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Discussion in 'Food & Travel' started by Green Tabasco, Jul 11, 2005.
There's nothing wrong with Gallo
Gallo is an enormous wine-making and distributing enterprise. There are wines with Gallo on the label that are better as vinegar. But the name "Gallo" is vaguely akin to Chevrolet. You might not want to own/drive a Cobalt or (shudder) a Corvair, but a Corvette or a Camaro ZL1 is a different story entirely. You're gonna pay a lot, but then a William Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 is going to run $20 a bottle.
I'm headed to Wine Country tomorrow for this event:
I'll report back on Monday.
I hope you get a taste of Lambert Ridge '06 Cab...
...but that would be a matter of divine intervention.
Like I said, there's nothing wrong with Gallo.
It was a very nice weekend in the Dry Creek Valley.
Dry Creek Valley 30 April 2011 by billreeves_sc, on Flickr
Wineries where we bought a fair amount of wine:
Göpfrich Winery -- they had some German style wines which you don't see very often in this area. They also had a visiting winemaker from Germany who brought a bunch of his wine -- Rieslings and such. My dad liked the dry white wine (Auslese); my wife liked the "Spätlese" semi-sweet white wines so we got a bunch of that.
Armida Winery -- my mom liked their "Poizin".
Frick Winery -- they had a bunch of different wines with grapes that we did not see elsewhere -- Cinsault, Carignane, Counoise.
We went to a number of other wineries but the above were were we did most of our buying.
Nothing personal, but I hate you.
the line forms on the right...
Now that I live 45 minutes away from Napa, I've started taking more of an interest in wine.
Someone tell me more good stuff that I need to know, like that 2007 California Cabernet wines are generally good. I need some kind of jumping off point to explore, since there's so damn many types of wine out there.
The critics' favorite wine importer in the U.S. is Kermit Lynch. His one and only shop is at 1605 San Pablo Avenue. His wines are neither Californian nor particularly Californian in style but damn they are good. I don't think it's possible to buy a bad Kermit Lynch wine.
I prefer Sonoma to Napa, as Sonoma is less corporate.
This stuff is some of my favorite Californian wine...
Yes -- what you find in Napa is really geared towards the tourists who come in by the busload. The smaller places are very expensive and most charge a tasting fee these days.
Sonoma is farther away so it gets fewer tourists. There are still plenty of places which can handle big groups, especially in Sonoma valley itself (from the town of Sonoma north on route 12) -- when you get further north, up into the Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley the places get smaller and more intimate. Some of them are just shacks in the middle of the vineyards -- not much ambiance, but great wines. Still expensive, though.
I haven't been further north, but there is also wine in Mendocino county.
To the south, there are some wineries in the Santa Cruz / Gilroy area, but not as many as you get to the north.
There are a lot more deals to be had further out. Paso Robles and the Santa Barbara hills are getting more popular. Lately we've been stopping in Calaveras County on the way up to skiing in Bear Valley -- the foothills (Calaveras, El Dorado and Amador counties) have plenty of good wine at very reasonable prices.
Anyways, to Demo's question -- there is a lot of wine to get familiar with. Probably the first thing you should figure out is, what kind of grape do you like? California wines are generally labeled by the type of grape (as opposed to European wines, which are generally labeled by the region).
The most common ones you will see are (white) Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and occasionally Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and some others; (red) Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah (known as Shiraz in Australia), Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and others you will see less often.
Once you figure out what grape you like, you can pick wineries based on the region. Napa Valley is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnays, Dry Creek Valley for its Zinfandels, etc.
If you're just getting started, it doesn't hurt to go to some of the big wineries in Napa and take the tours -- they are used to giving people the basics. Summer weekends get crowded (and don't go up there when there's a race at Sears Point / Infineon Raceway -- highway 37 gets backed up all the way between 101 and 80) but it's a lovely day trip for a summer day.
And another thought...
...most people drink wine with meals, so, obviously, what you are eating will dictate (some) what wine you drink. I don't think there are such rigid rules that you can ONLY have certain types with certain foods, but drinking a Cabernet with trout almondine might be a questionable choice. Most people would think so.
Reading stuff online will be somewhat helpful, I think, but the bottom line is what you really like, which requires some (fun) experimenting.
If you go to Napa and do the loop -hopefully with a designated driver- these are some of my favorite stops:
Domaine Chandon: You can zip the best champagne in Napa at a balcony with a great view of the valley and the vineyards. Good place to start or finish. They have also a nice restaurant, but a bit pricey. It's probably best to eat at the delis.
