A vineyard is a kind of farm, but it is like no other kind of farm. While all farmers worry about weather and soil quality, not even in Idaho has anyone ever been invited to a potato farm for a french fry tasting. Wine may have begun as something people drink to quench their thirst or get drunk, but it has long since become an art form, in which soil, sun, wind and rain are balanced against different varieties of grape to bring each variety of wine to its own perfection.
With so many different wines grown just in the Napa-Sonoma area, figuring out which are the best vineyards in Napa mostly depends on what sort of wine you’re thinking of. In the coolest parts of the valley, Pinot Noir and Merlot grapes can be grown. The hardy Cabernet Sauvignon grapes can grow in all parts of it, but produce better vintages where the microclimate is just right.
There are about 400 wineries in Napa Valley. The best vineyards in Napa have tasting rooms where both the newer and older wines can be tried for a reasonable fee, paired with artisanal cheeses or other gourmet dishes. Bigger vineyards have scheduled tours, whereas smaller ones can generally be toured by appointment. When you visit a smaller vineyard, chances are the person you’re talking to would normally be doing work, rather than somebody assigned to the task of looking after visitors.
The best time to visit is fall or spring, so as to avoid the crowds. (Yes, the vineyards can get crowded with tourists. They’re that popular.) In the fall, you get to see the harvest — the downside of this is that everyone will be very busy, and you might be in the way.
One of the best vineyards in Napa near St. Helena
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, is one of the best vineyards in the Napa Valley area, widely known for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends. Their Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and non-malolactic Chardonnay also have a cult following. It holds tastings in its barrel caves, where current releases and library wines may be sampled and visitors can learn all about the process of making and storing the wine. Cave tastings are $65, but one tasting fee can be waived by joining their wine club or making a $100 purchase.
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards produces world-class wines at affordable prices. The vineyard is a 40-acre estate just south of Howell Mountain, and has been owned and operated by the Anderson family since 1983. Anderson’s wines are sold online and in five locations in Napa Valley, and many other locations nationwide. Order a bottle today.
If this is your first time at a wine tasting, don’t worry. They’re genteel, low-key affairs full of pleasant conversation and (obviously) fine wine.
Dress well, but not to the point of discomfort. If the tasting is at a winery where you’ll be walking around outdoors, prepare for sun or rain. Don’t wear perfume or cologne, or anything else with a strong smell. A big part of the pleasure of wine tasting is appreciating the nose of the wine. Speaking of which, be sure to get a good, long inhale of the wine’s aroma before you take your first sip. Place the wine glass on a flat surface and swirl it just a little. This is called aeration.
There’s a good chance there’ll be fees to taste. You may want to split your tastings with a friend, to keep from spending too much (to say nothing of drinking too much). If you find something you like, buy a bottle and you might save on the fee.
There may be a spittoon available. Using it might seem gross and wasteful of good wine, but it keeps you from taking too much alcohol on board over the course of the tasting. This is important if you happen to have a low body mass or low tolerance for alcohol. As further precautions, drink water (which will also clear your palate) and eat something.
When the experts start talking about wine, here are some words and phrases that will help you understand them:
“Cigar box” is a term for an aroma that wines pick up after some time in the cask.
“Bouquet” is different from aroma. Any wine can have an aroma, or nose, but only an aged wine can have a bouquet.
A wine’s “finish” is its aftertaste. If this sounds bad, it’s because most things that have an aftertaste don’t have a good one. Wine is different — it is judged in part by the quality of its finish.
There are many, many more.
A wine club worth joining near St. Helena
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, holds tastings in its barrel caves, where current releases and library wines may be sampled and visitors can learn all about the process of making and storing the wine. Cave tastings are $65, but one tasting fee can be waived by joining their wine club or making a $100 purchase. Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards produces world-class wines at affordable prices. The vineyard is a 40-acre estate just south of Howell Mountain, and has been owned and operated by the Anderson family since 1983. Anderson’s wines are sold online and in five locations in Napa Valley, and many other locations nationwide.
Wine clubs have been around for the past fifty years, and have become an established part of the traditions of California wine. If you’re not familiar with them, think of them like a book-of-the-month club, but with wines instead of books. You buy a certain number of bottles a year, and they are delivered to your door. You get discounts and other benefits, including (with some clubs) information on the wine and the best foods to pair it with. There is (or should be) no cost to join, and you can cancel at any time.
Wine clubs pride themselves on their discernment and their ability to find quality lesser-known wines and bring them to members who might otherwise never taste them. They cater to everyone from the expert to the novice trying to become an expert. Some of the more famous wine clubs include the Gold Medal Wine Club, the International Wine of the Month Club, the Original Wine of the Month Club (as its name implies, the first wine club, founded by Paul Kalemkiarian in 1972), the Plonk Wine Club, Lot 18’s Tasting Room, Club W and Uncorked Ventures. Each of these has slightly different rules, methods and traditions.
Many wine clubs offer more than one series — wines grouped by theme and category. You might be able to choose to receive wines from the Pacific Northwest, aged Cabernets or the most highly rated wines in California. Tours and tastings will give you the opportunity to meet the winemakers and socialize with other wine lovers.
