Wine and Walnuts

A blog about eating, drinking, cooking and reading in the not so Deep South

In the Valleys, Part Two: Napa

mumm napa #2

Image from Mumm Napa website

(This guest post is Part Two of a two-part series by wine lover and PR pro, and my best friend, Ronda Bumgardner. Who I managed to talk into writing a couple of posts on her recent Cali wine tasting trip. Enjoy!)

The second day of my California Wine Country tour was almost entirely in Napa. While Sonoma’s vibe was bohemian hedonism. Napa’s was “show me your money.” It’s not all money, of course, but I couldn’t help feel the wealth differences between the vineyard laborers, and the tasting room customers.

Coppola, Geyserville

Before Napa, we headed to one last winery in Sonoma, the Francis Ford Coppola winery. It was two hours until opening, so we drove through for a quick look-see. The property has a large pool, and I saw a teepee on the grounds. It could have been a movie prop, as movie memorabilia from the director’s career is displayed at the winery, but most likely it was for children to play in, as the winery is very family friendly.

Coppola Winery, image by Ronda Bumgardner

Coppola Winery, image by Ronda Bumgardner

One tip if you’re traveling to Wine Country for the first time: Maps and winery addresses can be hard to follow. Maps are plentiful, but it’s easier and more enjoyable to find a winery by knowing the names of the wineries on either side and tracking your journey by signage.

Charles Krug, St. Helena

We first visited the Charles Krug winery, part of the Peter Mondavi empire. The winery dates back to 1871 and is the oldest one in Napa.  It’s one of the few Napa wineries where weddings are held, and the photos I saw of the banquet rooms with floor and ceiling made of redwood were breathtaking. In the tasting room, I had a refreshing flight of whites and reds, and the pourer also gave me a taste of a 2007 Petit Verdot available through their wine club. My favorites were a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, crisp in a prosecco way, a perfect 10 a.m. beverage for the day. Other favorites were a 2009 Chardonnay from Carneros, and a 2007 Zinfandel from St. Helena that was so jammy and tasty, I immodestly giggled. The walls of the tasting room were filled with historical information, and I learned how Charles Krug’s choice of a bride helped him establish a winery: the land was part of her dowry.

Opus One, Oakville

The exquisitely manicured grounds and the limestone buildings felt cold and uninviting, like a library filled with unwanted books, or, a mausoleum. Opus One is fine. You don’t need to know it costs $30 a glass to taste the pedigree of the soil and the grapes. But the architecture and décor did not enhance the experience. The tasting room was bustling, so we walked onto the loggia and took photos. Even with the view, it felt gloomy.

Opus One Winery

(Opus One image source:  Taken by Cszmurlo from Wikimedia Commons)

Mumm, Rutherford

The Napa Mumm’s tasting area was little more than standing room outside by a folding table. I suspect the idea is to encourage tasters to enjoy the rest of the gorgeous property, a café overlooking the vineyards, a gift shop, lounge chairs with deep cushions and an art gallery. I sat down with a glass of bubbly, then viewed the art, an exhibit of “cameraless computer-free photographs.”

Mustards Grill, Yountville

We headed to lunch, using Yelp to find a place nearby. The café was booked solid and we had to stand for half an hour until we could be seated at the small bar. It’s worth waiting days for. The potato chips with blue cheese dip and the Abiouness 2006 Sangiovese were memorable.

Domaine Chandon, Yountville

As the afternoon in Napa progressed, the limousines and obnoxious girlfriend parties became more noticeable. At Domaine Chandon, the ponds and flowers outside were tranquil but as we entered the cavernous tasting room, it felt like “too much.” As I walked out to the outdoor tasting area, I turned to my partner and said, “This feels like Spring Break in Cancun.” We left without taking sips or photos.

Domaine Carneros

Domaine Carneros, image by Ronda Bumgardner

Domaine Carneros, image by Ronda Bumgardner

Our final stop rivaled Iron Horse in Sonoma for natural beauty, and the building alone was show-stopping, with terraces and airy galleries, making it feel very European.  And not at all stuffy. The entrance was through a gift shop, and one clerk immediately offered me a sample of toffee flavored popcorn, not because it was sold in the store, but because she thought it was delicious. I agreed. And plan to have some the next time I drink another glass of the Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour. Which I hope will be soon.

(Ronda is a PR and communications wiz, livin’ the dream in New York City.  To find out more about Ronda, please visit her at Control Freak Public Relations.)

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About The Author

Kimberly Houston


2 Responses to “In the Valleys, Part Two: Napa”

  1. Timo says:

    Domaine Carneros was architecturally one of my favorite places when last in Napa/Sonoma. Very regal and a must see for anyone in the area!


  2. Hey Timo, thanks very much for the comment. I was just over at wineshout checking out all the wine resources and sites, and oh my, so much great stuff there!

    Yes, there is great beauty and great architecture in California wine country, and I really want to get back out there soon. : )

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