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  Napa Valley     [all categories]
  Napa Valley - Wineries to Visit
  Wine Trip Report

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Author Topic:   Wine Trip Report
Junior Member
posted 11-10-2013 01:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bubbawino     Edit/Delete Message
Newbie here but have read and used rec's here for awhile. Thanks to all for your great rec's.

Just wanted to agree on Venge. Love their wines, tastings, and people. Both times we went it was special experience. This last year took our daughter to celebrate her 21st birthday and she was in love with Venge Scouts Honor.

Dont know if you guys have tried Garguilo but it is every bit as great an experience as Venge and we love their wines. On the higher end of what we will spend on wine but well worth it.

Thanks again for your recs.


Junior Member
posted 10-16-2013 04:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mshight   Click Here to Email mshight     Edit/Delete Message
Hawkeye, Caldwell is expensive and I am not sure what is included in the regular tasting. He shares stories and the caves were beautiful. I think I remember reading on Trip Advisor they provide food which is why I scheduled our visit for 12 pm. We just lucked out to be included in a nice meal the folks joining us requested. I just received an email from Caldwell about their 2011 releases -- only 4 instead of 12 and in limited quantities because it was a tough year for winemakers.

The Habers were delightful -- not generally open to the public so it is an intimate experience. He was in the glass business and designed some really neat wine glasses. They were not cheap and I was afraid I would not get them back to NC in one piece so I did not purchase any. They served some cheeses and duck sausage which I really liked.

Our standout experiences on this trip were: Taste of Sonoma, Caldwell, Haber, Biale, Fontanella, Venge, and Reverie. T-Vine was definitely worth a visit because of their wine. Fortunately, a lot of wineries are realizing that it is not just the wine but the experience they provide to those of us visiting.

[This message has been edited by mshight (edited 10-16-2013).]


posted 10-16-2013 01:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkeye   Click Here to Email Hawkeye     Edit/Delete Message
Hi mshight,

WOW, what a great report.

We, too, love the movie, Bottle Shock. I have to watch it at least once a month. The music at the beginning is addicting and the helicopter shots are breathtaking. We also agree that their wines are marginal. At that time, we spent $40.00 pp for the movie tour and tasting. When we asked to taste some of their reds, they wanted additional money.

Venge is one of our favorites. In fact, I have a bottle of their 09 Family Reserve Cab out to take to a special dinner next Wednesday. Kirk Venge is also the winemaker at Tresspass which is also very good and a nice tasting. The owner does the hosting.

I'm sorry that your stay at the Stevenson Manor was not the best. We have always had a great stay there.

We have Haber Vineyards on our March schedule which will be a first for us. My visit with Ron Haber on the phone seemed like it would be a good visit.

I think I would like to do the Caldwell tasting. I have heard nothing but good things about it. However, when I inquired, I gulped at the tasting fee.

Thanks for taking the time to write your report. We all learn from this Board. When will you begin planning your next trip? :0



posted 10-15-2013 07:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for RichardSE     Edit/Delete Message

I know this is a little off topic, but I hope I'm not scolded too badly. I went to school in Davis, so I not only enjoyed visiting Napa, I also visited Amador County. Runquist is one of my favorites there as was Karly, but they sold out to Turley. A friend of mine in Hawaii owns Andis so we will be going to both when we're up there in a week after visiting Napa. We thought we would pass on Turley since we're visiting them in the Central Coast.


posted 10-15-2013 08:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for damombo   Click Here to Email damombo     Edit/Delete Message
Such wonderful detail - thank you for the effort you put into writing this. I feel like we were right there with you - of course, that could be because we just got back from our trip
I will have to work on my trip report and get it posted... you've set the bar kind of high, but I'll do my best.

PS - it is so nice to get a different perspective from others. It's always interesting to hear that a place whose wines you love are not necessarily wines that appeal to another - that's what makes the world go 'round (and otherwise, there wouldn't be enough wine to go 'round!)

[This message has been edited by damombo (edited 10-15-2013).]


Junior Member
posted 10-15-2013 05:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mshight   Click Here to Email mshight     Edit/Delete Message
Plymouth. We visited Vino Noceto, Easton, Turley and Runquist. We have been members of Amador Cellars for several years but did not have time to stop by there. We joined the wine club at Runquist this time. They make a variety of very good red wines with some lesser known varieties. Some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in CA are found in Amador County.


posted 10-14-2013 09:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for RichardSE     Edit/Delete Message
Thanks for the trip report. Can I ask where you went to in Amador County?


