Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> Charlene's Napa Trip 2017 Part One

Charlene's Napa Trip 2017
Part One

This spring, Fishers Wine Gal Charlene Strebing traveled to Napa Valley and wrote this interesting and very informative travelogue about it.

After our arrival Sunday afternoon in Sacramento, and about an hour drive to Napa, we were able to fit in a tasting at Trefethen before getting the keys to our rental house.    One of the few remaining family owned and operated wineries in Napa, Trefethen suffered significant damage to their original barn and tasting room built in 1886 when a 6.0 earthquake hit the valley in  August of 2014.  All of the wines they produce are sourced from their 500-plus acres comprised of 63 distinct vineyard blocks.  We enjoyed a seated tasting in the salon of their historic family residence which serves as the interim tasting room until re-construction of the barn is completed.    

Shannon was our energetic host and guided us through a tasting which included their dry Riesling, Chardonnay, Quandary ( a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling-it tasted like key lime pie in a glass),100% Malbec, 100% Cabernet Franc (notes of sour cherry and cranberry), and Cabernet Sauvignon.  A special treat was a taste of their 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from their library (very smooth with a finish of cassis, cocoa and black pepper) .  We learned about their “bio dynamic” farming practices which exceed requirements to be certified “organic”.  They utilize solar power, recycle wastewater for irrigation, use vegetable oil to run their tractors, and never use chemicals; if there is a pest issue, they would rather tear out vines rather than use pesticides. Trefethen Family Winery

Dinner that evening was at Bistro Don Giovanni on the recommendation of a local resident and fellow taster at Trefethen.  He told us to call and tell them the “mayor” sent us, we were able to get a last minute reservation although we doubted he was the real mayor of Napa!  We ate outside on their lovely deck and enjoyed wonderful Italian food including outstanding homemade pasta with meatballs, braised short ribs over risotto, lamb shoulder over polenta, and sautéed skate wing.  Proof once again to always ask “the locals” for restaurant recommendations.

Conn Creek
Our second day of tasting dawned cold and rainy, Napa has experienced the wettest year in recorded history this year, and we started our day at Conn Creek for their AVA Barrel Blending experience, an International Wine Tourism award winner.  

We arrived and were greeted with a glass of Anthology, their Bordeaux-style blend, while we waited for our experience to begin in their barrel blending room.  Upon entering the room you see 15 barrels of Napa Cabernet lined up against the wall, three barrels for each different style which included soft, supple, complex, rich and bold.  There was also a section of barrels that comprised the traditional Bordeaux blending varietals of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot.  Detailed information about the terroir of each of Napa’s 16 AVA’s and the characteristics they impart to wine was provided by our knowledgable host, Lyn.  

Our table was set with glasses of Cab representing each of the different styles as well as beakers and pipettes, it was like a science lab for the wine geek!  Half of the 66 soil types in the world are found in Napa Valley (an area 30 miles long by 5 miles wide) and thus its diverse geological makeup is like a “pantry for the winemaker”.  After tasting through the different styles of Cab, and the blending varietals, we came up with two recipes of our own personal blend and chose our favorite.  We then took our beakers to the barrels and filled them according to our own personal secret recipe, transferred the wine from the beaker to a bottle, corked the bottle, designed a label and were able to leave with a truly personalized souvenir from Napa.  

Lyn said we should wait at least 8 months before we drink our creations to allow some aging time in bottle.  I think a guys vs. gals or couple vs. couple competition should ensue in about 8 months, looks like we will be having a good party this December!!  Our experience ended with a tasting of current releases from Conn Creek.  

We all agreed this was an invaluable experience and increased our wine knowledge incredibly, a don’t miss experience and a group favorite of our trip!  One take away for me was the term “Rutherford dust” and how it is necessary to make good wine.  It refers to an “addictive” dusty tannin effect which lends hints of cocoa powder to the wine and is created from alluvial soils which are volcanic in origin and because of their sandy nature, encourage good drainage and fertile growing conditions. 

Lunch at nearby Rutherford Grill (no corkage fee) was recommended by the staff at Conn Creek and enjoyed by all, and also was close to our next visit, Frog’s Leap. 

Next Week - On to Frog's Leap....
Charlene's Napa Trip Part 3, Venge and Opus One