The first-ever Napa Valley Film Festival debuts this November in a five day "extended weekend" run of the best of new independent films, studio sneak previews, and conversations with actors, directors, producers and writers, giving you one more reason to cruise up to the picturesque communities of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. It's set to be the perfect storm of film buffs, food and wine lovers attending unforgettable parties, tribute and awards programs, culinary demonstrations, wine tasting and late-night lounges.
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.
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:
Can’t find a designated driver and don't want to listen to your intoxicated friends sing and talk wine while you soberly sip and spit your way around the Valley? How about hiring a car and driver — or better yet, take the Ferry to Vallejo, and get picked up and squired about by a Napa Valley insider? Here are our top picks of the four-wheel-concierges that do a whole lot more than just drive: