Napa: 7 Gems And A Clunker Part 1

Recently, Peter and I spent time wine tasting in Napa with a group of friends from college. We had a wonderful, wonderful time and tasted many amazing wines.

There was one clunker – a surprisingly disappointing experience. More on that in Part 2.

Using VRBO, we rented a fabulous 6 bedroom home on the Silverado Country Club golf course. The house featured a pool, hot tub, tennis court, putting green, outdoor fireplace, four patios and so much more. All of this for less than the price of a hotel room!

Napa rental house

If you are traveling to Napa and are looking for a large house to rent, let me know. I will give you the contact info!

The kitchen in this house was fully stocked. Rather than eating out at restaurants every night, we decided that it would be more fun to dine in, taking turns cooking. We also packed a picnic lunch each day so that we didn’t waste any time eating in a restaurant – time that could be better spent tasting wine!

Peter and I brought wine from our how-is-it-possible-we-have-reached-capacity wine cellar.

that wine is not going to drink itself

It seems crazy to bring wine TO Napa but we need help with inventory reduction. As Peter says, that wine is not going to drink itself.

The first stop on our trip was Silver Oak.

Silver Oak is owned by the Duncans, a family with many generations of Notre Dame alumni and very strong continuing ties to the University.

For our group – Notre Dame alums, ourselves – Silver Oak was the perfect place to kick off our wine tasting.

Silver Oak Duncan Hall

The bottle on the right features an etching of Duncan Hall, a dorm on the ND campus named for the Duncan Family.

Silver Oak makes just two wines: a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and an Alexander Valley (Sonoma) Cabernet Sauvignon.

That’s it.

With that kind of focus, you might guess that they do a really, really fine job of winemaking. And you would be correct.

Silver Oak’s goal is to make full bodied wine with characteristic dark fruit notes that can be consumed immediately or can be aged for another decade or more. To that end, Silver Oak ages their wine for a couple of years in American Oak barrels then continues the aging in the bottles, finally releasing the wine a good 4+ years after harvest.

Silver Oak offers a variety of tasting experiences and include tastes of wine from their secondary label, Twomey Wines as well.

Silver Oak

Silver Oak’s iconic tower.

Next on the agenda was Alpha Omega.

Alpha Omega

We reserved one of the picnic tables on their property and enjoyed our lunch before starting the tasting.

Once inside the lovely private tasting room, we were treated to a wide array of wines including a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, a red blend and a Cabernet Sauvignon.

And, I guess because we were such a receptive audience, our guide, Chris, poured tastes of several wines that weren’t on the menu.

Alpha Omega tasting

Smart move. Our group bought a lot of wine…

We ended day one at Palmaz Vineyards.

Located up, up, up at the top of Mount George, the winery features gorgeous sweeping views of the Napa Valley.

What visitors don’t realize at first is that the winery’s entire production and aging takes place in a spectacular series of caves and tunnels built into the mountain, under the tasting room. You have to see it to believe it!

Fun fact: Dr. Palmaz was one of the inventors of the heart stent. It is not at all surprising that an attention to detail, precision and high tech-ery is evident throughout the winery from production to the tasting presentation.

Also quite evident: that Dr. Palmaz has spent a great deal of money on his “hobby” of making great wine.

Our tasting event included delicious small bites paired with wines. Serving wine with food is a good way to sell wine…I’m just sayin’.


The second day started out at Hall Wines.

The Hall St. Helena property includes a variety of buildings both old and new, lovely, lovely grounds for strolling or enjoying food and wine and lots and lots of very cool art.

Hall entry

Hall art

During our tour of the facilities we were treated to a barrel tasting of the upcoming release Cabernet.

barrel tasting

After the tour, we were seated in a private tasting room (surrounded by even more art), where we enjoyed the Hall Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Jack’s Masterpiece, Ellie’s and Napa Valley Cabernets. And, bought a lot of wine….

There seems to be a theme here.

Before leaving the sprawling grounds of Hall St. Helena, we stopped for a picnic lunch on the patio, reveling in the fact that our trip had been magical so far. Just one delightful experience after another.

Little did we know that a clunker was waiting for us, just down the road at our next stop…

Tune in next time for Napa: 7 Gems And A Clunker Part 2.

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  1. What a fun group – can’t wait to hear the rest of the story!

  2. Your posts about wineries make me wish I liked wine! I suppose I could be the designated driver. Hope the clunker wasn’t too clunky!
    Dana recently posted…The world needs more happyMy Profile

  3. Mo… looks like so much fun!! The irony was not lost on me with the invention of the stent and wine. Too funny. Enjoy your weekend!

  4. Oh yes, that connection between the stent and the wine. That house you stayed in is spectacular. And for the price of less than a hotel room? Golly. That’s really great. I just might be reaching out to you for the contact info one of these days. I am so glad you had a special time, Mo. And that clunker? Whoa. Am looking forward to reading about that.
    Kelly McKenzie recently posted…Good Neighbors Make Good FencesMy Profile

  5. Oh my….this makes me want to go back to Napa! I can’t wait for part two!! Hope you are having a great week!! xoxo

  6. So, net gain or loss on the bottles of wine? Might need to build an annex.

  7. As always – these posts make me want to immediately fly to Napa!! Looking forward to reading more. (And seriously, how can you maintain a FULL wine cellar. You are not doing it right! lol!!)
    Laura Ehlers recently posted…Just Messin’Around in Boats…again.My Profile

  8. If you ever need a DD call me, once I am allowed to drive again, which will be at least July 9th! Don’t ever break both your arms at the same time unless you want to drink fine wine through a straw! So glad you made it home in time to leave again!

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