Should you find yourself sitting in bumper to bumper on Napa's Highway 29 and feeling like a schmuck—this parade of tour buses isn't for a savvy local such as yourself—veer off toward the northeastern hills of Chiles Valley. In this sub-district of Napa Valley, cooler temperatures and higher elevation make for distinctive wines, and the handful of unpretentious family-owned wineries offer experiences so pure, you’ll want to keep them a secret.
Napa Valley is a big place. If you're looking to spend your next Wine Country excursion in a small-town setting, we recommend sipping your way through the gorgeous tasting rooms of St. Helena. Best of all, most of these quaint spots are just a few minutes from each other, so you won't need a designated driver for a full day of fun.
As much as we love Napa and Sonoma, our palates are occasionally wont to wander. Paso Robles is on the tips of wine connoisseurs' tongues these days, so we headed south to check out what's being touted as California's hot wine region du jour.
No longer just a sleepy SoCal enclave for posh retirees, Santa Barbara is getting in on the hipster scene with the rise of the Funk Zone, a warehouse district that's been transformed over the past few years by a new set of creative tenants—tattooed and Warby Parker–spectacled makers of all kinds.
Free wine tastings have gone the way of Napa and Sonoma lore—if we want to sip the good stuff, we have to pony up. But we also believe that you get what you pay for. These five new spots aren't just pouring wine—they are offering luxury experiences we won't soon forget. Those memories? Priceless.
Though their first exposure to wine may have been a box of Franzia, the cohort of millennials interested in drinking and tasting real wine, and the amount of disposable income they have at hand to do so, is on the rise. Yet big wine tasting events haven't shifted to meet the interests of younger wine drinkers, with sedate environs and dull classes focusing on those who've already become connoisseurs. The twentysomething team of Tyler Balliet and Morgan First, otherwise known as Second Glass, are aiming to change all that.
Yesterday I blind tasted a wine at RN74 with a couple of top sommeliers. It was light colored, obviously Pinot, probably Burgundy. Bright with perfume and fresh berry fruit flavors, the wine had punchy acidity, a lean body, and a bit of tannin. I guessed 1988 Chambolle--a lean, high acid year that also made lovely perfumed wines. The sommeliers guessed younger--2001 and 1996. We were all wrong, it turned out, but I was the closest. It was indeed Chambolle. Yet my vintage was off by 26 YEARS! The wine was a 1962.