Fall has got to be one of the nicest times of the year to visit Napa Valley, home to some of the world’s best wines. It was a beautiful Sunday as our group finally hit the two-lane highways leading to Napa County after driving an hour and a half from the city. We passed by quaint buildings surrounded by rows and rows of grapevines, sang along to some mix-CDs I’d made in middle school and recently rediscovered, and enjoyed the warm rays of the sun following a rainy Saturday.
Over the course of a half day, we hit up three wineries, all with tasty wine and unique features and offerings. It was definitely one of the most relaxing and fun day trips I’d taken in a while and also allowed me to stock up on some quality wine for future Wine Wednesday meet ups!
V. Sattui Winery
We entered our first winery V. Sattui around lunchtime to the salivating smells of tri-tip and various other barbecued meats wafting from the outdoor grill. I ordered a porchetta sandwich and enjoyed the pork roast along with bacon bits-covered potato salad in pure bliss, picnicking with my group of friends in the grassy area by the winery buildings. There were so many people – from families with children to tourists to couples – all sitting outside in the warm sun, enjoying a meal and chatting over wine. We split a bottle of Pinot Noir during lunch and explored the grounds before entering the buildings for wine tasting.
V. Sattui Winery was originally established in 1885, with its Napa location opening in 1976. The buildings were built from stone and wood and gave off a classic European vibe. I think the coolest feature of the winery was its picnic area. The grounds surrounding the buildings had plenty of picnic tables and benches. The atmosphere felt very lively but it wasn’t crazy or overcrowded – the place had just the right amount of people.
Our group opted for the Reserve Wine Tasting at the upstairs tasting room, which gave us a better selection of wines to taste for $20. Our officially-dubbed “wine detective” Christine was amazing and spent the next hour or so explaining the intricacies of the wine we tried, even giving us extra pours and letting us try some really expensive variants. I ended up tasting their Chardonnay (buttery), Dry (Secco) Riesling, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, a couple of Cabernet Sauvignons, and several other reserve bottles. After a quick picture in front of the fountain, we were off to our next winery!
If V. Sattui was the smaller picnic winery with an amazing backyard, then Sterling in comparison was more like a Disneyland winery. That’s certainly how I felt as I lined up in front of a ticket counter to purchase entrance tickets and proceeded to line up again for the gondola ride to get to the actual winery a bit higher up in the hills. Among a throng of Korean tourists, we got into our gondola and snapped some quick pics during the three-minute ride. In no time we were tasting the wine and enjoying the amazing views offered from the elevated walkways.
The wine tasting setup was a bit more tourist-oriented, with different stations along a route with different kinds of wines. We would hit up a station, sip some wine, take some pictures on the walkways, check out out some of the wine-making machinery indoors, and repeat the process. At one point one of the Korean tourists carrying an extremely expensive-looking professional video camera walked up to Glara and Stephanie and proceeded to interview them. Turns out our friends are going to be famous – the guy worked for one of the biggest news companies in Korea!
We made it to our final station and were pretty awestruck by the sweeping views of wine country below. After snapping some more group pictures and sitting and chatting for a bit, we took the gondola back down to catch our final winery before the end of the day.
It was the golden hour as we pulled up to our final winery of the trip, my personal favorite Domaine Carneros. Apart from the absolutely royal-looking mansion-winery, the place had some breathtaking panoramic views of the fields and scenery surrounding the building. Domaine Carneros definitely reminded me of Versailles, or some similar European-style mansion.
As we were being seated to one of the outdoor tables, the hostess informed us that we would only have 20 minutes or so to order anything on the menu before the winery closed for the evening. Our server did quite an incredible job of going through all the wines we ended up trying (three different wine tasting sets) – naming each one, pointing out the unique qualities, and adding in his own tips and recommendations – all in record time.
Domaine Carneros is best known for its sparkling wines, which were lightly carbonated and all very delicious. Still, the red wines definitely gave the sparkling ones a run for their money, and I even ended up purchasing a bottle of their Pinot Noir to try at home. We ended the day with some more pictures and also ran into a very friendly and chatty grandpa who’s lived in Napa for over 40 years and kept us entertained as we headed back to our cars.
And with that we bid farewell to wonderful Napa Valley, convinced that we would be back sometime in the not-too-distant future. Special shout out to the Wine Wednesday crew on this trip – Vicki, Shannon, Glara, Stephanie, Chandler, Jay, Josh, and Jason – thanks for the fun times and great memories!