Thursday, December 10, 2009

Napa's Quandary and Hidden Pinot Gem

Since I had some business to attend to in the actual town of Napa, I decided to spend a little time tooling around some of the downtown venues for wine tasting. Surprisingly, most people do not know that there are several tasting rooms downtown and it presents a dilemma for those wineries that have set up shop here. Most people that are visiting for the first time here (or several times for that matter) just buzz right on by Napa "proper" because once you hit the highway coming in from San Francisco, you never really notice 'Napa' off Hwy 29 and it is a bit of jog in to the actual town of Napa. Before you know it, you're down the road past the town and your next stop is Yountville where everyone stops.

Anyway, Napa has a bit to overcome unless you are actually staying in the town. Event then, most people head up Silverado Trail or Hwy. 29 where are the wineries reside. But, there are some hidden gems from a wine tasting standpoint and some very good wineries represented in town.

One of the great spots to leverage your tasting efforts is a little known historic building that was turned in to a collective tasting room called - Vintners Collective. They usually represent 16-20 wines that do not have their own tasting rooms and is a great place to try several featured wines in one spot.

There are also several tasting rooms scattered around the town including - Ceja & Whetstone along with Mason and Gustavo Thrace at the Oxbow Market just outside of downtown - that is more like the walk-up tasting bar type experience.

One stop that I was excited about was Robert Craig Winery. I had been very familiar with the brand from previous tasting experiences and always loved the wines. Bob Craig is also a very nice gentleman and has a very good reputation of consistency of fine winemaking here in Napa. They have a new tasting room a bit outside of town next to the River Terrace Inn and new Westin properties. The wines are phenomenal and definitely worth the visit whether in town or just passing through. My standout favorites are their Affnity, Howell Mt. Cab and Mount George wines, but enjoyed the entire lineup. Ask for Jeff Roman, the tasting room manager, and he'll take real good care of you when there. Look them up or stop by on your next is an easy diversion on your way up or down Silverado Trail and you'll be glad made the effort.

It was a short day and I hit a few other places on the way back home. One of note was a place that I have passed at least a dozen times and never stopping was the Silverado Trail Wine Studio custom crush facility that is home to Bighorn Cellars and Expression Wines. This unassuming studio is easy to miss, but don't. The Expression Wines are great and known for their mastery of Pinot Noir in both Napa/Sonoma and Oregon. Apprently they are also coming out with a big Bordeaux style red that is called Tetra Wine that I am anxious to try as well.

One last stop was to Stag's Leap Cellars just because it had been over 15 years since I had been there, but they were just finishing up a remodeling and were not quite finished. I quickly tasted a few wines but had to be on my way.

Although a fairly uneventful shorter day of tasting, I was glad to have made the stops I did in such short order. And, some good finds as well. All in a days "work"...

Until the next sip, swirl ya' later!

Chief Wino

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