Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> A Visit to Napa Valley Part 1of 3

A Visit to Napa Valley Part 1of 3
Jim vacations in Napa Valley while we're skating on ice!

When central Indiana was buried under several inches of ice this past February, I was just able to make it out for our annual trip to Napa. We revisited with some ‘old friends’ and found some new places we think you’ll enjoy reading about, too.

Our trip began Thursday morning at Truchard in Carneros. We had visited with them five years ago and were excited to introduce some new people in our group to their wines. Truchard is located at the far southern end of Napa Valley in the Carneros region. Carneros is cooler than AVA’s further north and is known to produce some top notch Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Truchard’s 2007 Chardonnay had scored 91pts from Wine Spectator so it came as no surprise that the 2008 vintage was a solid hit. We tasted several other varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel. An easy drive from downtown Napa, they are a lovely place to get to know!

Truchard Vineyards, 3234 Old Sonoma Road, Napa 707-253-7153

One of the Truchard sons began managing vineyards for various wineries in the valley. He soon began bottling wine under his own label, John Anthony. The John Anthony tasting room is right in downtown Napa. Completely different from the picturesque vineyards and caves at Truchard, this place is all sleek and style. Despite their elegant appearance the staff could not have been more down-to-earth.

John stopped by to greet us, and left us in very capable hands with Tessa. I first learned about John Anthony wines after tasting his Cabernet some years ago, but now they are bottling a full range of varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and some special things under the counter you have to know about. This was a very nice experience that I heartily recommend. In addition to being a tasting room they are also a wine bar. You can purchase their wines for enjoying while relaxing in their salon. We took advantage of this over the weekend as they stay open later in the evening – uncommon in downtown Napa.

John Anthony, 1440 First Street, Napa 707-265-7711

Needing to eat we lunched at the popular Oxbow Market, a short 5-minute drive from John Anthony. The Oxbow public market reminded me of a small upscale version of the Indianapolis City Market. Great if everyone in your party wants something different! We scattered, and brought our delicious sandwiches, soups, tacos, and cupcakes back to a communal table for some much needed fortification. Now I understand why it is so popular - everything was delicious. In addition to ready-to-eat food, they also host a beautiful cheese shop, spice vendor, and more.

Oxbow Public Market, 610 First Street, Downtown Napa 707-265-6529

A quick 10-minute walk along the river brought to us Robert Craig’s tasting room in Napa. Not difficult to find but this was not your typical tasting room. It is located in an industrial park, and shares the building with, among others, a veterinarian. Not easily put off, we continued inside and found an upscale masculine tasting room that befit Robert Craig’s mountain Cabernets.

Robert Craig bottles four mountain appellation Cabernet Sauvignons, all of which they poured for us. I am an enormous fan of mountain fruit, and Robert Craig’s Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain, and Howell Mountain offerings had me grinning from ear-to-ear. They also offered Robert’s "weekday wine," a Mt. George Cabernet. Lower elevation than the others it stood out for being an immediately approachable big cabernet.

Robert Craig also produces a Bordeaux-style blend called Affinity. Many of you will remember the small allocation of 2007 that arrived at Grapevine Cottage last fall. Rated 96 points by Robert Parker it flew off the shelves! Well, we got a sneak preview of the 2008 that’s scheduled to be released this spring, and it was gorgeous. Watch those Grapevine Cottage e-mails carefully in case we get some!

Robert Craig Wines, 625 Imperial Way, #1, Napa 707-252-2250

That evening we dined on delicious tapas at Zuzu. Eclectic décor balanced by delicious tapas, Zuzu’s is highly acclaimed and definitely worth a visit. They don’t take reservations so dine early or be prepared for a wait. Their bar area is really small which contributes to the social vibe.

In case you haven’t tasted enough wine during the day, they have a nice wine list that compliments their food. I especially like the lamb chops with Moroccan barbeque glaze and spaghetti squash with thyme, goat gouda cheese, and apple cider syrup. They posted the barbeque sauce recipe on their website. I’ll definitely be trying it at home.

Zuzu, 829 Main St., Napa 707-224-8555