Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Taking a Winery Tour

If you have never taken a tour of a winery, I recommend doing so when you visit wine country. Most of the tours focus on the winemaking process; although, a few focus on other areas such as biodynamic farming and the history of the winery. Once you have done one tour, you are probably set for life unless you are really into making wine. After all, one can only see so many stainless steel fermentation tanks and oak barrels.

Many wineries do not offer tours. Still more offer tours only by appointment. If you arrive in the Napa or Sonoma Valleys or Carneros without having scheduled a tour, here are a few options for you:

Sonoma Valley:

Benziger offers one of the more unique wine country tours. You can visit their biodynamic vineyards in a tractor-pulled tram and then walk through their production facilities. The schedule varies, but tours are usually offered hourly if not more frequently. The tour lasts about one hour and includes tasting some of their wines.

Sebastiani's Historical Tour covers the history of Sebastiani as well as the winemaking process. Tours are usually offered at 11:00, 1:00, and 3:00; however, they may be cancelled due to special events so call before you arrive to make sure the tour is being offered. The tour lasts 40 minutes.


Artesa provides free tours of their production facilities at 11:00 and 2:00. There is no charge for the 45 minute tour.

Napa Valley:

Mondavi offers hourly tours that include tastes of some of their current releases. The tour is advertised as 75 minutes in length but frequently takes longer. During the summer and fall, more frequent tours may be offered. Children are allowed only on the noon tour.

Rutherford Hill's tours include a visit to their caves and tastings of some of their current releases. Tours are offered at 11:30, 1:30, and 3:30. During the busy summer and fall seasons, arrive early to make sure you get a ticket.

Mumm Napa has free hourly tours of their production facilities and photography gallery. You can just show up at the winery a few minutes before the start of the tour.

Beringer offers an array of tours. Some tours require advance reservations. For other tours, you just buy a ticket when you arrive at the winery. Most focus on some aspect of the history of Beringer, the oldest continuously operated winery in the Napa Valley.

Other wineries offer quality tours. If you have taken one, post a comment. If you would like to take a private wine country tour that includes a winery tour, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Friendly Tasting Room in Yountville

I have long been taking guests who like big reds to Regusci Winery on the Silverado Trail. Their Zin and Cabernet-based wines will make you happy if you like big, California-style wines.

Recently guests asked me to visit a tasting room in Yountville for Hope and Grace Wines. I had not heard of this winery, nor was it on any of my maps. We soon learned that the tasting room is located in Beard Plaza, next to Bouchon Restaurant, at 6540 Washington Street in Yountville.

Hope and Grace is the label of Hendricks Wines, whose owner, Charles Hendricks, is winemaker at Regusci. On our visit, my guests tasted two Pinot Noirs (Russian River and Santa Lucia Highlands), Malbec, Cabernet, and Chardonnay. Tiffani, the friendly tasting room manager, told us about Hope and Grace and walked us through the wines. Charles happened to drop in during our visit, so my guests learned more about the winery from him.

If you are in Yountville, stop by the friendly Hope and Grace tasting room. You'll taste some good wines and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. Maybe you'll even buy some of the antiques that are for sale. Just don't ask for a winery tour. Hope and Grace produces their wines at facilities leased from other wineries. They do not have a winery of their own.

If you would like to take a private Napa tour that includes a visit to Hope and Grace and lunch at one of Yountville's many great restaurants, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Tasting Room Experience

Just because a winery produces good wine does not mean you will have a good time in their tasting room. Schug Carneros Estate Winery has been producing excellent Pinot Noir and other wines since 1980. However, I seldom take guests into the tasting room because of the attitude of one of their regular staffers. He never engages visitors and can be quite off putting.

Yesterday, I was showing Pinot lovers around Carneros and decided to take a chance and visit Schug. What a difference! The three staff were friendly and the one serving my guests was very funny and attentive. This quality customer service coupled with the good wine made for an enjoyable experience for my guests.

I learned that the staff member lacking customer service skills does not work on Sundays and Mondays, so I'll put Schug back on my list of wineries to visit but just on the two days he's not there.

This one person I am criticizing is not the only tasting room staff member who does not have adequate customer service skills. I was recently at Chateau Montelena where a friendly staffer took good care of my guests. However, her colleague left a lot to be desired. I was the only visitor in the tasting room when others walked in the front door. The sole staff member in the room was doing some paperwork and never looked up to great the people after they walked in. If I was in their group, I would have walked out the door after standing around for a few minutes with no one even saying, "Hello," to them.

Wineries need to remember that many visitors have never been to a tasting room. They may be a little intimidated or not know how tastings are conducted. A warm greeting will go a long way to making their visit a pleasant one.

If you would like to take a private wine country tour where you will meet friendly tasting room staff, please call me at (866) 326-4237 or e-mail me by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Pinot and Zin in the Russian River Valley

While the Russian River Valley is best known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, there are some excellent Zinfandels produced in the eastern end of the Valley. If you enjoy Pinot Noir and/or Zinfandel, I highly recommend visiting DeLoach Vineyards.

DeLoach started making wine over 30 years ago. Some of its wines receive fairly wide distribution, but a trip to the winery will enable you to taste some small lot Pinot, Zin and Chardonnay. DeLoach offers two tastings. The Russian River Valley Appellation includes 5 tastes for $5 and the OFS and Vineyard-Designate Tasting costs $10 for 5 tastes. I recommend the latter tasting as it enables you to taste some of DeLoach's smaller production wines. The friendly and knowledgeable tasting room staff usually are not sticklers for the five-taste limit. One tasting fee is refunded for each bottle purchased.

If you plan ahead of time, you can schedule a tour of the winery and learn more about their move to biodynamic farming. Eric, the tasting room manager, will likely lead your tour. His wit and knowledge will ensure that you have an enjoyable hour.

If you would like to take a private, wine country tour that includes a visit to DeLoach Vineyards, please call me at (866) 326-4237 or e-mail me by clicking here.