Friday, April 14, 2006

Wine Tasting

This week was spring break for Andrew, so I figured now was as good a time as any to take vacation. (Apparently it goes away if I don't take it.) We took Thursday and Friday to go to Napa. As it turned out, the weather was beautiful on Thursday - a nice change from the seven consecutive weeks of rain every day. (OK, fine, it didn't rain last Saturday; we took that opportunity to bike the Golden Gate bridge. But it has rained on all other days since February.)

We found a circa-2002 wine country map with highlighter marks for places we've already been, and resolved to visit new places this time.
  • Van der Hayden (which has the only late-harvest cabernet in the valley; the proprietor claimed to have just found the final remaining pallet of the 1997 vintage). This place looks pretty old-school, where you have to ring the bell to get someone to come out of the house and serve you the wine. Plus there were yummy chocolates filled with wine.
  • Reynolds. I don't actually remember the wine, but apparently we bought a bottle of cabernet there anyway. I do remember that they also claimed to have just discovered a pallet of some older wine which is now more expensive. Must be something going around with the stockboys' union.
  • Hall. They're new, and make mostly Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. I suppose it's good, as far as those go. Bleh. Actually, there was some pretty cool metal artwork holding up the wine bottles, which looked sort of like stuff from the Calder exhibit at the moma.
  • Beaulieu Vineyards. We've been there once before, when we encountered a really snobby clerk (who apparently thinks that (muddy t-shirt != serious wine drinker). This time wasn't much better. We went to the reserve tasting room, where the person at the counter headed us off as soon as we came in the door and informed us that the regular tasting room was next door. OK.. guess they don't want my money. No loss, their wine's not that good anyway.
  • Saint Clement. Yummy Chardonay; requires a hike up the hill to get there, so you feel like you're working off some of the calories.
We also visited some places we go most times:
  • V. Sattui. Everyone's favorite winery; on sunny weekends there's barbecue. If you have a cellar club membership, you can taste in the reserve room too. (All tasting is free.) They had a little bit of the 2002 Howell Mountain left, plus the Morissoli, so we ended up leaving with a case of wine (including picking up some more Madiera to replenish the stock). They're all sold out of the Suzanne's Vineyard zinfandels, though, which is a bummer because they're not going to replant that area with zinfandel for another 5+ years.
  • Milat. My favorite for price / quality ratio. The Pine Station red is $18/bottle and is competitive with most $50 wines from the valley. Their 2003 Cabernet (just bottled) was fantastic. The folks there are also really friendly and will tell you stuff about the wine.
For lunch on Thursday, we went to Aubrege du Soleil. Excellent fancy restaurant with tables on a balcony overlooking Napa Valley. Sure, it's expensive, but the attention to detail in the food is worth it. I had the seared scallops with bacon and some kind of root vegetable, and filet mignon with potato risotto. I've never had potatoes done like that: still al-dente enough to hold up the dish, but cooked enough to not taste like raw hunks of potato.

Lunch on Friday was at the Rutherford Grill, which is owned by the guy who does Houston's. I can't resist the prime rib sandwich. Plus, no corkage fee.

Because it was all sunny outside, we wanted to get in some hiking. The Boethe National Park has some generally fun hiking trails. The creek was running several feet higher than I remembered from last time, and the ground was disgorging water out of every possible orifice. The parts of the trail that normally cross the creek (by using stepping stones) were unusable, so we only made it a few miles in. The trail was usually dry enough to walk on, but I did encounter some patches of mud too wide to hop over (hence the muddiness , when we arrived at BV). No evidence of humans anywhere - I guess no one else wants to wade through the mud.

No comments: