Napa, Day 2 - Casablanca, Writing, & Wine

Wow. I am so content right now, I don’t know if I can convey it with words alone. Since I do deem myself a writer, I shall try :)

Today was our full day in Napa, for tomorrow we have to fly to Anaheim for our writer’s conference to begin, so today was the big day when we wanted to see lots of wineries, take tours, and remember this little slice of heaven that is etched into the Earth over here on the West Coast.

We began the day with complementary breakfast from the hotel – again, this place is great. It’s called the Wine Valley Lodge. Nothing super or spectacular about the rooms–it’s very basic though they do have a fridge, microwave, and TV–but the included breakfast, the many rose blooms on the property, and the service make the place very worthwhile. I also like that we are at the South end of Napa, and not in the middle of Napa itself. Gives it a quiet feel.

After breakfast (and of course we woke up super early because we are used to East Coast time), and getting some basic prep done, we began our journey. For those of you who haven’t been to Napa, wineries typically are open 10 am – 5pm, so after our 8am breakfast, we had time to kill. We took a ride through historic Napa and then arrived at Mumm Winery at 10am precisely.

Now hear this: Anyone going to Napa should be at Mumm Winery at 10am on any given day. They offer 10am only, free tours through the property and it includes a history of the wine, the vineyard, the winemaking process, and it is a wealth of knowledge and fun information for anyone. Very, very worthwhile.

Right now, the grapes in Napa are about 3 weeks away from the harvest season, so we were able to see several vines of grapes that were changing color from green to red. Very, very cool.

After our tour of Mumm, we went to their patio (which overlooks the gorgeous vineyard and mountains) for a tasting. Mumm makes sparkling wines (think stuff like Asti Spumante or Brut) and I got the July special – the red, white, and blue. I was completely amazed at the sweetness of the red sparkling wine. It was the Cuvee Red and was absolutely wonderful. In fact, I may order some. Who knew red wine could be sweet, and also be sparkling?

The server also gave me a freebie of Santana sparkling wine, which is, yes, for those of you old rockers like me, IS indeed blended and managed by Carlos Santana, the musician. He apparently became fond of wines and now blends his own. The Santana sparkling wine is some of the best I ever tasted. The man knew how to play guitar, and the man knows how to blend wine.

After a wonderful morning at Mumm, we headed down the road to Silver Oak Winery. It was nice, and I mainly went there because someone from the winery messaged me on Twitter and invited me by for a tasting. The place had an old lighthouse-looking structure out in front, with statues of men reading books, and inside was an interesting set of wines. They had several Cabernets, which honestly I don’t typically like – but they age their Cabernets longer than the standard and that made the taste incredibly smooth.

This is where the lesson in writing comes in: don’t rush things. Items of high quality take time.

I did like that the woman at Silver Oak did take us on a free tour, and there was an entire table and chair set made from old wine barrels. There seems to be a great recycling philosophy here in Napa. Leftover items are churned back into something, be it the Earth, contribution to another product, or something new entirely. Seeing the stained red wood on the homemade chairs out of old barrels was satisfying in more ways than one. My husband is a carpenter, and I took photos to share with him this little tidbit of how things can always change shape and form to create something new :)

After Silver Oak, we went to V Sattui Winery. My parents used to order wines from them, so I was familiar with their selection, but the place is great for lunch, picnicking, and wine tasting.

A warning: do not go on the weekend. I found Monday (today) to be too busy for my taste, but the guy pouring wine said it was a slow day. But they did have amazing sandwiches, salads, etc. and we sat outside in the garden having lunch before tasting some amazing wines.

V Sattui is also family friendly, for anyone traveling with kids.

After that, we went to an old Castle that has been turned into a winery. Very interesting place, with stone structures and dragons carved everywhere. Below is a pic of one of the ornate rooms:

Pic of dragon decor:

My wonderful buddy and writing friend CJ is the one who drove, as she didn’t drink, and I drank happily and didn’t have to worry about driving. I thought often of Casablanca during our Napa day trip today: “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” She is the best writing buddy and vacation colleague I could ask for :)

Toward the end, we went to Andretti Winery. Yes, you read that correctly. Not only does Carlos Santana, ex-musician, make wines, but Mario Andretti, retired race car driver, is into wines as well. He and another Italian friend of his purchased a winery and redid the architecture to resemble a Tuscan villa. I must admit, it was beautiful and I was really impressed. I figured there would be a Ferrari in the back. Instead, there are tables with mosaic tiles where people can sit and sip wine with ornate fountains nearby. Wonderful and relaxing place.

All in all, Napa is fantastic. I couldn’t imagine spending more than 3 days here, as there isn’t much to do other than see wineries and I’ve had my fill after a few days, but the land is gorgeous, the wine is wonderful, and life is extremely, extremely good.

I will leave you all with this note: slow down and enjoy life a little.

Being the inquisitive writer I am, I asked many of the wine tasting reps about their jobs, what it’s like to work in the industry, etc. Many of them gave good answers. But my favorite came from a young woman at the Andretti winery. She said that when she began learning about wine–all its palette pleasing sensations–it forced her to slow down and really relax, enjoy the taste, enjoy the TIME spent relaxing.

I love that.

So go, enjoy yourself no matter what fills your glass. Smell the roses. Here in Napa, they are beautiful beyond belief.

Elaine