The Dialog Wines Blog
If you have never visited “Wine Country,” the Napa Valley may be a great place to start. I recently had the opportunity to explore the Valley and visit some incredible wineries, eat at some places of great character and best of all, meet some really great people. With the tremendous growth of the Napa Valley wine industry (there are a reported 400+ wineries in Napa Valley), I’ve heard that it isn’t nearly as friendly as it used to be. However, my experience is that the vintners, proprietors and employees of Napa Valley wineries are some of the nicest, most genuine people you will ever meet. Over my next few blog posts, I’d like to share some of these experiences with you.
To give you just a little bit of background, Napa Valley lies between two mountain ranges, the Vaca Mountain Range and the Mayacamus Mountain Range. As a wine producing region, the Valley is made up of a series of AVA’s (American Viticultural Areas), each with their own distinction and charm. If you are at all interested in learning more about Napa Valley Wines, a quick study of a map could make a big difference to your understanding of the region and why certain wines develop the personality and character that they do. With that being said, I’m not going to give you a geography lesson, I’m going to tell you a little bit about my Napa Valley Experience.
With an early rise on a beautiful September California day, we began our Napa Valley tour in fine form with a scheduled visit to Robert Mondavi Winery, perhaps the most famous winery in the United States. Its Friday, the sun is beating down and the Valley is buzzing because growers are preparing for harvest.
Seeing how it could be strongly argued that Robert Mondavi is truly the patriarch of the Napa Valley and that his brilliance and obsession with creating and then promoting great wines from the Napa Valley, I think it is only fitting that his winery in Oakville is our first stop. We arrive at 10:00 am but already the winery is busy with plenty of other tourists looking around the property. Fortunately, we had a friend make us a reservation and we were lucky enough to have a more intimate tour followed by a tasting.
Our tour guide Nancy, started us off with a glass of the Mondavi Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010 as we walked toward the famous To Kalon vineyard located just west of the winery. This was to be the first of many enjoyable Napa Sauvignon Blanc consumed on this trip. The wine is crisp, dry with bright acidity and notes of lemon rind and fresh cut grass. And although it was only 10:30 a.m., the wine was extremely refreshing as the sun continued to rise in the sky.
From the vines, we picked Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Each grape looking and tasting a little different from the next. Round and plump, it appeared as though the Merlot was ready for harvest . Nancy explained that like most of the other wineries in the area, Mondavi was behind schedule in their harvest and the Cabernet Sauvignon would not be ready to be harvested for at least another few weeks. The day’s hot sun was a welcoming sight for the growers of the Napa Valley.
I peppered Nancy with questions and like a wine pro, she brilliantly answered each and every one of them. After we completed our tour and tasting, I came away feeling very impressed with the Robert Mondavi Winery. As Mondavi is now owned by Constellation and produces a huge amount of wine, I was really expecting the Winery to feel more like a factory, lacking personality and making average wines. I was wrong. The people that work at Mondavi love what they do and it became evident to me during the tour and perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that the wines we tasted were very good. The 2007 Napa Valley Reserve was truly a great wine but was it worthy of the 95 points it received from Wine Spectator? At the time of the tasting, I would have to say yes. Perhaps I was a prisoner of the moment. I left with two bottles in hand.
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