 3 days of touring the Napa Valley from morning to night I dropped my guests off at their vacation home in Napa. The Del Dotto Winery in St. Helena remained their favorite of the trip, with Revana and Pride being close for second. Terra Valentine took third.