Being in California, aside from the beautiful coast and beaches one must also explore inland. And one such activity that has to be considered is wine touring.
First cultivated in Mesopotamia (present day Iran) it is said, the alcoholic beverage has been celebrated in almost every culture on the planet. There are so many wine guides on the web. So this essay cannot in any way be useful. Like our story of San Francisco, this will be a page of tips for making the wine tour of California. Specifically the Napa valley.
One would be surprised to know that the history of wine in Napa starts from the late 1850s. Commercial production is said to have started from 1858 according to Wikipedia.
But it was not all smooth sailing. An insect killed much of the vine in the late 19th century. Did you know that Prohibition was in force from 1920-1933? Do you know what that means? It means the sale, production and importation of alcoholic beverages was constitutionally banned. Imagine that!
Despite all these setbacks, the wine industry continued to develop and today there are more than 450 wineries. And the produce of this valley has gained world renown too. Our drive here was only for half a day, because we spent the morning at “Old faithful” at Calistoga (more in the journalog here).
And these are our tips.
Tip 1 – ensure you have Bob with you
Obviously this is provided you are driving on your own. Who’s Bob? When we were living in the Netherlands, the traffic police ran a series of ad on television to remind everyone about drunk driving. Especially on the dark unlit roads, many a horrible accident occurred because of DUI.
The main character in the ad was a Dutch man called “Bob”. His job is to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverage for the night out with the boys (or girls). In the clip he is shown not drinking despite all the raucous around him. It’s quite a hilarious ad and you might still find it here. But seriously this is important if you are on your own as opposed to taking a wine tour with a travel agent.
Hey you are in Napa valley. The renown place for wine. Surely you don’t think the police patrolling the roads will think you are here not to do some drinking right?
Tip 2 – Book your wine tasting ahead
Surprisingly or not, the popular wineries are busy. So busy that you need to book a slot for wine testing. Especially over a weekend, but even on a weekday! Our (well Suan’s) wine tour took place on a Monday. You’d expect folks to be back in the office hard at work right? Well…
Napa gets its millions of visitors from around the world (like us) and quite a few Americans we suppose…lol. When you drive into the parking area, you’d be surprised to see car plates from as far as – Ohio! Ok, not many of them but you get the picture no? In fact, we saw this lady carting off 4 crates of wine to her car. Ok the winery associates helped her. And she’s apparently from Nevada (from the license plate).
The popular wineries do have online platforms for your to book a timeslot. Otherwise you might end up waiting for an available time. This does not mean all wineries are like that. Just the ones that seem to attract a larger crowd. You should know from the reviews it gets.
Tip 3 – Put the cork back in the bottle
At one of the wineries, the tasting was for 6 different wines. The nice thing is they have the smaller sized bottles as well. So a small Merlot was purchased after the tasting for our own pleasure. Like most wineries there are open areas where you can enjoy a walk to work off the effects of the alcohol. Sometimes (like this), you might not finish the entire bottle. Perhaps saving it for later.
Did you know that if your bottle of alcoholic beverage is opened (in this case uncorked), it is considered to be drink driving if you are pulled over by the police? Yep, surprised us too! So if you have beer cans, well throw them away after you have consumed them. Don’t want to be accused of DUI!
So how? The folks at the vineyard told us to put the cork back in, so that if you get pulled over you would not be accused of drink and driving. Important: Make sure the cork cannot be easily pulled out…so stuff it in.
Tip 4 – tour the vineyards
Learn something. Modern wine making has gone a long way even from just 20 years ago.
Go and take a look at the fermentation tanks. It’s a bulk business today! One thing remains and that would be the ageing. Putting the young wines into oak barrels is still an essential step in get the wine into the right “age” before it can be filtered and bottled.
Better yet, walk amongst the vines. If you happen to be here during harvesting, it would be such a sight to see the fruits being picked!
At other times (such as June when we were there), simply strolling through the rows of neatly lined vines can be cool!
Only four wineries in one afternoon: Rombauer, Duckhorn, Grgich Hill estates and Hagefen cellars. The tally’s not too bad considering it was only 5 hours that we did this…LOL.
For us the important thing was this: take your time. Wine is something to be savored and not to be rushed. We weren’t thinking about the number of wineries we covered in that time. Just so that we drove, it was easy to get to them! Combine your wine tour with a stay. Enjoy the wonderful food that can be had to complement the wines. Get out to see “old faithful”. You’ll see how enjoyable it is in our journalog here.
There it is. Our tips for a tipsy fruitful journey to wine land in northern California. Of course half a day is not enough! They call it Enotourism, and it is said that 4.5 million such visitors descend onto the valley each year. We promise ourselves to return and thoroughly enjoy the wine of Napa.
We made it here in June 2016 and decided we need to go back again