“So, you are from Seattle.. what do you think of Washington wine?”
I was asked this question about 3 times from 3 different wineries in Napa Valley this past weekend.
” I enjoy Washington wine, as well as Napa wines, Italian wines, Spanish wines, etc.” It seemed like an odd question to be asked so many times. Talking about this with my mom, we came to the conclusion that Napa, California in general, may be getting annoyed of Washington, since we make some outstanding wines. We are giving California a run for their money. They may feel threatened, since Washington wine country is becoming more known throughout the world. For the longest time, California had their niche in the US wine market. But we are closing in on Napa Valley and producing high quality vino!
With that said, it seems funny that this Washington girl would head over to California for wine, since we have some amazing wines in this state (which was solidified by the worried questions of the Napa Valley wine salesman). But, there are times when one needs to leave town for the weekend and find sun. And that is what I did. My mom and I hopped on a plane and met up with some friends in the heart of California wine country.
I attempted to go on a budget this time, which is extremely hard to do in Napa (those who have been are nodding their heads in agreement). There have been occasions where I have become carried away in the amount of wineries I visited in one day, as well as the need to bring many bottles home. This time, my finances were low and I had to stay on a budget. Times are tough at the moment and many people are not throwing down $100 on a Napa Cabernet right now. People want to spend $20 a bottle of wine. Napa is feeling the pressure and have dropped their prices, slightly. Still, it is very rare to find a winery that sells a bottle of wine under $20… at least the one’s I visited.
Most wineries in Napa charge a tasting fee. It can range between $15-$50. You are able to taste 3-5 wines and some places the waive the fee if you purchase a bottle of wine. I (somewhat) planned my visits this time, so every last cent I was not just on tasting fee’s. We were able to hit a few new wineries this time, which is difficult since I have loyalties to certain wineries. My repeats this trip were, Cakebread Cellars, Salvestrin and Flora Springs (check previous blog Washington vs. California wines). The three new wineries I explored were Frogs Leap, Chimney Rock and Domaine Chandon.
Here are some updates on the new wineries I visited!
Tasting fee: $25
Frogs Leap has sentimental meaning to me, since as a child I remember my parents enjoying Frogs Leap wines. I have heard many wonderful things about the winery itself, in person I was stunned. What gorgeous grounds! And on top of that, family friendly. I saw kids running through the vineyards, tweens playing bocci ball and adults basking in the sun relaxing in Adirondack chairs. We lounged on the deck, enjoying the 5 tastings poured right at our table – along with a small cheese platter. The three outstanding wines in my book were the Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Petite Sirah. But all of the wines were superb and reliable… and the winery itself is a must see. Even if you have your children in tow.
Chimney Rock Winery, Stags Leap/Yountville
Tasting fee: $20-45
What do you do if you have a 1987 bottle of Chimney Rock Cabernet in your wine collection? You visit the winery (and open that bottle soon). This was a pick of my mom’s. Chimney Rock is located in the Stags Leap district and are known for their kick butt Cab’s. But world-renowned Cab’s lead to out of this world prices. I assumed this winery would be out of my league. I just knew when I walked in, Wine Spectator would be checking palates to see if I was worthy of stepping into the building. I was prepared to be kicked out for being a novice. Alas, I was wrong. Talk about a place I assumed to be pretentious, but was the opposite. They were very willing to help a novice on her journey to learn wines. Yes, pricey wines… but I tasted an 2006, 2007 and 2008 Cab and was shocked at how different each vintage tasted. All so different, yet all so silky and sleek. Mom joined their wine club, so I am excited to enjoy bottle sometime soon (probably on a special occasion, since their wine was the cost of my childs college tuition).
Domaine Chandon, Yountville
Tasting fee: $15
If you are in your early to mid twenties, single, wear over sized sunglasses, skinny jeans and Jimmy Choo’s, this is your hang out. Chandon is very pretty and makes decent bubbles. But Napa offers other excellent sparkling wines, without the intensity to dress up in heels. This was our first stop during our Napa weekend. We purchased a glass of bubbles (you don’t have to taste, you can also purchase bubbles by the glass as well as small bites) and a Panini to share. We basked in the sun, sipped rose bubbles, planned our next stop and jetted off. I am glad we visited, but I have no need to go back. Unless I find myself suddenly single and need to pick up on 23-year-old men in skinny jeans.
My trip was fantastic. I had great wine, bonded with my mom and was able to say good-bye to some dear friends who are moving to the UK. However, I am ready to hit the Washington wine market… I need to help keep California nervous of Washington wines. Hmmm, what shall I pop open tonight?