Our Napa wine tour came together in one hours notice. Trip planning needs to have some scheduled spontaneous time so that you can act on inspiration. I realize that scheduled spontaneous time is a play on words, but I don’t mean it that way. We purposely had nothing scheduled for our first two days in San Francisco other than the general idea to explore a little. The night before our flight, inspiration hit as we discussed how someday we should take a tour of the vineyards. The conversation quickly escalated to “Well damn it, let’s do it tomorrow!” followed by a call to the hotel concierge and the plan that we would be picked up at the airport by a driver and taken straight to the vineyards.
It still hadn’t hit me until we were 20,000 feet up. Napa wineries with our own driver bringing us from winery to winery, giddy up! Our man picked us up right on time and whipped out a map of the California wineries…there were many to pick from. We decided to pick two places that we knew of, and leave a couple up to aimless wanderings.
The drive took us just over an hour from the airport. The first stop was Sattui Winery, the driver’s choice. We walked in and I was slightly taken aback by the small mobs of people. Not the best first impression, tell me I’m not trapped on an upscale version of a sight-seeing tour! There is a wrap around bar at Sattui and there were about 50 people in various stages of their wine tasting. It was Monday, don’t these people have jobs?? We impatiently stalked out numerous spots and then charged forward at the first sign of opening. The short wait was worth it, the Sattui wines were all pretty decent. One in particular stood out, Sattui Napa Gamay, a light red table wine that begged to be drank all summer long on a deck. I quickly scratched off an order form. “Let’s get a couple cases!” the over enthusiastic Fiance said. I managed to get out of there with a 4 bottle order.
Now that we were warmed up, we hit the anticipated highlight of the tour, Rombauer Vineyard. Rombauer is theFiance’s favorite chardonnay after we randomly ordered it one evening for dinner. The drive up to the vineyard and the view from the vineyard were gorgeous. An old dog greeted us when we opened the door and boldly tried to eat anything he could get his chops on before we shooed him away. The tasting room was small but only about 10 people were inside. We moved in between 2 older couples of old gray-haired dudes and fake-boobed ladies, and a younger couple. The younger couple poured back a few of their wines. This is Rombauer wine – you don’t pour back Rombauer wine unless you are an idiot. I thought maybe they were trying to look like wine snobs, but instead they looked like wine fools. I couldn’t help myself, I asked the guy how he could do such a thing, he just said he didn’t like it. Give that dude a box of Riunite and stop wasting the good stuff please.
While there was no reason to toss the Rombauer out, it was not phenomenal or jaw-dropping by any means. We had a great time trying out a bunch of the wines and got some nice wine glasses as souvenirs, but didn’t order any wine. This was a shocking turn of events.
Frank family was the third vineyard we chose to visit. It was theFiance’s #2 chardonnay although I was not a big fan of it. I have always felt Meridian was better tasting and 1/3rd the cost. The first station was champagne. The guy poured, we drank, he poured some more, we drank some more, this was my idea of a wine tour. We went through 3 or 4 champagnes, they were all spectacular. There was also an explanation on how some vineyards have to call their wines “sparkling white wine” vs. “champagne” but Frank Family could keep calling theirs “champagne”. However, the “champagne” was hitting me pretty good so I can’t remember the specifics.
What I can remember is that the next room had the Frank Family zinfandel. My first experience with wine was sneaking pulls off my mother’s white zinfandel and wondering why people would drink wine. Zinfandel is a red wine, and Frank Family zinfandel is so tasty the wine guide called LPR. LPR stood for a number of things in his household, including “liquid panty remover”. As the wine entered my mouth after his explanation, and the flavors took hold, I was only thinking “Can I get more of this please?” and “I hope LPR lives up to its name after this tour”. Now that I am engaged I can’t tell you the answer, but let’s just say I got more pours of the wine and I am grinning ear to ear right now.
The Frank Family chardonnay was served at almost room temperature. I was always under the impression that you chill white wine and serve red wine at room temp. I was wrong. The chardonnay was very, very good. I don’t have all those hoighty-toighty wine descriptions down – It started out light and slightly fruity, and then had a modest buttery finish that left me opening my mouth for another gulp.
After buying 2-6 bottles of Frank Family it was off to our final winery, Flora Springs. We pulled up and it was 415pm – Uhoh, the winery was closed. The door was still open so we scrambled in to see if we could still get a quick tasting in. Greg the manager was kind enough to let us come in. This would prove to be great fortune for both us and Greg’s sales quota.
Neither of us had heard of Flora Springs before because they don’t have broad distribution for some reason. Greg poured us the first wine, it was a sauvignon blanc, and it was the best white wine I had drank. Sauvignon Blanc is drier than chardonnay, but I usually have drank crappy low-quality versions apparently. This stuff made my eyes water and I exclaimed “Jesus Christ this is good!” and then apologized in case he was offended. In my view of the world when you exclaim Jesus Christ over a good thing, then why is it a bad thing, you are associating Jesus with something that is giving you joy – But I digress, back to the wine.
After a full glass of sauvignon, Greg brought out the chardonnay…again served almost at room temperature. I took a sip and my eyes watered, it was that tasty. TheFiance’s eyes got wide as she drank, I thought she was “in the wrapper” as they say, but she just literally could not believe her own tastebuds. (I just erased my repeated attempts to describe what simply has to be tasted. ) The chardonnay was the best wine I have ever drank in my life.
At least it was the best wine I had ever drank until Greg poured the last wine of the day, Trilogy, Flora Spring’s cabernet blend of some kind. One mouthful and my eyes watered from how good it tasted, and I once again blurted out “Jesus Christ!”, and once again apologized. Greg was laughing at this point, theFiance was debating how we could afford multiple cases, and I was drunk. We scribbled down an order way too big for our wine rack, thanked Greg profusely, and stumbled outside to take this picture before enjoying our ride back to San Francisco.
I’m not good with waiting to do things. Sometimes that gets me into trouble. But choosing to go on a private Napa Wine tour, rather than waiting until next time, gave us the highlight of our trip to San Francisco and a lifelong memory.