Robert Mondavi: It's probably the most touristy and commercial, but there's always lots of action, like concerts and other events, and the wine is excellent.
Opus One: Across the street from Robert Mondavi, arguably the best American made wine, although expensive. Nice architecture, the building is shaped like a cut-off pyramid and you can drink at the terrace.
Sterling: It has an air tram, and the best view of the Napa Valley. Reason enough not to miss it, but the wines are also good.
Stag's Leap: A small winery on the lesser traveled side, but it produces some of my favorite red wines. Great Cabernets.
ZD: Very small and secluded, best Chardonay in Napa.
Hess Collection: If you're into art, this winery has a very interesting art gallery. Quite awesome collection in my view.
There is also this winery in St. Helena, on the left side of the road going south, that has the best deli, and picnic tables. I can't think of the name, but they got the best breads, cheeses, cold cuts, olives, all the good stuff that goes well with wine. I can't believe I don't remember it, we always stop there. But it's hard to miss on the road, you can see the picnic tables.
Anyway, having said all that, it doesn't matter were you stop. Sometimes it's best to forget to make a list and just stop wherever it looks like it's a cool place.
Lake County has very nice wine. Jed Steele is a very good producer.
Thanks for the tips & advice guys. I have been to Sterling actually, and a couple others so far. My parents are coming to visit next week, and they want to spend a night in Napa. So I'll be up there again checking things out.
Back in the day, I would drive up with my high school friends to Napa. The drinking age was 21 but nobody carded. No such thing as tasting fees. At most of the wineries, we would be the only visitors in the tasting room and a member of the proprietor's family, if not the proprietor himself, would be pouring. Visible enthusiasm would often be met by the employee pulling out a vintage bottle and asking what we thought of that.
Things have changed. Not all for the bad, not at all. But I do miss the Napa that nobody cared about.
I was fortunate enough to live in the small town of Traben-Trarbach West Germany from '84 to '87 and visiting a lot of vineyard tasting rooms along the Moselle River. I also did a lot of tasting along the Rhine.
I have to say, I went to Napa a few years ago when I was in California and did not enjoy it one bit. Too big, too corporate and I couldn't believe they had the gall to charge for tastings. From reading this thread it seems like I would have been much better served to have gone to Sonoma, although I didn't really have the time.
That is one advantage of wine producing regions in Australia - aside from the Barossa Valley, most of them are still a good mix of big producers alongside small family wineries. And even in that respect the Barossa isn't too bad.
Couldn't agree less.
Out of the 3 wine vacations I went on recently (South Africa, Chile, Napa), I thought Napa Valley would be the worst but after visiting all 3 I found it to be the best. Yes they charge but it is so easy to get coupons. the discounts are included in most hotel stays in the area, or you can get them from Napa Valley websites. And the vineyards are so close to each other, you can still get pretty ripped for pretty cheap, pretty quickly.
The reason I thought Napa would be the worse is for the very reasons you mention. But when you end -up saving so much money by getting good wine straight from the wineries, a $5 tasting fee seems pretty inconsequential.
When you consider that the wine produced in the Napa Valley is among the best in the world and prime vintages are prized to such an extent that $50+ bottles of wines from the mid-to-late Naughties are relatively commonplace, charging for tastings is simply intuitive.
You can say the same thing about a number of regions in the world. Even in Bordeaux tasting fees were less prevalent than Napa.
I had no complaints about the quality of the wines, but as a vineyard experience I found Napa decidedly subpar. Next time I'm in California, I'll definitely be checking out other areas before I go back.
Tasting fees in Napa are a matter of economics. Napa is very close to a large metropolitan area which attracts a lot of tourists already. The other world famous wine regions are not nearly so close to a major world city. Napa probably gets ten times as many visitors as any other wine region in the world, but they don't have ten times as many wineries or produce ten times as much wine, so tasting fees came about as a way to keep the crowds down. I'm not saying I agree with it, but it's understandable how it happened.
Sonoma is just as close to San Francisco as Napa, and most Sonoma vineyards let you taste for free.
Tasting fees are bullshit, no matter how you try to explain them
It is bullshit since more often than not I'm gonna leave their place of business with a bottle or more. But in some of the free tastings I've experienced, the quality of wine in the tastings was much lower. And that misses the whole point of wine tasting. If I'm gonna splurge on a bottle that is more expensive than what I would normally buy, I wanna know what it tastes like first.