Junior Member
posted 10-14-2013 11:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mshight   Click Here to Email mshight     Edit/Delete Message
Thursday started with Chateau Montelena. We loved the movie Bottle Shock and we both read the Judgement of Paris so visiting here was a must do. The property was beautiful and the tasting was nice. We got a lot of information on the real story by George Tabor (on video)who was the only journalist at the Paris Tasting. The wine did not appeal to us because we enjoy the smaller family owned wineries but we enjoyed the visit.

Next stop was a recommendation from another winery because we love Zins. T-Vine is just at the edge of Calistoga and we thoroughly enjoyed our tasting with Kelly. They have small quantities of wonderful wines -- Zin,
Charbono, and some other lesser known varieties. Recommend this winery!

Next, Zahtila because they had great reviews on their Zins. We were a little disappointed because from Trip Advisor it sounded like it would be a really neat experience. We tasted with Laura, the winemaker and she seemed a somewhat distracted. We just stood at the bar and tasted one wine after another without much interaction:-( The wines were just okay.

Our fourth visit was to Lava Vine. The 2 guys were quite comical and the place was most unpretentious. People kept coming in and bellying up to the bar (and the place was not that large). We just got lost in the crowd and maybe that influenced our less than enthusiastic opinion about the wine. Ended up buying a bottle of olive oil.

On to Venge which was another of those special visits in Wine Country. That is one talented winemaker! The tasting was on the porch of this beautiful building and we received special attention since their appointments are very limited. We joined the club!

As you can tell, our emphasis is more on wine than food however, we had a delicious sandwich at the Calistoga Roastery -- avocado and bacon. YUM! We also discovered Castelvetrano olives. They are grown north of Scicily and are a bright green. I would never have bought them in a grocery story but they were served at Caldwell Winery. Best olives ever...and not easy to find. They do carry them at World Market if you have access to that store.

One thing I want to emphasize is that we had appointments at all the wineries we visited with the exception of Saddleback and we just stopped by there on the chance we could get in. Any negative experiences we had were not because we arrived unannounced.

Will be happy to answer any questions. This was our best CA wine visit ever. We also spent one day in Amador County and one day in Lodi -- must do if you love Zins!

Sorry this is such a long report but I had great advice from the folks on this forum and wanted to give back.


Junior Member
posted 10-14-2013 11:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mshight   Click Here to Email mshight     Edit/Delete Message
On our 3rd day we started out at Fontenella Family Vineyard which is a relatively new and beautiful operation. Jackie took us through the wines they have to offer out on the patio overlooking the vineyard. We were served delicious foods paired with the wines. In particular, there was a chilled corn soup that was divine with their chardonnay. The owner is rather young and has worked with some of the better established wineries in Napa. He has connections that allow him to buy some grapes from the Beckstoffer vineyards--very expensive and in high demand because they are considered top notch.

Our second visit was to Robert Sinskey which required no reservation. I had looked forward to this visit because they have received accolades for their tasting room and wines. The tasting room was kind of impersonal and the wines were not for us. On a positive note, the grounds were nice.

We were ahead of schedule and Jackie from Fontanella had recommended we stop at Saddleback (Nils Venge) since we had an appointment at Venge (Nils' son)later in the week. They were not really open for visitors but the person that was there working on his own private label wine said he would be glad to do a tasting with us. The standout wine for us was a merlot which we do not usually buy. Quite good! As a side note... we found that there were so many connections in wine country. Nils' son is a good friend of the Fontanella Vineyards owner. Many of the younger wine makers got their start with their dads or from working with other great winemakers. Loved getting recommendations from folks on places we had not even thought about visiting.

Our next visit that day was to Goosecross. We had a nice, relaxed tasting with Michael. Though the wines did not appeal to us, being outside overlooking the vineyards made it more special. We encountered an issue here with four fairly young folks and the females must have taken a bath that morning in their cologne of choice. That is the worst possible thing to have to endure when you are trying to taste wine. If we had been inside a tasting room, we could not have tolerated it. UGH!!!

Then on to Reverie, which by the way, does not charge a tasting fee. Very unusual in Napa. One of the best wine tasting experiences ever! We were fortunate to get Andrew Kiken, son of the wine maker and owner. He talks very fast and at first I could not understand him very well but we had a ball. It is a walking tour and Andrew adds lots of humor and games to the experience. Some of the best wine we had in our entire visit!!! Their signature wine is named after Andrew (A S Kiken. Fill in the other "S". We joined the club and eagerly await our first shipment. Andrew also recommended "Cook" in St. Helena which is a restaurant partially owned by his dad. He called and made a reservation for us. The place is very small and we ordered the mussel and sausage appetizer he suggested -- YUM. The risotto with scallops and the summer veggies with reduced marinara sauce were also delicious!

