If there is such a thing as a ‘Wine Disneyland’, it’s in Napa Valley in California
As relaxed as the US people may be, they’re also great at marketing and managed to make Napa Valley world famous, and not just for the quality of the wine. Here, wine tourism is a fun, fuss free and friendly experience suitable for everyone, and a testimony of great estate synergy.
Napa Valley, California, is a little north to San Francisco and is especially known for its Cab (by Cab we don’t mean a taxi company, but its Cabernet Sauvignon) and Chardonnay. Generally speaking, these are young wines, fragrant and flavoured, attributes of the so called New World, though with a distinct touch of French “savoir faire”, thanks to the techniques brought from Europe.
I have devoted 5 days to it and been to really amazing places! I started with Silverado Vineyards (funnily enough a property owned by Walt Disney’s family). Thanks to the discreet profile of the estate, the tours are done in small groups and there is more chance to talk and share experiences. Rutherford Hill followed and it will prove to be worth of your time for the same reason: less touristy, more technical and with a stunning view over the valley. In both cellars you will enjoy beautiful wines and be escorted by a well trained guide.
I found the exact opposite in Robert Mondavi Winery and Francis Ford Coppola Winery: two incredibly well known vineyards, mainly due to the celebrity status of their founders, and as such, mandatory stops in the wine circuit. Both of Italian descent, they conquered the New World by producing good American wine, and now attract hundreds of tourists every year.
Finally, my personal favourite: Joseph Phelps Vineyards! Here, because there is no cellar and no tour since the wine is produced elsewhere, I spent a lovely time, under the porch, tasting the wines that I picked, at my own pace, while gazing at the beauty beneath. Their premium wine is Insignia, the first Bordeaux style wine to be produced in California that, since 1974, has won several awards worldwide.
With so much wine tasting going on, I had to stop for food and the places I enjoyed the most were Oakville Grocery, St. Helen Highway, and Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford.
The first is a gourmet supermarket right by the road, with an array of cheese, bread, sausages and other delicious nibbles, great if you enjoy a well put together sandwich and a latte before moving on. The latter is a boutique hotel, housing a Michelin star restaurant, where my suggestion is to sit outside, when the sun is low, and fully enjoy a glass of Chardonnay together with the beautiful views of Napa Valley!