We Could Use A Napa
Before telling you about our trip to California, we wanted to send our thoughts and prayers to those who were and are currently being affected by the wildfires. To those brave men and women fighting these fires, thank you, and to those dealing with the aftermath, we are thinking of you and you are in our prayers. Here is list of ways you can help those affected by the Northern California fires.
The first time my father opened a bottle of wine for me was after my First Holy Communion. At 25, I can still remember second grade Catherine coming home in a little white dress and ruffled white socks to a house full of family and friends who traveled to celebrate this special occasion. Dad pulled me into the dining room and told me how proud he was of me and explained that in honor of my Communion, I would get my very own glass of red wine! He pulled out a wine glass inscribed with his name, my mother's name and their wedding date (it was one of the glasses they had given out as favors to guests) and poured a half of sip of my very own glass of wine.
Over the years I've come to know wine not by the "fruit-forward" "full-bodied" or "French-oak" flavors all of us wannabe sommelier's try to understand, but rather I've come to know it as a celebration, an experience, and most of all an opportunity to spend time with people we love.
Last year my favorite wine collectors, my father and Uncle Rich, decided it was time to go visit all the vineyards and brokers in Napa Valley that they'd been ordering from. Luckily for my sisters, Samantha and Mauvette, and my cousin Lucas, our dads were looking for travel buddies! Last summer marked the first family Napa trip! The experience was so incredible that we had to do it again this year, only with a few additions (my brother Anthony, his girlfriend Becca, and my cousin Josh) and one special occasion! Our dads planned the trip so that we landed in San Francisco the day before Josh's 21st birthday! We hit the town at midnight in San Francisco then woke up early to get up to Napa for wine tours, vineyard visits and lots of wine tasting!
Meet the fam...
Top Row: Me (Catherine), Josh (cousin), Becca (Anthony's girlfriend), Lucas (cousin), Rich (Uncle and Lucas & Josh's Dad), Sam (Anthony, Mauvette, Samantha and my Dad), Chad (our wonderful host at Aonair)
Second row: Anthony (brother), Mauvette (sister), Samantha (you may have heard of her)
NAPA DAY 1:
When it's easy to get caught up in the big names of Napa, we had a wine tour take us to a few hidden gems, one of them being the Yates Family Vineyard! When we returned this year, Whitney Yates welcomed us like long lost relatives. We knew that she and her family at The Yates Family Vineyard were what Napa was all about! Not only is she (and her wines!) amazing, but the Vineyard is surrounded by history, housing one of only two Roman Wine Presses in the United States!
They have the best dogs, Rimmy and Duke!
Wines we tasted at Yates Family Vineyard:
- 2016 Viognier
- 2014 Fleur De Vedder (Merlot)
- 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2014 Alden Perry Reserve (Lucas and my fav!)
- 2012 Cheval "Cabernet Franc"
V. Sattui Winery, as it is today, is run by Dario Sattui who was inspired by his great-grandfather Vittorio Sattui, who immigrated from Italy as a baker and became wine maker. Vittorio would make a two day trip by horse and buggy from Napa where he grew grapes to San Francisco to sell his wine. Prohibition put a stop to the wine production and 13 years later Dario reopened the family business. The vineyard is one of the oldest in Napa and one my Dad's favorites!
Left: Anthony and Samantha testing out the "dancing egg" which is a new fermentation technique that's supposed to bring wine making back to its roots using a concrete egg shaped tank!
Middle: In the middle of our wine tasting I asked about the wine extractor laying on the table and a second later they were letting me pour everyone a glass from the barrel!
Right: Anthony living his best life!
V. Sattui production and bottling!
NAPA DAY 2:
Napa has almost 500 vineyards and Sonoma has almost 300! We decided to spend a day with someone who knows the Valley best, Jensen of Green Hills Wine Tours! We toured with him last year, so this year I wanted to spice it up! I gave him a call and we worked it out to ride in STYLE!
Before Jensen showed up, Rich and Dad were the only the only two who knew I had planned the trip with a 11 passenger convertible super truck. The night before we told everyone to wear sunblock and dress for the weather! They had no idea how we were getting around so we started making up different lies - tandem bikes, horseback, any idea that came to mind we went with, and most lies were believed!
Stop 1: The Caves at Soda Canyon
Four families make, store, and sell their wines at The Caves and it's the only winery that does 100% of their production completely underground! The caves are incredible but I loved the view from the top of the caves...
Wines we tasted at The Caves:
Stop 2: The Terraces
Another gorgeous location with the MOST COMFORTABLE OUTDOOR SEATING! For a while we were referring to The Terraces as the "comfy chair vineyard"!
Wines we tasted at The Terraces:
- 2015 Zinfandel, Napa Valley
- 2016 Chardonnay, Napa Valley (Anthony's favorite!)
- 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
- 2014 Rhyolite Red Blend, Rutherford
Jensen was seriously so prepared! He gave us goggles for the wind in the morning and in the afternoon when we could feel the sun he grabbed personal water-fan spritzers! Naturally, everyone attacked Mauvette!
Lunch stop at GOTTS
I know this is a blog about wine but I've gotta give a shoutout to GOTTS because if we had this beer and burger joint on the east coast I'd eat there every day (and also weigh 500lbs). It was the perfect break to play games, hang out, and talk with Jensen (who we couldn't hear too well because of the loud wind in the car)
NAPA DAY 3:
Last year we were scheduled to visit Aonair during our tour with Jensen but we got caught up and behind in the schedule and had to skip it. The founder of Aonair ended up sending us a complementary bottle of wine (even though it was totally our fault for missing!). We made up for it this year and it did not disappoint!
Inside Aonair's Cave!
The coziest setup!
If anyone can teach me how to make a wine barrel chair, hit me up! I could use a fun chair to hold my wine glass!
Middle is a pic of all the wines we tasted at Aonair!
One of the coolest rooms at Aonair is their Whiskey Room! They've got bottles from all over and when Chad heard Josh was a new 21 year-old, he poured him a shot of Rip Van Winkle 10 year, a whiskey that retails at around $100 per shot. Josh said it went down like gold!
NAPA DAY 4:
Before catching the redeye back to the East Coast, we made one last stop at Bacchus & Venus, a wine distributer based out of Sausalito. Dad and Uncle Rich have been ordering from them for a few years and when we plan a trip they save bar stools and a handful of new wines for us to try!
- If you want a photo of Sam smiling, put a glass of wine in his hand!
- Anthony learned the word viscosity! He still doesn't know what he's talking about but likes to sound like a sommelier! (high viscosity = higher alcohol content)
- If you're riding in a convertible truck, pull your hair back!
- Josh loves Whiskey but doesn't love bad Whiskey (good luck finding the good stuff in college!)
- Purple teeth. In. Every. Picture.
- If your seatbelt is too tight, make sure someone isn't holding your seatbelt pulling a prank on you!
- The better the company, the better the wine!
- Finally, if you want to taste a grape off the vine without permission it might come back to bite you!
I hope you jump into your week with a (perhaps tinted-purple) smile, alongside people you love!