My friends want it all when they come to the wine country. They want to visit all their favorite places but grumble when they’re left with little or no time to discover new things. They want to try limited production wines, brands and varietals their friends haven't heard of, but don’t want to spend the extra bucks on random picks at restaurants or drive to the far reaches of the valley. In the past, my answer to their plights was simply: "Visit more often and stay longer." But there is another solution: Winery collectives and downtown tasting rooms.
Only an hour from San Francisco, West of West Wine Festival (WOW) is three days of Sonoma-style wines, cuisine and education. There's certainly no shortage of summer festivals, parties and events in the wine country, but few offer this kind of access to high level, small production, limited release wines in a down to earth and versatile format.
Many of 450 or so wineries in Napa Valley are too far off the beaten path for an easy day-trip from SF. But it might surprise you to learn how many of the best “off the beaten path” spots are actually only a stones throw away from the iconic wineries that line Highway 29. Here are a few new favorites:
Summer is here and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be spending most of your time at BBQs and hanging outdoors by pools, rivers and cool waters. But what wine to bring? Everyone’s tastes are different so there’s no right answer, but here are some of my favorites, a few summer-safe varietals and the top picks of a local expert:
Ever wonder why you can spend a whole evening drinking wine and wake up feeling fine, or drink just a glass or two and wake up with a pounding headache? The anti-hangover rallying cry is typically "avoid cheap wine," but when your next-day happiness is in question, it's good to have an arsenal of more specific tactics. So we turned to Jordan Kivelstadt (winemaker at Qualia Wines and founder of Silvertap Wines), Keith Emerson (winemaker at Vineyard 29), Ignacio Delgadillo (winemaker at Delgadillo Cellars), Kale Anderson (winemaker at Cliff Lede Vineyards) and Kent Jarman (winemaker at Joseph Kent Wines) to get some answers. We found that while wine hangovers are not an exact science, the level of pain in the morning is directly related to these things: Alcohol level, yeasts, oak flavor, tannins, additives, congeners and sulfites.
I’m the last person to ridicule any man for drinking wine instead of beer, or heading up to “romantic Napa Valley” for a day with the bros or fam. But I know that sipping wine certainly doesn't top the list of tough, "manly" activities. Here are some wine country experiences that won’t drag down any macho egos on Father's Day.
With hundreds of wineries to choose from and experiences that range from hoity-toity tastings to off-road excursions, it's tough to give Napa fist-timers a balanced sampling of the valley. That said, here are six wineries that will give you a nice blend of the best the area has to offer in a weekend:
If you're hankering to joyride a racetrack, head to Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway this Saturday, where they're hosting an afternoon and evening of racing, wine and food to benefit the N.A.S.A non-profit Car Control Clinic for teen drivers. There are racing activities all day and you’ll even get to take a ride around the track with a professional driver.
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