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Quick Jaunt to Napa

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Last week when Chicagoan my friend, Lucifer, asked me what I was going to do this past weekend, I told her I was going to Napa on Saturday. She said, “that’s so cool that you’re so close and can go whenever you want.” Yep, it is! I try to take advantage of it as much as I can (about once a month), and my industry discount certainly helps. This trip had a little more purpose to it… I had to pick up a special something that I will be bringing to Chicago next week for Lucifer’s wedding present. I was also on the hunt for a present for my father’s 60th birthday. But I figured I may as well try some new wineries and visit one favorite while I was up there. My foodie friend (who will be known as GGD from this point forth) decided to come along for the ride, and the wine – and the discounts.

View from the deck at Terra Valentine

Our first stop was Terra Valentine in the Spring Mountain district. This was actually my first time ever on Spring Mountain and I loved it! I think I will be planning a trip that exclusively visits wineries on Spring Mountain later this year. In any case, Terra Valentine is a beautiful building with fantastic wines. When you drive up the long driveway, you approach an Italian-style stone estate. Upon entering through HUGE wooden doors, you’re in the barrel room. This is also where we had our tasting, which included a small plate of cheese, crackers, nuts and chocolate. We tasted with three other guests (club members) and the hostess, Autumn. It was surprisingly very relaxed, and Autumn let us try some wines that weren’t on the menu, including their Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon and their Spring Mountain Cabernet (which I purchased a bottle of). I loved all the wines, but my favorite was the Russian River Pinot Noir. GGD and I each bought a bottle of that. I wasn’t crazy about the Rose, because it had a little too much mustiness for my taste. It was a great start to a wonderful day, and I enjoyed being inside the cool (literally and figuratively) barrel room.

The tasting menu at Terra Valentine

Next we stopped at the newly renovated Oakville Grocery to pick up some sandwiches for our picnic at the next winery. They also changed their menu and products, narrowing down to a more selective offering. GGD and I each opted for the grass fed slow-roasted beef with horseradish aioli, caramelized onion, Fiscalini cheddar, arugula on a Bouchon brioche roll. It was just as incredible as it sounds.

The vines next to the picnic grounds at Saddleback

We picnicked outdoors in the shade and breeze at Saddleback Cellars, while we tasted the wines. My parents are members and recommended that I check it out. I’m glad they did! Not only is the staff super friendly and laid back, but the wines are fantastic and reasonably priced. My favorite white was the 2009 Chardonnay, very light and fruity without lacking substance. GGD and I also loved the Old Vine Zinfandel, which they are known for. I had recently tasted the 2007 on my outing to Spruce with my mother, but we tried the 2008 on Saturday. Of course, we each bought a bottle. I also splurged for the Chardonnay, 2009 Riesling and 2010 Rose of Sangiovese (new release – which I actually didn’t try so I took a gamble). You can’t often find the wines outside of the winery, so I figured it was a good opportunity to buy. When we were checking out, our host also let us try the late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc, which was delicious!

Tasting menu at Saddleback Cellars

The next stop on the itinerary was Caymus Vineyards. I remember hearing the term “Caymus Special Select” spoken a lot around my house as a child, so I wanted to take this opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. GGD and I did a sit-down tasting in a private room with four other pairs from New Jersey, Houston, Atlanta and the East Bay. I honestly thought the whole sit-down process was kind of slow and not worth it, and I wish we had spent more time in the more active “bar area.” But then I guess we wouldn’t have been able to taste the 2009 Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon, which was the real reason I went to the tasting room. And it was delicious, so smooth yet bold (no wonder, it’s over $100). I decided not to buy anything here because a) I couldn’t afford it, and b) nothing really impressed me as much as the Special Select. My father told me that Caymus has boosted production by 10-fold over the last twenty years, so they must be doing something right.

We ducked out a little early so we wouldn’t miss our fourth and final tasting appointment at Mumm, GGD’s favorite. My mother is a member, so I usually make the reservation under her name so we can sit on the patio. However, upon arriving to Mumm and checking in, we were told that they had closed the patio for the day because the temperature reached 104 degrees! Crazy! We still enjoyed our wines indoors in the cool air conditioning. We decided to get two flights: the Classic and the Staff Favorites and share each. We also shared a glass of the deep red Pinot Noir Sparkler, our favorite – in fact, we each walked away with a bottle. I always have a great time at Mumm, and their sparkling wine is top notch. I would recommend it to anyone traveling through the Silverado Trail.

Part of our selection at Mumm… I was in an Instagram mood that day.

Overall it was a great day, with lots of new wines and a few key purchases. I have since realized that I am a wine hoarder and need to start drinking some of these nice bottles before I run out of room in the little corner of my bedroom. Any takers?

87 and counting…

About Kelsey

Kelsey is a food and wine lover residing in Napa, California, where she does marketing for a boutique wine collective. She previously lived in San Francisco for over six years, where her blogging journey began. She loves to cook seasonal meals and experiment with new wine pairings. She has been drinking and learning about wine with her father since she was 14, and cooking in the kitchen with her mother since she was 6. Both of her parents taught her well about seasoning and flavors, and she continues to learn more with every meal that is made.

2 responses »

  1. I wish I was on that trip, sounds like a lot of fun! By the way, we dont call it “hoarding”, we call it “collecting”!

  2. I really enjoy reading your experiences throughout Napa Valley! The pictures are beautiful, and you really know what your talking about. Someone had brought in a bottle of Caymus to SoDo, the restaurant I work at, last week. It was a pleasure to open it!


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