Monday, July 14, 2014

Thinking about a Trip through Napa? Here's a List I made of Wineries that are open to the Public for you to visit...

I have taken several trips to Napa Valley over the last few years and what strikes me is that no matter how many wineries you get to visit; you always have more to get to next time around it really pays to have a strategy; an idea of what you want to do. If you don't, you can end up not seeing as much. It will still be great. But it's better to plan. remember these wineries are situated in some of the most beautiful vistas anywhere. So it's not just the vino; that draws people here time and time again.

So, a good trip to Napa generally has some planning involved if you want to coordinate your visits to the Wineries. Guaranteed the weather will hot. Not Humid hot; more like an electric hot blanket. There will be very little if any rain. In the months of May thru the beginning of August you will see the unripe grapes. In July the grapes change to their true colors. The harvest season begins in mid-August and spreads out into late October. This is the standard. All these times have something to offer on a trip to the valley.

These days very few wineries still combine a tour with the tastings and the days of free tours of the vineyards and winemaking process few and far between. For many of those you would need to make an appointment and inquire about charges. A lot of them just require you to reserve and book an appointment. Don’t be shy about calling. Remember, a lot of folks show up unannounced and the winery just wants to make sure it’s got its house in order to attend to things.

When you visit wineries; there’s always the thought of a picnic. It’s just a great thing to do. Not all wineries allows picnics due to code enforcement; but there are those that do. Some wineries ask that you purchase a bottle to use their grounds. They'll even open it and supply you with glasses too. The definitive economical lunch in Napa is a French baguette, gourmet mustard, good cheese, salami, a little fruit and a nice bottle of wine.

There are two main ways to see the Napa Valley by car…there are other ways like trains and hot air balloons or bikes; I prefer a car.

Traveling through Highway 29 is a straight shot from the south end of the valley. You pass through Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga. There are a lot of great restaurants along the way. Be aware that traffic can get heavy around 4 - 5PM
Another driving route is along Silverado Trail, which is most easily picked up by from Highway 29 in Napa and then turning left when you see the sign for the Silverado Trail. The Silverado The trail essentially runs parallel to Highway 29; but is less busy. It zigzags through rolling hills and the green landscapes of vineyards.

Here is my list of Napa Wineries that are open to the public along with some of the key varietals which currently to do not require a reservation. It’s a great list with some fantastic wineries. 

Artesa – Napa – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meritage, Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc
Clos Pegase – Calistoga - Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Meritage, Rose, Port
Conn Creek – St. Helena – Cabernet Sauvignon,
Cuvaison – Calistoga – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
Domain Chandon - Yountville - Sparkling
Flora Springs – St. Helena – Cabernet Blends, Chardonnay
Franciscan – Rutherford -  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Blend
Frank Family Vineyards – Calistoga – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Late Harvest
Grgich Hills Estate - Rutherford – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Late Harvest
Hall – St. Helena - Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Late Harvest
Louis M. Martini – St. Helena – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Napa Wine Company – Oakville - Assorted
Orin Swift - - St. Helena – Cabernet and Zinfandel Blends
Paraduxx – Yountville - Zinfandel
Peju – Rutherford - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Rose, Port, Late harvest
Pine Ridge – Napa - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Plumpjack – Oakville – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Provenance – St. Helena – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc
Rombauer – St. Helena – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Late Harvest
Silver Oak Cellars – Oakville – Cabernet Sauvignon
St. Supery – Rutherford – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars – Stag's Leap - Cabernet Sauvignon
Twenty Rows – Napa – Cabernet sauvignon
V Wine Cellars – Yountville – Assorted Varietals

The most common way of getting  around Napa Valley  is by renting a car, grabbing a guide book, or some wine country brochures and getting on with it....and making it happen.  It's a great road trip and it's an experience that's just great every time.

