Monday, May 28, 2007

The Napa Valley's Big Four - Part III, Sterling Vineyards

Sterling Vineyards is located in one of the most stunning buildings in the entire Napa Valley. Located on a knoll overlooking the Valley, visitors access the winery and tasting room by taking an aerial tram. The tram ride, beautiful views, and the building's unique architecture lure hordes of visitors to Sterling. Families flock to Sterling because the tram ride gives young children something fun to do. This means that on a Saturday during the summer or harvest season visitors may wait 15 - 20 minutes to get on the tram.

Once you arrive at the top of the hill, you can take a self-guided tour of the winery, which includes videos that describe the winemaking process, . While the tour is not as informative as many of the guide-lead tours provided at other wineries, you can go at your pace. This works better for groups with children as they may get bored listening to tour guides.

The tasting room contains an array of gift items for sale. The tasting is conducted while you are seated at a table, which is a nice change from the bars found at most wineries.

A visit to Sterling is more about the tram ride and views, than the winetasting. The winery is often packed, which makes for a less than intimate experience. I only recommend Sterling to families with children and to guests who are not all that interested in wine or who have a special interest in architecture.

If you would like to take a private tour of the Napa Valley that includes Sterling and other beautiful wineries, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Napa Valley's Big Four - Part II, Beringer Vineyards

Beringer Vineyards is one of the most historic, and beautiful, wineries in the Napa Valley. Founded in 1876 by Jacob and Frederick Beringer, the winery is the oldest continuously operated winery in Northern California. The winery even managed to stay open during Prohibition by selling wine to the church. (Making wine was legal during the years of 1920 - 1934 if it was used for medicinal or religious purposes.)

Today the old winery still stands along with the historic Rhine and Hudson Houses. A visit to Beringer is a walk back in time. The winery offers a number of tours that focus on Beringer's legacy. Pick a tour that sounds interesting and you are sure to have an enjoyable 30 - 90 minutes.

The winetasting experience is something else. Beringer has two tasting rooms. Their regular tasting room is located in the old winery and the reserve room is in the Rhine House. Both tasting rooms have many knickknacks and gifts for sale. The regular tasting room offers a variety of tastings, including a flight of sweet wines. However, the tasting room is often crowded and the tastings pro forma. You are unlikely to leave the tasting room with any more wine knowledge than when you went in.

The reserve tasting room in the Rhine House is hit and miss, with the latter more likely. The wines are excellent, but the tasting room staff range from friendly to indifferent. I even had a staff member read a magazine in between pouring wine for my guest. It is a real shame that the staff are unable to show the same enthusiasm for showcasing Beringer's better wines that the winemaking staff demonstrates in making them.

I can only recommend a visit to Beringer if you want to take a tour to learn more about the winery's history. Otherwise avoid the crowds and visit one of the many other wineries in the Valley that provide superior winetating experiences.

If you would like to take a private wine country tour where you will visit wineries with friendly, enthusiastic staff, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.