The taste of wine varies from winery to winery – even those next door to one another may taste vastly different. The trees, whether Eucalyptus (there are seriously huge Eucalyptus trees all around) or Redwood or Black Oak, drop their leaves in autumn, allowing the different properties of the tree to soak into the soil. Eucalyptus is how a hint of mint shows up in wine.
Bat boxes & owl boxes & bluebird boxes are everywhere in Napa Valley. Bats eat insect pests. Owls catch rodents & snakes in the vineyards – grass is allowed to grow up over the roots of the vines during summer to keep the roots cooler. Bluebirds are very territorial songbirds & they don’t eat berries! They help keep other songbirds out of the vineyard.
Roses & crepe myrtle plants are around every winery & vineyard, usually at the end of each row of vines. Insect pests that attack grapes will attack the flowers first – this way the vineyard master can deal with them before they ruin the grape crop.
Napa Valley doesn’t allow pesticide use. Another reason I prefer Napa to Sonoma.
I miss my herb garden. Every winery uses herbs in their landscaping. Rosemary hedges, thyme creeping along the pathways… I MISS MY HERB GARDEN!
Only buy 100% California Olive Oil! Anything else is olive oil blended with less desirable oils. The FDA holds American companies to a higher standard.
Every small village in Israel has its own olive press, according to my #1 son who lived in Israel for a year. Each family brings their olives to the press & carts home their olive oil.
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
Well known for their award winning restaurant (no reservations for us…Rats!), St. Francis Winery has an organic garden – veggies served in their restaurant, delicious, affordable wines & knowledgeable, fun servers behind the bar pouring wines. DH joined their wine club last year & we have not been disappointed.
The grounds are beautiful, the tasting room – love the ceiling!
We met a woman from Brentwood, TN who was vacationing with her friends from Michigan. We encouraged her to take them to Arrington Vineyards since they were going home with her after their California trip. (Tennessee grapes making excellent dry red wines!)
Kunde Family Estate
Five generations of the Kunde Family have been making wine on this estate for over 100 years. We enjoyed our tasting on the patio with a snack to serve as lunch.
After the cheese & meats they served a Port-style red with a sweet chocolate that smelled like a chocolate Easter bunny. Yum!
I joined this wine club.
Inman Family Wines
Our last stop was Inman, a very small winery & one of our favorites. Kathleen Inman, the wine maker served our tasting – try to get that at any other winery in Napa, Sonoma or middle Tennessee! She’s just a normal person who loves her work, whose work is making excellent wine!
We shipped a few bottles home, but no wine club this time…yet.
Rodney Strong Vineyards
Rodney Strongis another wine you will find almost anywhere, but their reserve wines – what a lovely surprise!
The server behind the bar was friendly, engaging & wrote a lovely thank-you note to me, me having joined the Symmetry Wine Club. Why did I join this particular wine club – THE SHIPPING IS FREE! Wines only available at the winery & through the wine club are seriously excellent & make it worth joining!
Sharing a parking lot with Rodney Strong, J Winery… oh my goodness, what to say… DH joined this wine club on our last visit. If you want to know what Sonoma Pinot Noir should taste like – open a bottle of J! Judy Jordan, daughter of the famous Jordan Winery family (we couldn’t get a tasting reservation at this ORGANIC winery! Rats!) decided to go it on her own & has had great success producing delicious wines!
We chose the sparkling wine sampler with a tasting platter of cheeses. Perfect for early afternoon, having been tasting since 10am. A welcome respite & snack.
The folks at Martinelli are so nice we had to stop in to say, “Hi!” The giant, ancient grapevine around the patio post greets all entering the tasting room.
We bought a bottle to give to our friends who couldn’t join us on our trip.
The Martinelli’s daughter lives in Brentwood, TN, just up the road a bit from us.
Another long day tasting wonderful wines. Time to join the afternoon rush-hour traffic heading to Whole Foods to grab something from their fresh food bar for dinner, then back to the hotel.
Just so you know, I did not enhance the color of this photo! The sky was so clear, so blue, it took my breath away!
I am shocked at how tiny the pine cones from the giant redwood are.
You already know I’m a bird nerd & a nature freak, so to tell you I love the giant redwoods is not a surprise. The fact that I stopped at Ch. Montelena to speak to the redwood tree I had seen years before was a tipoff.
Giant Redwoods are remarkable to view, but one must remember, they are “giant” trees, just like St. Bernard’s, Great Danes & Newfoundland’s are “giant” dogs. They grow big because they are supposed to grow BIG. Saying that, I am wondering if I could grow one in middle Tennessee. It may not be moist enough, though we did get a ton of rain this past summer… I will do some checking, but if I can grow Myrtle, my Live Oak, why couldn’t I grow a giant redwood?
Second Day needs to be shared in 2 parts – too many photos otherwise.
Chateau St. Jean
Early morning, DH & I are morning people, sometimes called Larks (I’m an annoying Lark – I’m awake & think everyone is alert & ready to talk/think/exercise/sing; no, I don’t use caffeine in any form, why do you ask?) …we arrived before they were open so there was time to explore the gardens.
Dwarf citrus fruit trees, giant redwoods, test vineyard with grapes ripe & ready to be tasted.
The new building has the feel of a giant barn. Lots of things to purchase, but what we wanted was wine…a reserve wine tasting. We were directed to the “house” out the door & across the garden path.
The moment we entered I knew the building was old – the smell of old wood, the creaking of the floor. Arched windows, old tile floor – we were serve in the solarium of the house built in 1920.
Chateau St. Jean is an affordable, drinkable wine available in most places wines are sold. We joined the wine club because the reserve wines that are only offered to club members are also affordable & quite delicious.
not quite ripe
Out in the middle of nowhere…uh…Sonoma County, the Chalk Hill estate is enormous. Four flag poles at the entrance of the winery fly the state flag of Texas, the state flag of California, the flag of the USA & the flag of West Point, the US Military Academy. The owner, originally from Texas is a West Point graduate.
Chalk Hill makes nice wines (DH will not be happy to hear my description – he loves their wines) & the bottles of their reserve wines weigh twice as much as standard bottles of wine. That’s not an issue unless you are paying for the wines to be shipped across the country for your enjoyment.
The owner wants to be the largest wine estate owner in the world, at least that’s what I’ve heard. He already owns seven wineries, maybe more. That’s fine & congrats on your financial success, did I mention that he’s the Chairman of Fidelity National, but I like smaller wineries, not multi-national corporations. I think that smaller is better & more accountable to the consumer.
No we did not join this wine club. One reason – there is a membership fee! A significantly expensive fee! But shipping is free. No duh! You just charged the shipping up front! No thanks!