I've had a nice long break from the real world. I was in Maryland for the holidays, California for a week, and then back in Durham where Monday was officially cancelled thanks to the south's inability to deal with snow. With the forecast headed toward the 70s later this week, the snow won't stick around for long and then I'm headed to the beach for a long weekend. I'll return to the real world eventually.
But let's go back to my trip to California. There were a lot of amazing parts of my break - my family's Chirstmas Eve party definitely being one of them - but our time in Napa Valley was 100% the highlight.
And OF COURSE, the two full days we spent wine tasting were my favorite days of the vacation.
I am sure that Napa is beyond gorgeous in the summer when the temeperatures are as high as the state's residents and grapes are still on the vines, but there's something special about Napa during the holidays. The weather was chilly, but I never needed a jacket during the day, and the holiday lights were magical. Most importantly, all the wineries were delightfully uncrowded. You definitely won't be disappointed if you visit wine country in the summer, but don't overlook the colder months!
Barry of Why Spit Napa Valley Wine Tours guided us through the many wineries of Napa, Sonoma, and the surrounding towns. He was AWEESOMMEE. I mean, he had a glass of champagne for everyone when he picked us up. You can't beat that. Plus, he made sure to get an idea of each person's wine preferences before the trip and planned our intinteries accordingly. If you take anything from this post, let it be that Barry rocks and you should have him take you around Napa. My favorite places ended up being the ones he recommended.
On Day One of wine tasting we visited:
- Sterlings Vineyards in Calistoga
- Joseph Cellars in Calistoga (Barry picked up our lunch while we were tasting)
- Peju Province Winery in Rutherford (we won this tasting at the JDRF Gala)
- Mumm Napa in Napa
- Darioush Winery in Napa
... and on Day Two:
Real talk - five vineyards was ambitious and we almost tried to do a sixth. It's a lot, A LOT, of wine. That picture up there is what happens when you try to take a picture after doing five tastings. We didn't even build in nap time between wine tasting and dinner. It was rough. Luckily, we had a recovery day between our tasting days.
My top four favorite places we visited are Joseph Cellars, ElevenEleven, Liana Estates, and Darioush. I absolutley loved the tours and wines at Joseph and ElevenEleven and plan on magically appearing whenever my dad opens a bottle of their wine. I purchased wine glasses and a bottle of wine from Joseph Cellars, but they shipped it to my dad's house, and now he keeps sending me snapchats of him enjoying all my purchases. It's torture.
No matter the time, season, or weather - Joseph Cellars and Eleven Eleven are the two wineries to visit and the cellar clubs to join. These two easily had my favorite wines, the best atmospheres, and the most engaging staffs. If I made regular trips to Napa, I would join Joseph's wine club because they have a great lounge where club members can relax, drink wine, and chat with staff/the owner/the winemaker. Since I currently live on the other side of the country, I'd probably join ElevenEleven's cellar club first because their cab sav is 🔥🔥🔥. (& that is the technical wine terminology.)
As for my other favorites...
Darioush was had the most crowded tasting room, but they set us up in a space with a comfy couch and awesome cow chairs (I'm currently going through a cow print phase). They were friendly and had a great atmosphere and delicious wine. Oh, and they kept bringing us bottled water, which was GREATLY appreciated. Did I mention the cow chairs? I tried to find them online and found these at CB2 instead and now am completely obsessed and must have one.
Liana Estates was definitely the most fun and the only one where we didn't do a tasting. Instead, we just bought a few bottles and enjoyed them as we wandered around their space. Besides wine and cheese (which is all you really need for a good time), Liana has horseshoes, cornhole, and bocce to play. They also had picnic tables and an amazing view of the sunset. It would be a great lunch spot, but for us it was the perfect way to end the day. Oh and it's female owned and operated which is badass and worth supporting.
Obviously, we only got to visit a very very tiny portion of the wineries and vineyards wine country has to offer. But what we did see was amazing. Seriously, ElevenEleven's 2014 Cabernet was probably one of the best wines I've ever had.
All the places we visited have websites where you can buy their wine, and if you're ever in wine country, be sure to call Barry!
& stay tuned for our non-alcoholic adventures in Napa Valley!