Saturday, February 9, 2008

napa trip report, part one

Last Saturday Sara, her parents and I visited Napa Valley. It was a grey, overcast day. The hills around the bay area were covered in fog and we encountered rain off and on all day. Everyone we met kept apologizing for the weather, but then we explained we were Seattle natives and this was actually better weather than what was happening up there. Which seemed to satisfy them.

From Palo Alto it took us less than two hours to get to the City of Napa. We didn't actually stop in the city, but instead drove straight on up the valley to PlumpJack. PlumpJack was our favorite winery last time we visited, so we figured we would introduce Sara's parents to the area by starting there. It was about 10:30 in the morning and the place was fairly crowded. We were able to park in the parking lot without issue. They were tasting two wines, their two newly released wines: the 2005 PlumpJack Reserve Chardonnay and 2005 PlumpJack Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The cost was $15. Last time we visited it was $10 and we tasted three wines, but this time we got to keep the glass.

The Chardonnay was decent. I'm not a fan of Chardonnay in general, but this one was nice letting the flavor of the grapes come through. A little oak, a little butter, but nothing gross and white-grape-juice tasting. The Cabernet was great, but literally this was the first day it was released, so it was young and tannic. I suspect it will settle down and be just as good as the 2004--if not better. I am not well trained enough to tell.

Since it is so close to PlumpJack, Silver Oak was our next planned stop. However it was incredibly crowded with people parking on the road up to half a mile (or more) away. There was a big white tent in the lot and winery workers directing traffic. We decided their wine couldn't possibly be that good and instead returned to highway 29 and continued north up the Valley.

Eventually we got to St. Clement and I suggested we stop there, as they make great wines. Sara's father and I opted for their "all reds" tasting. For $15 we tasted five or six wines. I wish I had kept notes so I could discuss each of them, but the general gist of it was the 2005 St. Clement Oroppas was a star and the 2002 St. Clement Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was a frickin' rock-god. The entire line of reds was enjoyable with each one displaying distinct character and excellent wine making. It was certainly worth the $15. The staff was also very friendly and personable, and the winery is in a great old house on a hill with a nice view of the surrounding area.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

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