Napa Wineries At Harvest Time

Our college gang had so much fun on our 2015 trip to Napa that we decided to return for a visit this fall. Napa wineries at harvest time!

Everyone was on board, quite excited to revisit some of our favorite wineries and discover some new ones.

We were even more excited when our pal, Ellen, decided to plan a private surprise birthday party for her husband at one of our favorite Napa wineries. More about that soon.

In planning our Napa 2016 adventure, we decided to take a slower pace and schedule only two tastings per day. It worked out very well and no one suffered from wine tasting fatigue.

Believe it or not, it’s a thing. The struggle is real.

We visited…

Chappellet Vineyards

Chappellet produces a variety of wines including, in my opinion, one of the best Napa Cabernet Sauvignons for the price. They also bottle Molly Chappellet’s favorite – Chenin Blanc – which is light and delicious.

Chappelet

Chappellet was such a hit on our last trip that several of us became wine club members. As wine club members we were able to get all of the tasting fees comped and we were able to use the gorgeous picnic area overlooking the entire valley.

view from Chappellet

Timing was on our side as we had the added treat of getting to see some of the harvesting machinery in progress.

Some people become weak-kneed in the presence of a Maserati. My grandsons go crazy over road construction vehicles. Show me a de-stemming machine that is separating the precious grapes from the leaves and stems and my heart just sings.

Chappellet harvest

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Have you heard of the 1976 Judgement of Paris? It’s the story told in the movie “Bottle Shock” – American wines beat French wines in a blind tasting competition shocking the French and putting Napa on the map.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars  holds the proud distinction of producing the 1st place Cabernet Sauvignon at the Judgement of Paris.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (not to be confused with Stags Leap Winery) describes its wines as “Iron fist in a velvet glove.” I think this is quite accurate.

The Cask 23, Fay and S.L.V. Cabernets we tasted are big, bold and need to be cellared for a while. Because we know and love the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon, we asked our guide if he would pour some for us. He did and, as a result, he sold a bunch of bottles.

My advice to you, if you want to taste something – ask. It usually works out well for both sides.

Lewis Cellars

We scheduled an open day to allow everyone to relax or do whatever they wanted to do.

About half the group chose to stay home and watch the Notre Dame football game. The rest of us chose to “Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame” by raising a glass while wine tasting.

Lewis Cellars is owned by former Indy car racer, Randy Lewis, his wife Debbie and son Dennis. A real family affair.

Lewis Cellars

Lewis makes a variety of wines including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and blends. And, they do it all very, very well.

This tasting experience is small and intimate (limited to 6 people) and truly is all about the wine. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions and learn. Oh, and to taste some killer wines.

Andretti Winery

Carrying on our race car theme and, because our pal Elizabeth has a family connection to Mr. Mario Andretti, we added this winery to our unscheduled day.

Andretti Winery

If the folks at Disney were to add a Tuscany section to Epcot’s Italy, I believe it would look a lot like the Andretti Winery. The grounds are beautiful and very true to the theme.

Although the wines were not my favorite of the trip and we had an unusually cranky guide, it was well worth the stop.

Silver Oak Cellars

Silver Oak Cellars makes two wines: a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  If you are a fan of Cabernet, you should definitely put Silver Oak on your list of Napa wineries to visit,

Silver Oak Cellars

Three fun facts about Silver Oak:

Unlike most wineries who use French Oak barrels, Silver Oak ages their wine in American Oak barrels. Silver Oak is so dedicated to this that they bought the Missouri cooperage from which they have been sourcing barrels so that they can be guaranteed a steady supply.

Silver Oak barrel

Silver Oak worked with their cork supplier to develop a process which results in better corks. The industry average for “cork taint” is 4%. Silver Oak’s average is a mere one-half percent. This saves them money and gives us more reliably excellent wine.

Silver Oak ages their wine in bottles MUCH longer than everyone else. Look at the Napa Cabernets on the shelves of your wine store today. You will see lots of the 2014 vintage and maybe even some from the 2015 vintage. Silver Oak won’t start selling their 2012 vintage until February of 2017.

Who needs a wine cellar when Silver Oak stores the wine so long for you.

Just kidding…. Let’s not get crazy. We still need a wine cellar.

Cliff Lede Vineyards

Peter and I had previously tasted their wine but we had never visited Cliff Lede Vineyards in Napa.

About 15 minutes into our tour, I turned to another member of our group and said, “I see a new wine club in our future.”

And I was right.

Cliff Lede (pronounced Cliff Lady) produces a variety of wines under their named label and their secondary label “Fel”.

Cliff Lede High FidelityI know that wine scores shouldn’t be considered the only basis on which to determine the quality of a wine but when an expert like Robert Parker tells you that a wine (2013 Cliff Lede Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon) is PERFECT…as in 100 points… you take notice.

