Napa Valley, June 2019
Recently, we had the opportunity to return to the Napa Valley for tastings and an early Summer escape. It is always wonderful to be in the valley, having a chance to see friends, taste some amazing wines and enjoy the scenery.
Kicking off the tour, we headed to ZD Winery – a long personal favorite in Napa. The setting of the winery has always been magical, but they also recently renovated their public spaces to make for an even better guest experience. The winery celebrated their 50th Anniversary in 2018 and they are honoring tradition while embracing the future with their wines.
Personal favorites included tasting their 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon out of the Barrel and their 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which was complex yet perfectly balanced with the age.
Next stop on the valley visit was to Hayfork Wine Company at Lewelling Ranch with Haley Wight, winemaker and owner. Haley’s Family, the Lewelling’s first arrived in the Napa Valley in 1864 and were known for their planting of fruit and nut trees, before getting into grape farming. They have been growing and farming grapes for years, with Haley taking the lead on wine production in the 2000’s.
We had a perfectly unpretentious tasting at the family house, in their backyard at a picnic table underneath the shade of gorgeous trees. I very much enjoyed the Hayfork 2018 Grenache Blanc, which is extremely rare to find grown in Napa. It was bright, fruit forward and perfect for a mid-80 degree day!
After two wineries, we were definitely ready for lunch so I took the group over to Farmstead Restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch. Long Meadow has been known for their wines for years, but also their commitment to cattle ranching and farming overall. Farmstead is a local favorite that many tourists seek out on their visits to the valley. I enjoyed a local Heritage Breed Pork Chop topped with Apple Compote on a bed of Jalapeno Grits and Sauteed Broccolini; extremely flavorful and a great wine country lunch. To pair with it, we enjoyed a bottle of 2017 Long Meadow Ranch Pinot Noir Blanc, Tanbark Mill Vineyard from the Anderson Valley perfectly tasty for the Summer afternoon lunch.
Our third tasting of the day was at a heritage winery in the valley on Highway 29, Peju Province Winery. Known for their wines as much as their passion for fine art, that is featured throughout the property, Peju has long been a personal favorite of ours. We were treated to a unique and fun experience in their Tasting Room, hosted by Scott who was as knowledgeable as he was entertaining. Their 50/50 Blend was outstanding, and their Piccolo red blend, was a perfect wine to pair with a casual evening at home while cooking. We were then invited to join the Peju’s at their personal residence, to meet their chickens and rabbits (yes, really) and relax with them while enjoying wine and snacks. This was a very special treat for many reasons, especially while looking out over the vineyards on the Rutherford AVA.
After cooking a filling breakfast at our house on the Silverado Trail, Saturday’s only tasting was scheduled for Terra Valentine on Spring Mountain, right before the Napa and Sonoma County line. After winding and weaving our car up the narrow Spring Mountain Road, we arrived at a stunningly beautiful site, where Terra Valentine has their tasting room situated. The views from the porch and small house matched the polish of the wines, it was a unique tasting in an amazing setting. Sam Baxter has been the winemaker for a number of years now, but had recently purchased the winery in 2014 and continues to further develop the brand with great success. We tasted their Rose of Petite Sirah, which I’ve never had a rose from that varietal before, which was done in the soignee method. Their Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was inky and delicious, and I look forward to aging the bottle for years to come prior to enjoying.
Saturday night we ventured over to a class restaurant in the valley, Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, for a true French Bistro experience. The restaurant was buzzing from the moment we sat down and our server Dennis (from New Jersey no less!) was the consummate waiter who was perfect for the group. We started with Deviled Eggs topped with Chopped Black Truffles (very luxurious) and Local Mixed Greens, while enjoying a bottle of Paradigm Rose of Merlot which was made less than 5 miles away from the restaurant! I enjoyed the Sole Meuniere (Petrale Sole) with Lemon Caper Butter Sauce as my entree, that was exactly how it should have been, a classic French dish and we paired it with a bottle purchased at Terra Valentine earlier in the day, the Foretell Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, 2015 which only 100 cases were made.
Sunday morning was an absolute picturesque setting in the Napa Valley and too cap off our last day in the valley, we made our way to Reynolds Family Winery for a relaxing tasting on their patio.
Steve Reynolds the proprietor and winemaker continues to improve his wines each year, with care starting in the vineyards (which he owns and those he sources from) and then through to the bottle. There is a certain polish to his wines, but a fair price point that allows guests to enjoy quality far beyond their cost. His 2017 Chardonnay was outstanding – seeing age in Concrete Eggs, Stainless Steel and French Oak Barrels to create a true expression of the grape. The Due Diligence (Cabernet Franc) bottling was just stupid deliciously good, a wine that will age for many years to come and an amazingly balanced wine.
Prior to departing the valley, we had one more stop to make – the Oxbow Market in Napa proper. Sunday midday the market was full of locals and tourist alike, shopping the wares and delicacies and enjoying the various restaurants. We decided to head out front to enjoy the tasty burgers and fresh offerings from Gott’s Roadside, which is a must dine at when in the valley. I decided on the California Burger – topped with a Fried egg, Cowgirl Creamery’s Wagon Wheel cheese, Zoe’s bacon, arugula, balsamic onions & mayo, wrapped in Lettuce. I paired it with their Spied Sweet Potato Fries and a can of Golden State Mighty Dry Cider. This was definite gluttony (ha!) after the previous three days of dining, tasting and enjoying, but damn was it worth it!
All told, Napa was once again a truly special collection of experiences. Filled with amazingly genuine people, impressive wines and gorgeous weather, the trip was one I could only hope to repeat.