California: Napa

The drive to Napa was pretty (but cloudy and a little gloomy).  I thought Saulsalito looked like a place I’d want to visit next time.

We made it to our hotel in Napa (the city, in the county of Napa in the valley of Napa) and the wine tour picked us up at 10:30.

We’re not really wine people, but a good glass or two every once in a while is good.  But if you ever go to wine country, take Platypus Tours.  I can’t recommend them high enough.  I found them through trip advisor and with nearly 3500 reviews and an average rating of 5/5 stars, we were in good hands.

We were on a bus with 12 of us and our driver, Carl.  Carl is from Napa and talked to us about wine and the valley while driving us around.  He took us to small wineries and had scheduled private tours at 3 of the 4 wineries.  We were ready for a day of wine!

Our first stop was a winery that had only been open for a month, Dahl Vineyards in Yountville.  The owner of the winery lead the tasting for us.  He used to have a winery in Minnesota and moved to Napa a few years ago.  He had an unmatched passion for wine, he was so nice to all of us, and the setup was right out of a magazine.  We wished this tasting was last because we knew it couldn’t be topped.

They were just beginning to harvest the grapes, so we were allowed to try some.  They were much sweeter than I would have thought and quite tasty except lots of seeds.
Once we came out of the tasting, the clouds went away.  We learned that Napa is cloudy all morning and then before lunch, the sun comes out and it warms right up.  The weather was perfect.
 Then, we drove up farther north in the valley to St. Helena to Tudal Winery.
The tour provided lunch for us (as well as snacks on the bus) and we had a sophisticated picnic
We really liked this winery too.  The owner came out to speak to us, it was very laid back as they gave us the tour walking around the property.

We bought a bottle of wine here and when I got the trivia question right, I won a free bottle of wine too!

After lunch, we headed to Hagafen Winery further south.  We did not have a private tasting at this one, so we were mixed in with other tourists, and we all said we could have skipped this one.  By this point, we had been drinking a good bit of wine (and that includes pouring out a bunch) and there wasn’t anything special about this place.

Jim made a good point that at the other wineries, we didn’t get to pick what we tasted, so we tried what they thought is best, not what we know, but here, we tasted what sounded familiar to us.
Our last stop was Razi Winery tucked away off the road.  Like many of the wineries, it’s by appointment only.  Carl told us that Mr. Razi (for lack of remembering his name) is a quiet man but he makes very good wine.

I’m not sure if it was because we had already been to three wineries and were feeling quite good or if the wine was actually good (I think both), but we loved this wine.  When pouring one bottle, Mr. Razi said, “This wine goes especially well with gamey meat, duck in particular.”  Being duck hunters, Jim and Mr. David both got big eyes and sure enough, we left there with some duck wine.

We had a perfect day in Napa together.  Our group was fun and we went to all different but all extremely good wineries.  As Carl said, he should start a reality wine tour tv show, “strangers at 11, best friends by 5:00.”
The wine tour made our trip!  We loved it!  And now we have something to remember it by


A few things I learned about wine-

1. Only drink what you like.  Each winery told us to dump it if we didn’t like it.  They said don’t care what the ratings say or anything, just go off of what you think.  I wish I was that carefree to company if they don’t like my food.

2. The dryer the weather, the better the wine.  California is super dry and Napa hadn’t seen rain in 3 months.  While bad for most produce, the dryness makes the grapes concentrated and thus, better wine.

3. When you buy wine, turn it around and read the label.  “Produced and bottled by” means that the wine was made and bottled at that winery.  For example, Costco wine reads “cellared and bottled by” meaning that the grapes came from somewhere else but were then stored and bottled at the Napa winery.  While the name is the name, the wine in the bottle is not.

4. Red wine is better for you than white wine because as with other fruits and vegetables, the skin has all the nutrients and white wine is made without any skin from the grape.

5. Harvesting takes place from 3-7 in the morning.

6. Farm land in south Georgia costs about $2,000-$3,000 an acre.  In Napa, it goes from $400,000 to half a million an acre.  Thus, if you buy a bottle of wine with grapes from Napa, you cannot spend less than $30.

7. There’s a difference – vineyards grow grapes, while wineries make wine.

8. All of Napa Valley is protected wine country.  However, due to erosion, growing grapes on hillsides is not allowed unless you have been grandfathered in and those are lucky wineries.

9. Overnight, the movie “Sideways” ruined merlot.


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