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Napa snobs: indulgence in the winevalley

Via the Golden Gate Bridge we reach a lush, green, hilly landscape. The scent of grape fermentation in the air. Row after row of grape vines. And up ahead the first wine shop already. Bottle number one for tasting it is. We are in Napa Valley now after all.

Wine tasting in Napa Valley

Shortly after we arrive at our ‘tiny’ home for the upcoming three days. Nearby the village of Napa. Cozy kitchen (finally a homemade meal again!). Comfy bed. We immediately feel at home. Especially because we are constantly in ‘on the go’ mode. About time for a glass of that zinfandel. Or maybe two. Turns out to taste amazing with my Mediterranean pasta. Or, according to Tom, Napalitan pasta (I might have overspend a bit at the local deli, hence the pun).

The following morning we start off with a classic: Chateau Montelena. One of the older vineyards, est. 1882, and famous for its chardonnay. Our tasting is set in one of the living rooms within the Gothic castle. Here we try different varieties of the Estate Collection. And even though we have a preference for red wines, their signature riesling is a real winner.

Next up is Joseph Phelps Vineyards. At the (huge) entrance gate we are ‘welcomed’ by a chalkboard sign. ‘Fully booked, reservations only’. Seriously, of all days? We exchange looks. And slowly enter the long driveway. We don’t speak Americano. The impressive estate is made entirely out of heavy timber. Clearly designed by a person with an eye for detail. After all, Phelps used to be a construction manager. Inside we encounter a young, friendly sommelier. Who pours us a sample of their pinot noir. We explain to have come to Napa for Phelps in particular, but without a successful reservation. Nervous laughter. He grins, ‘You’ll be my special guests then’. He swiftly shoves a small table to the terrace. Followed by two glasses of the 2012 Insignia ‘and some leftover cheeses from the previous pairing, enjoy guys!’ This is, as they say, the good life. Cheers, to being stubborn!

Chateau Montalena in Napa Valley
Joseph Phelps wine tasting
Chateau Montalena in Napa Valley
The famous Napa wine valley

That evening we have dinner at The Charter Oak. The more casual restaurant of Michelinstar Chef Christopher Kostow. While Tom chooses the all time favourite hamburger, I decide to let the team surprise me. That they do. Tender beef rib and cantharelles grilled on old cabernet winebarrels. Take my money already. The food is really great and the atmosphere as well. So we stick around long after we finish our dessert.

Day two in this wonderful winevalley. Schug in Sonoma is on the list. Once we get there we meet an extremely kind and proud couple of Napans with whom we have the most fun tasting. Just before leaving they give us their businesscard. ‘We insist that you visit our personal favourite, Chateau St Jean, today, just show them this’. Wink. The attitude of these people, gotta love it! We stroll along the stunning Schug estate. After that we’re off to St Jean. Apparently our new friends are loyal members. Which means complimentary tastings at every visit (max 4 pax). Free of charge, wow. Being the modest snobs that we are, we decide to share. And something with preventing DUI. 

St Jean wine tasting

Before we drive along to Yosemite there’s still time for two short visits. Turnbull and V. Sattui. The last one proves to be a lot more commercial than we hoped it would be. But their gigantic deli is heaven. Charcuterie, olives, exotic cheeses (A Dutch one with white truffle!) and freshly baked bread. Lunch time! A little later we say goodbye to this beautiful region, with the taste of Turnbull’s Josephine sauvignon blanc still on our palate. To be continued.

‘Snobbing’ on a budget

-Want to taste as many different wines as possible, but don’t have the budget to pay for two tastings at every award winning winery? We hear ya! How about sharing a tasting? Much more economic and most sommeliers don’t mind pouring a tad extra of your favourite one

-Which brings us to tip number 2: a rental car. An absolute must if you travel through California. Really convenient to explore the beautiful wineregion in your own way, tastings or not. And more reliable than public transport or Uber. Just flip a coin to decide who the semi-chauffeur of the day will be 

-Feel like less snobbing and more relaxing? Don’t forget to visit laid back neighbour Sonoma Valley! Also perfect picknick spots here, simply bring some goodies from the Oxbow Market and another bottle of wine

-The sommeliers are your best friend. Really. Not only do they know anything and everything about wine, when it comes to the Napa wine region and it’s many wineries they are the experts too. So don’t be shy to ask for their advice (and info about the wines that you’re tasting by the way, very interesting!). Given the hospitality network here, they’ll probably have a suggestion or two for a ‘colleague’ that fits your preferences and style. By doing so we were also able to find and visit the less commercial wineries

-And it’s the same at the tasting rooms (and restaurants) in the little town of Napa. Where you can choose a glass or bottle for tasting from different wineries with the help of their friendly and knowledgeable staff. In a more comfy setting. Plus a pleasant place to stroll around as well!