We checked into the Stevenson Manor that night. I had made our original reservation for Monday and Tuesday night but decided to stay one additional night in Calistoga. I made a separate reservation for that night. Before leaving home, I sent a message to their customer service email address asking if we could put the two reservations together and stay all 3 nights in the same room. I never received a response and when we arrived was told we would have to move to another room after the second night. By that time we had accumulated some wine and it was just plain irritating to have to pack all of that and our suitcases so someone from the hotel could move it to another room while we were visiting wineries. Had they told me in advance, I would have been okay. I did receive an apology after I sent a complaint when we got back home. As they say, two trips in one!

Tuesday was our Howell Mountain Day. We started out at O'Shaughnessy with Sawyer Riley. This was a beautiful winery, nice tasting and we enjoyed the Chardonnay here. Good directions from Hawkeye on finding the location going up the mountain. It would have been very easy to miss the entrance had we been coming down the mountain. The wine there is good but on the expensive side.

We did drive up to Black Sears but our understanding is that the wine maker there does most everything himself so during harvest, he just cannot entertain people at a tasting. Totally understand that!

Next we visited Outpost Winery and had a very nice tasting with Rich. This wine maker (Thomas Brown) makes and bottles wine for a number of small specialty folks as well, including Shafer (which has a 10 year waiting list) and Tom Seaver. They sell by email list and when you receive that message you had better contact them ASAP if you want any wine. Excellent cabernet and zin!

We then visited Burgess and tasted with Jackie, who was very nice. The place itself was not very welcoming. There was little parking area and we could not even tell where to go for the tasting. Mr Burgess was out front getting the maintenance fellow to move his truck but basically ignored us. Maybe it was an off day for them:-) They do have a nice reserve Bordeaux blend.

While we were at Caldwell Vineyards, a tour guide we met told us to call Ron Haber and request a visit, which we did. Our last visit this day was with him and his wife, Sue Marie on their beautiful back porch overlooking the vineyards. Wonderful wine and another standout experience on this trip!

Our 21st Anniversary was the next day and we spent it in Sonoma County. I will not go into the wineries we visited but we did have the most wonderful dinner at Solbar Solage in Calistoga. We were seated outside near the beautiful fountain. A very special evening.

Next post....Thursday at Calistoga area wineries.

[This message has been edited by mshight (edited 10-14-2013).]


Junior Member
posted 10-14-2013 09:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mshight   Click Here to Email mshight     Edit/Delete Message
Sorry it took me so long to get around to this report. We had a great trip to Napa and Sonoma over Labor Day. Spent 3 nights in Napa, 3 nights in Calistoga and 3 nights in Sacramento. Flying into Sacramento is the way to go vs San Francisco.

We stayed at the Old World Inn in Napa. Room was small but comfortable and the location was good. Breakfasts were delicious!

Our first day there was spent at the Taste of Sonoma event at MacMurray Farm in Healdsburg. Almost every winery in Sonoma County was there with wine for tasting. The huge tents were divided into areas like Alexander Valley, Dry Creek, etc...Restaurants provided lots of food to go with the wine. It was very organized, an amazing day and I highly recommend it!

Now, for the wineries we visited....Sunday we started out at Biale with Tom Skinner. Wonderful tasting experience and the wine (mostly Zin) was great. We joined the Black Chicken Society.

Next we were fortunate to be included in an intimate lunch in the most unique setting -- a totally round room in John Caldwell's cave. Food and wine was divine and everything you have ever heard about John Caldwell is true. He is irreverent, funny, outspoken, entertaining and makes great wine (and expensive). His wife, Joy, provided some of the best food we have ever eaten. This was one of the most amazing experiences of our entire trip.

Our next visit was at Hall Rutherford, based on recommendations from this forum. The tour was impressive as was the facility. Even with all our trips to wine country, we had our first barrel tasting here. The tasting room with the chandelier was absolutely breathtaking and our tour guide was friendly. The overall atmosphere seemed a little pretentious and the wine was not for us but I am glad we visited there.

Dinner was at Bottega and unfortunately we were still so full from lunch that we did not order much. The food was good though.

I will continue with the report in my next post.


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