One complaint members sometimes have is of failing to receive their wine and being told that the club is waiting to get it from the winery. This can be avoided by joining a wine club that is itself associated with a particular winery. Wine clubs are like a backstage pass into the pageant that is California’s wine culture.
A wine club worth joining near St. Helena
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, has its own wine club. By agreeing to buy six bottles a year in groups of three, you can get Level I membership with discounts on their wines, tickets to parties and invitations to a complimentary tasting. Agreeing to buy 12 bottles a year, or 24, gets you higher levels of membership with even more benefits. Once you’ve chosen a membership level, buying additional bottles won’t count toward your annual allocation.
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards produces world-class wines at affordable prices. The vineyard is a 40-acre estate just south of Howell Mountain, and has been owned and operated by the Anderson family since 1983. Anderson’s wines are sold online and in five locations in Napa Valley, and many other locations nationwide. Join today.
The Napa Valley in California has long been synonymous with quality wine. Its warm Mediterranean climate, shielded by the surrounding mountains from the extremes of heat and cold, render it one of the best places in the world to grow wine grapes. Its intricate topography offers a wide range of potential growing areas to choose between, from fields of rich volcanic soil to rugged mountainsides, each imparting a different set of qualities to the terroir of the grapes.
The first grapes in the valley were Mission grapes, planted by missionaries to grow wine for Communion. The first American settler in the area, George Calvert Yount, planted grapes there in 1831. Another pioneer, Charles Krug, opened a commercial winery in the area in 1861 in what is now the St. Helena American Viticultural Area.
The worst disaster ever to hit Napa wineries was, of course, Prohibition. The vineyards that survived did so by an ingenious marketing ploy. They would sell bricks of grape juice concentrate, intended to be dissolved in a gallon of water. These bricks would include strict instructions not under any circumstances to leave the jug of juice sitting in a cool cupboard for 21 days, or else it would turn to wine, which would be illegal if taken out of the home. In some cases, this warning went so far as to specify what sort of wine the juice would turn into. As you can imagine, consumers were grateful for this advisory.
Which are the best wineries in Napa depends on what you’re looking for in a wine. As mentioned earlier, there are many kinds of terrain and soil in the valley, along with little microclimates with different average temperatures and levels of rainfall. That’s why there are 16 AVAs within the Napa Valley American Viticultural Area. Deep, rich, almost jammy red wines with firm tannins and distinct acidity come from the St. Helena area.
One of the best Napa wineries around
Some of the best California wines come from Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley. Just a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards produces world-class wines at affordable prices. The vineyard is a 40-acre estate just south of Howell Mountain. Instead of a busy tasting room, the vineyard offers you the chance to meet the owners and wine-makers and taste excellent wine stored in a cave.
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards has been owned and operated by the Anderson family since 1983. Anderson’s wines are sold online and in five locations in Napa Valley, and many other locations nationwide. By ordering six bottles or more per year, you can join their wine club, giving you discounts on many of their finest wines.
TV chef and cookbook author David Rosengarten has rightly described California’s Cabernet Sauvignon as one of the world’s iconic wines. The “Cab” is a classic red wine that goes well with duck, red cabbage, slightly bitter vegetables or practically any red meat. Its blackcurrant notes and famous tannins allow it to work especially well with venison, lamb or the richer cuts of beef. To get the true flavor of the wine, it should be served at 14 to 16 degrees centigrade (57 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit). Try it with something rich and buttery to appreciate the fruitiness.
Cabernet Sauvignon was born in France, from the Cabernet franc and Sauvignon blanc varieties. The hardiness of the vines and the versatility and consistency of the wine have made the Cab one of the most popular wines in the world, grown everywhere that grapes will grow. It was the most widely planted premium red wine grape in the world for most of the 20th century. This wine is perfect for a wedding or anniversary celebration, an upscale cookout or any occasion when roast beef or lamb is being served, although you may want to dial back the seasonings so as to better appreciate the wine.
The history of the California Cab
First introduced to California’s wine-growing regions in the 1870s, this rugged yet refined wine grape with its distinctive range of bouquets made a good marriage with American oak. The sun and gently climate of the Napa Valley allowed the grape to reach its full potential. A hundred years after being brought to California, the California Cabernet truly came into its own when an American Cab beat out French Bordeaux wines in a blind taste test in France. In the ‘80s, the vines were grafted onto American rootstock to protect them from phylloxera, which led to a much more sugary grape and a wine with higher alcohol content.
A high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon near St. Helena, CA
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, just a short drive from downtown St. Helena, produces world-class wines at affordable prices, including a celebrated Cabernet Sauvignon with distinct licorice notes. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate praises the 2012 vintage for its “terrific purity, plenty of depth and ripeness, and a full-bodied mouthfeel” and describes the 2010 Cab as “an elegant, finesse-styled effort to enjoy over the next decade.”
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards has been owned and operated by the Anderson family since 1983. Anderson’s wines are sold online and in five locations in Napa Valley, and many other locations nationwide. Wine club members save $25 buying the 2013 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon online. If you’re looking for a good wine to serve at a special occasion, order a bottle today.