And when you see that the rest of their library of wines sports scores like 96, 97, 98 and 99,  you think, “Maybe these folks know what they are doing.”

And, you join the wine club.

Three fun facts about Cliff Lede:

The winery uses an optical scanning machine for sorting the grapes. The machine takes countless pictures per second, analyzes the pictures for size, blemishes, wrinkles, etc., rejecting the losers and letting only the most beautiful and perfect grapes pass.

Cliff Lede optical sorter

(Thankfully, Cliff Lede does not optically judge their visitors based on size, blemishes or wrinkles. All are welcome – no one gets rejected.)

As an homage to the owner’s love of music (heavily weighted on classic rock) each vineyard block is named after a favorite song or album.

Cliff Lede Abbey Road

Aren’t we clever? I bet we were the first to think of posing this way.

And, the winery owns The Poetry Inn, a spectacular hotel comprised of only three rooms and two suites. Sandy at You May Be Wandering wrote a great post about her stay at the Poetry Inn. Check it out.

Napa 2016 was a big success. We revisited some of our old, favorite Napa wineries and discovered some new ones.

Who has suggestions for us for Napa 2017?

Do not drink and drive!

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Wine Gift – It’s All In The Name

My youngest grandson was born on his paternal grandfather’s birthday. His first grandchild born on his 60th birthday. The best gift ever.

Peter and I shopped for a special wine to commemorate the double special occasion and found the perfect bottle.

Legacy Wine

This got me to thinking about other wines which could be given as gifts based on the name of the wine.

For example,

Let’s say you are looking for a wine gift to say “bon voyage” to a friend. How about a bottle from En Route, makers of wonderful Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, California?

Or, you could wrap up a bottle of Sojourn Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, also from Sonoma, California.

Sojourn wine

Even the image on the bottle suggests a vacation!

Retirement? I recommend Ayoub Memoirs Pinot Noir from Oregon.

Do you know someone who is starting a new endeavor? How about a bottle of Pursuit Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir or Red Blend. These wines are produced by the wonderful folks at Bounty Hunter in Napa.

Need a gift for a law school graduate or to celebrate passing the bar exam? Bounty Hunter also makes Jurisprudence Red Blend.

Jurisprudence Red Wine

There are many, many wines named after members of the winemaker’s family. Perhaps one of these would fit the bill for a birthday or new baby gift:

Domaine Drouhin “Arthur” Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Foxen “Julia’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley area of Santa Barbara County.

Rudd “Samantha’s” Cabernet Sauvignon from the Oakville area of Napa Valley.

Lewis Cellars “Ethan’s” Syrah, “Mason’s” Cabernet Sauvignon or “Alec’s” Red Wine Blend – just a few of the fabulous wines made in Napa and Sonoma by former Formula One race car driver, Randy Lewis.

Lewis Cellars Mason's

Hall “Ellie’s” Cabernet Sauvignon, “Jack’s Masterpiece” Cabernet Sauvignon or “Craig’s Cuvee” Red Wine Blend from Napa Valley.

Hall Jack's Masterpiece

Walt Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Walt is owned by Hall Wines and produces wines from several spots along the Pacific Coast from California to Oregon.

Walt Wines

Hartford Court “Jennifer’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley.

Hartford Court Jennifer's Vineyard

Or maybe something a little different…

Eighty Four Wines Malbec or Syrah from Napa Valley.

Nickel & Nickel (Single Vineyard) Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay from Napa for someone celebrating their 55th birthday. Nickel & Nickel, get it?

Nickel & Nickel

Martinelli “Three Sisters Vineyard” Pinot Noir or Chardonnay from Sonoma.

Wallis Family Estate “Little Sister” Proprietary Red Blend from Napa.

Wallis Little Sister

Maybe you are looking for a “just because” wine gift.

Just because…

…your friend has great memories of times in New Orleans (or is a fan of Davy Crockett): Fess Parker “The Big Easy” Red Blend from Santa Barbara.

…your friend is facing a big challenge: Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.

…you want to celebrate the resolution of “a situation”: Poetic Justice Red Wine, another great wine from Bounty Hunter.

Poetic Justice

…you know someone with a soft spot in their heart for “Old Blue Eyes”: Sinatra Family “Come Fly With Me” Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.

…you want to show your love: Hall “Coeur” Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.

Hall Coeur

These are just a few ideas based on wines we have in our cellar. All or most of these are available for purchase online directly from the winery.

Do you have more ideas to add to the list? Something you have seen in your local wine store or given as a gift yourself?

By the way, just a hint for my family and friends…

Shotbox wine bottle photo

Cheers!

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