I was raised on Manischewitz, so I like to think it is a miracle I like wine.
I remember very well the too sweet, too sugary grape “wine” I used to drink growing up in a (not really) Jewish family … the Friday night Shabbat dinners; the bar/bat mitzvahs; Passover with the four glasses. In fact, the first time I was ever buzzed was thanks to the purple stuff.
In my early 20s, my friends and I drank wine because we thought it was “grown up.” Except, we would get those huge wine goblets (think Courtney Cox’s monster glass on “Cougar Town”) and dump a bottle into two glasses. I couldn’t tell you if it tasted good or bad. If we were drinking $2 or $20 wine. I wasn’t drinking it to enjoy it. I was drinking it to get a little bit saucy.
OK, a lot saucy.
Fast-forward to my mid- and late-20s. Suddenly, I realized wine is good. It should be enjoyed. It pairs well with breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and, best of all, moments. Some of my best memories in my late 20s are sitting outside in the Las Vegas night, sipping wine with my friends, just talking about life.
Today, oh, I love my wine. Like LOVE. Yeah, I’m on a budget, so you won’t see my buying any super expensive bottles, but, I never turn a good glass of wine down.
In fact, some of the best “grape juice” I’ve had has been from the gorgeous Napa Valley.
Thankfully, Abby and Kristin also happen to like wine, so our trip to Napa this go ’round was full of yummy tastings and general awesomeness.
Our first stop?
OK, so we didn’t drink wine. We drank the bubbly, light, crisp and super fine champagne. But, still. It was delicious. The largest facility of the three vineyards we visited, Domaine Chandon offers a wide range of champagnes for the tasting (and the buying). They also make still red and whites, but we stuck with what they do best for this tasting.
The winery is set on a gorgeous plot of land, complete with pond, tasting room and restaurant, etoile, which offers dishes that are perfect for pairings, and a large outdoor terrace. If you have time, check out the rotating art exhibits around the property.
The three of us purchased our $20 three-course champagne tasting and headed for a seat in the early afternoon sun. We sat for a good hour-plus, sipping and chatting. Of course, while I was there, I ran into people I knew from my previous amateur wine drinking days of yore. From Maryland.
Thanks to my boss, the next winery we were scheduled to hit was Caymus to have a private tasting. We had about 30 minutes between the Chandon and Caymus and drove down the hand-crafted iron gates of Peju.
“Oooo,” I breathed, looking out the window at the gorgeous countryside and wineries, “Peju is supposed to be really good.”
We pulled in to determine if it is possible to go through a tasting in under 30. It could be done.
Napa Tasting #2: Peju.
Unlike other wineries I have been to, we waited with others in a bright and airy room, and then were ushered into a gorgeous tasting room with stained glass windows and a gift shop. The tasting was more of a presentation, with a staff member who was ridiculously knowledgeable about the wines (as he should be). We tried four wines and I think its pretty safe to say, both Abby and I really liked what we tasted.
I don’t like Merlot, but damn. The Peju Merlot was fantastic. Of course, I had to purchase it.
Then, we rushed on to Caymus and were sent straight to the private tasting room where a representative guided us thorough four tastings.
And, another bottle was purchased.
At that point, it was about 4 p.m. and we needed to add some food to the day, so we headed to a roadside burger joint for hot dogs, grilled cheese, milkshakes and general yum.
The three wineries we went to, I loved.
I would also recommend the following wineries for additional tasty Napa goodness:
Darioush: This place is palatial. I wore jeans and a little sporty jacket, but would have felt more comfortable wearing something a bit more dressy. It is gorgeous. And, so are the wines.
Black Stallion: Rustic atmosphere and lots of natural lighting inside. The wines are great, and the staff is really friendly.
Chimney Rock: I liked the wines from Black Stallion more, but this winery scored major points for its gorgeous courtyard and grounds. Little touches like trickling fountains, towering trees and plenty of ground to have a picnic, make it one of my favorites to go for some relaxation. And good wine.
What’s your favorite winery in the Napa region?