First trip to Napa Valley

Yesterday we had our first drive out to Napa Valley. Friends visiting from New Zealand had a couple of days up there so we decided to meet them for a Sunday drive. It’s probably about an hour to get to the start of Napa Valley – about half the trip being on the freeway and some brown farmland before getting into wine country. I think we’ve been dreadfully spoiled when it comes to beautiful scenery having lived in New Zealand all our lives because to be honest, despite the gushes of how beautiful we’d think wine country was from locals when we told them we were going, we didn’t really see anything any more spectacular than in New Zealand.

We were treated to a blend of Martinborough, Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and French wine country – the building styles definitely reminded us of European buildings and the fields of grape vines could’ve been from anywhere in New Zealand.


V. Sattui

We visited 2 wineries – Rombauer and V.Sattui – which I think were at different ends of the cellar door experience. Both charged around $15 to taste about 3 wines, not taken off the purchase price of anything you bought, however a small discount was given on case purchases. Given the volume of people tasting they’d be making a heap of money – usually we’ve experienced higher prices for things in New Zealand purely because of lower volume so on that model I would’ve expected tastings here to be free – free is actually the norm in New Zealand! (well it was last time I went wine tasting which I admit was years ago…) As to the differences in these 2 places – Rombauer had water, you got to keep the tasting glasses, it was a small intimate cellar with someone who’d worked there for years taking the tasting, who knew how to compare the wines to what we have in New Zealand; V.Sattui was a rather large complex with ‘premium tastings’ offered in a different building to what I assume was regular old wine tastings, they had no water for the tasting, there were loads of people picnicking, a wedding was soon to take place in the grounds, the young guy doing the tasting seemed to be rattling from a script and he’d run out of a few things and was reluctant to open more.

We ended the day up at Auberge du Soleil – a gorgeous retreat on a hillside where we sat and acted like the hoy poloy who surrounded us with our glass of wine each and bowl of fries – lovely view over the valley.

Auberge du Soleil

The main road running up the valley from Napa had wineries crammed on either side of the road so it’s quite hard to choose which ones to go to and I could see you could make a week out of it if you could stand doing the same thing every day. It was great to see that a lot of places encouraged people to take their own picnic supplies and lounge around in the winery grounds with their bottle of wine.

Quite a nice manageable day trip if you sort out a couple of places you know you want to go.


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