When you travel to San Francisco, you’re a mere stone’s throw to the beloved mecca known as wine country. I’m talking an hour to hour and a half tops! I just couldn’t resist the siren song from that lush, seductive region, especially when we were sans kids and on a romantic weekend together. And it had been EONS since I had been to Sonoma before (10 years). I remember visiting Kunde Estate and the joke our tour guide shared with us: “Sonoma for wine, Napa for auto parts.” So storied is the rivalry between these 2 wine giants: Sonoma vs. Napa. So of course I was more than game to check out Napa–for the sake of research you see 🙂
Caveat # 1: we were part of a group of 18 winelovers who travelled via a touring company bus to our three destinations. Our wineries were all pre-arranged and came highly recommended. So all we had to do was show up. I call that #winning.
Our three wineries were as diverse as they come, each with its own style and specialties. So here’s my summary of Paraduxx, Rutherford Ranch, and Flora Springs. And with each winery, I’m highlighting my favorite wine (also known as get in my wine glass!)
Paraduxx: I would describe Paraduxx as casual elegance with a focus on modern wine blends. The vibe is relaxed yet upscale. I mean, cmon, look at the views!
This winery is part of the Duckhorn family which first got its start in 1976. They now own and operate 7 estate wineries. I’d say that’s a success! We noshed on cheese and crackers between sips of our red wine flight, featuring 6 of Paraduxx’s best offerings. Each one became more bold and assertive (or maybe that was just their effect on the drinker)! We wondered how our day could get much better because we were so relaxed and comfortable. But being only the first stop in our Napa Wine Tour 2015, we were in for more surprises.
Wine glass selection: My favorite is the 2011 Howell Mountain Napa Valley Red Wine ($78)—blend of 67% Zinfandel and 33% Cabernet Sauvignon. I can’t wait to pop the cork on this one and relive our day!
Rutherford Ranch: This is the quintessential American winemaker with varied offerings and recipient of bountiful accolades, including “Napa Winery of the Year” by the New York International Wine Competition 2013. Rutherford Ranch’s tasting gave us both whites and reds, ranging from the 2014 Rutherford Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, the 2012 Scott Family Estate Chardonnay, and the 2013 Scott Family Estate Pinot Noir, which paired fabulously with a raspberry chocolate. Our tasting was followed lunch served on the Patio Terrace. We soaked in the sunshine over sips of wine and conversation, wishing every day could be spent like today. Between the tasting and lunch, we didn’t have much time to tour the grounds before we were whisked away to our final winery. So even though I supremely savored their wines (even ordering a few), our actual winery experience left something to be desired. Of course, Rutherford Ranch does offer vineyard tours and seminars, so if you are looking for something more in-depth, sign up for one of those.
My Wine Glass Choice: the 2012 Rutherford Ranch “Rhiannon” Red Wine ($39)—blend of Petite Sirah (44%), Syrah (42%), and Barbera (14%). Just as interesting as the wine itself is the name, paying homage to the family’s Welsh roots: “The Goddess Rhiannon is a figure of power and mystery in Celtic mythology, associated with magical birds and horses and contrasting qualities of change and steadfastness.” Perhaps I’ll need some chocolate to go with it–just sayin’
The locale: Old World European flair meets stunning California landscape. European and Grecian influences greeted us with the Bocce court and the welcome sign with the goddess logo. This third and final stop on our Wine Tour 2015 was my absolute favorite. Then again, I’m a sucker for a wine tour that takes us into the hillside caves and teaches you about the process. Our guide, Travis was equal parts knowledgeable and friendly, pouring our glasses and fielding our questions. We learned about the different nuances between wine aged in American white oak barrels vs. French white oak. And you might wonder from the photo: why do the barrels look stained? Because barrels have to be “topped off” occasionally to keep minimal oxygenation.
Flora Springs owns 13,000 square feet of cave space which took nine months to create. So why caves? 3 reasons: 1) They can maintain a steady wine-friendly temperature of 55 degrees; 2) humidity control-since up to 3 % can be lost due to evaporation (called the “angel share”); and 3) they don’t have to pay property taxes for what’s below ground! Smart! (Why yes, I took notes while on the tour so I could share all these fascinating tidbits!)
Could it have been the picturesque setting overlooking the grape vines in the covered open air terrace? Or just the calm that comes from arriving at the final leg of our journey? Call it any of those, but Flora Springs ranks tops in my book. I could have stayed there forever. Or until the wine ran out. Which judging by the number of barrels won’t be anytime soon!
What’s in my wine glass: 2012 Flora Springs Trilogy ($ 75)—82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 6% Petite Verdot. A fabulous CAB and then some (since it’s not all Cabernet)!
I hope this virtual tour of the Napa wineries has proven to you that Napa is indeed for (wine) lovers…not only for people who love wine, but also people who love life and are willing to take time to savor simplicities like fresh air, a cool breeze, rolling hills dotted with grape vines and to just escape from the hustle and bustle. Cheers!