As we made our way out of Yosemite and towards Portland, we decided to make a detour through beautiful Napa Valley. The valley and hillsides overflow with rows upon rows of vibrant, green grape vines. With over 400 vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms, the valley can be quite overwhelming. A quick visit to the visitor’s center and a few calls to family and friends helped us find our way through the maze of vineyards. As we drove, up Highway 29 and back down the Silverado Trail, we were awarded with the sights, smells and sounds of Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga, all of which host the valley’s vineyards and wineries. The Beringer Estate and Vineyards reside just outside downtown St. Helena, where the stunning Beringer mansion stands tall above the grounds. In Calistoga, we visited the Castello di Amorosa, which has a Medieval theme complete with castle, livestock yards and moat. Sterling Vineyards, also in Calistoga, offers an aerial tram ride so that visitors can ride to catch a different view of the lands. Joseph, being sober and I having very little knowledge about wine, wanted a tour that would offer more of an educational, outdoor experience.
We decided on touring the Robert Mondavi at to Kalon Vineyards. This 75 minute tour began with an informative biography of Mr. Mondavi as well as his family, then leading us out into the vineyards. We’d noticed on our drive through that the majority of the rows of grapes vines had roses planted at the end but just assumed it was because they looked pretty. We soon learned that this is done less for an aesthetic look and moreover to alert the growers of insects and pests. If an insect or pest were to attack the vines, they would naturally attack the roses first, therefore giving the growers a warning before their grapes were destroyed.
We also learned that there are about 200 types of soil in the world, and Napa Valley has over 100 of those, making it the perfect place for plant life to thrive. After the vineyards, we walked into a building with about 30 huge cylinders containing the grapes during the fermentation and coloring processes. This building was covered with ivy, and the tour guide informed us that before the time of air conditioning/heat the ivy was used as an insulator. Once the grapes have stayed in the drums for a certain amount of time (dependent on what type of wine is being made), the wine is transported to smaller barrels where it will stay for a determined amount of time and soak up more flavors such as French or American Oak directly from the barrel. This soaking and wood selection is unique to each grower and vineyard, producing the thousands of different wine varieties available today. The leftover skins are pressed and also made into wine or used to color the barrels. After the wine sits in the smaller barrels, it is tasted and tested to perfection then transported into bottles and labeled. I ended the tour with a tasting of 3 different wines and learned how to properly smell, swish and taste wine.
We had an awesome experience in Napa, it was a great way to explore the outdoors and see the process of a grape from vine to wine! Big thanks to Tommy and Brandi Hobby for their above and beyond generosity! Another huge thanks to John Hobby for his amazing suggestions. We really appreciate everything from ya’ll!
CF and JH 6/9/15
Brave Explorations. Soulful Discoveries.