Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Napa Valley's Big Four - Part I, Robert Mondavi Winery

While I have never seen any visitor numbers that tell how many tourists stop at the various wineries, my eyes tell me that the most frequented wineries in the Napa Valley are Mondavi, Beringer, Sterling, and V. Sattui. This will be the first of four posts with comments on the tasting experience at each winery.

When Robert Mondavi opened his winery in 1966, it was the first major new winery to open in the Valley since the end of Prohibition in 1934. Mondavi realized that if he was going to ask consumers to pay more for his premium wines he would need to let them taste the difference. So he included a tasting room in the building.

Today Mondavi offers one of the most comprehensive winery tours in the Valley. Advertised at 75 minutes in length, the tours always last 90 minutes and sometimes 2 hours. Guides are enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Tours cost $25 per adult and $10 for children. Children age 13 and over are permitted only on the noon tour. Children under the age of 13 are not permitted on any tours.

There are three tasting rooms at Mondavi: a room reserved for wine club members, a public tasting room, and a room for the public to taste reserve wines. The tasting is nothing to write home about in the regular tasting room. However, the reserve tasting is special. Here you can taste many older wines for a reasonable price. If you are a Cabernet fan, you'll especially enjoy the opportunity to taste vertical flights of older wines. The best deal is the flight of four wines for $30. Pours are big enough that two can easily share the tasting. You can enjoy your wine at the large wood table in the tasting room or take your glasses outside to taste in the sunshine. Tasting room staff are well versed in wine, but somewhat reserved. I find that if you start asking questions, they will immediately engage with you. However, they usually do not initiate the conversation.

Robert Mondavi Winery is located on the east side of Highway 29 in Oakville. It is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. You can make advance reservations for tours by calling (888) 766-6328.

If you would like to take a Napa Valley tour that includes a visit to Robert Mondavi Winery, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here. I can arrange for you to tour the winery if you are interested.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Napa Sparkling Wine

Schramsberg Vineyards is one of the best wineries to visit in the Napa Valley if you enjoy sparkling wine. The winery traces its history back to 1862, when it was founded by Jacob Schram. Robert Louis Stevenson, author of "Treasure Island," "Kidnapped," and "Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde," visited Jacob Schram's winery and tasted 18 different wines during the brief time he lived in the Valley in 1880. Over the years, the property had various owners until it was purchased in 1965 by Jamie and Jack Davies. Jack Davies passed away in 1998. Today Jamie Davies is chair and her son, Hugh, is president.

Schramsberg makes a variety of sparkling wines, some of which have been served at the White House. A visit to the winery includes tastes of some of these wines as well as a tour that includes a visit to caves that were dug by Chinese laborers in the 19th century. Tours are generally offered at 10:00, 11:30, 1:00, and 2:30 and last between 75 and 90 minutes and cost $25/person. Schramsberg is a very popular winery to visit and their tours sell out well in advance, especially on weekends and during the harvest season.

If you would like to take a Napa Valley tour that includes a visit to Schramsberg, I would be happy to arrange one for you. Try to provide me with as much advance notice as possible so I can get you a reservation at Schramasberg. You may arrange a private wine country tour by calling me at (866) 326-4237 or e-mailing me by clicking here.