PS. If you are willing to make the effort and reserve and make appointments (I recommend you do a little of this)...There are places like Black Stallion, Buehler, Domain Chandon, Robert Craig, Inglenook and Robert Mondavi and Hess Collection all have excellent wine, tasting rooms, vistas for some unforgettable wine experiences.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Key to a good food and wine paring is to Match the food with the Weight of the wine!

The key to a good food and wine paring is to match the food with the weight of the wine!  One needs to think about the cooking method... while thinking about the body and weight of the wine.

First we’ll talk about the cooking methods and then we’ll follow up with a list of wines chiefly itemized  from lightest body to heaviest body so you can begin to connect the dots.

 Steam, poached or boiled food go with the lightest and most mild flavors and weights.

Fried foods add Fat…and Fat gives most to the weight of the food

Braised and Stewed dishes, including casseroles and classics meals such as Coq Au Vin and Beef Bourguignon are for Richer and more concentrated arrangements

Grilled and BBQ cooking gives off smoky and caramelized flavors which add to the awareness of weight. Grilled foods generally do not give off any additional acidity in the food mostly can be added with citrus or marinades.

Roasted meats and dishes are for wines that can measure up to a concentrated body.

Here is a list of wines from lightest body to heaviest body (note that white Viognier, Oaked Chardonnay, Red Gamay (Beaujolais) and Pinot Noir tend to have similar body):

The whites: Champagne(or Cava), Muscadet, Pinot Blanc, Italy’s Pinot Grigio, France’s Pinot Gris, Sancerre, Pully Fume, Riesling, Gew√ľrztraminer, France’s Chablis, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Oaked Chardonnay.

The reds: Gamay(Beaujolais), Pinot Noir, Granache, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Merlot, Italy's Nebbiolo, France’s Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Australian Shiraz.

When starting to pair; it’s alright to stick with top producer’s ask your wine merchant…For example, tell them you are looking for a Riesling to pair with Mexican, Asian or Indian foods… a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais to pair with a grilled Chicken with parsley…a lively young red to pair up with some Pecorino cheese.

Have fun! Enjoy making the pairings…

By the way, usually Alcohol in a wine can be a gauge to the body of a wine… lower than 11-12% alcohol is a lighter bodied wine. Fuller bodied wines have higher alcohol commonly more that 12-13%. But be on alert because winemakers like to get creative with their wines so just use this as part of your formula when finally picking out the wine for your meal.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Taking the first step out of the World of Whites Wines and into the Reds!

Right out of the gate…There are some red varietals that over-all tend to be a little more easy going and have a smaller amount tannin (that dry mouth grip sensation). Rose’s are away to pit your toe in the water. If you want to try the sparkling wine route try a Italian Lambrusco or Brachetto d'Acqui; they are very tasty. But the point I would like to make here is…to really begin to try red wines; It’s good to just grab the reds by the horns. Try some of these wines with your favorite foods as well.

I recommend wines that drink well with a lighter bodied with softer tannins at a slight chill in temperature. The softer tannins are key, I think because while white wines don’t really have too much of that ‘tannins matter’ to contend with.

Many reds show better at a slightly cool temperature. So try these cool perky reds and serve
at 60°F: Beaujolais(Gamay), and Italian Barbera and even the Pinot Noir and its fresh fruit feel.
If you are looking for something a little richer in character try a Malbec.

Hence, entry level reds need to be very light, fruity, quaffable and have little or no tannin. The above-mentioned are the varietals comes to mind when taking the step out of the realm of whites wines

As we get a little courage…Grenache can be surprisingly fresh and juicy as well; is a juicy, boisterous wine with strawberry and raspberry notes. Interesting wines like Blaufr√§nkisch from Austria and are light to medium bodied pretty, floral; also Sicily’s Nero d’ Avola and Frappato  light bodied wines with a distinctive grapey aroma that reminds of Sangiovese.

That’s just a beginning. But it’s a start; and maybe that will be the gateway to a explore a new world…for wine appreciation.