The Napa Valley’s landscape is renowned for its rolling hillsides and lush valley floor where endless waves of vineyard create glorious stretches of views. The Napa Valley’s terroir gives life to vines that produce famous California wines and this place is where prestigious wineries and estate vineyards make their homes. When you encounter the Napa Valley it is impossible not to be enraptured by the beauty, abundance, and romantic atmosphere this place exudes. Visiting wineries adorned with the best views of Napa’s luscious landscape pairs perfectly with the extraordinary wine produced by them. Napa Valley wineries place an immense value on the sweeping vineyard scenery thus securing it as one of the many Napa Valley luxuries sought out among wine novices and connoisseurs alike.
California has actually been making outstanding wines from the Pinot Noir grape for a long time. Sure, not long in the Burgundian sense but going back at least to the middle of the last century there were good bottles of Pinot Noir being produced in California. Not many to be sure, but there were some. Starting slowly, in the 1990’s, and then exploding when the movie Sideways came out, there are now more and more offerings of good to excellent Pinot Noir being produced in California.
Forty-five dollars is a lot of money to spend on a bottle of wine. Yet, it is also a threshold pricing for wine. For many people, that is the most they are willing to spend on a bottle. For others, that is a typical Tuesday night pizza wine. The real question is what kind of quality you can get for that price. Unfortunately, the best wines often cost more. On the other hand, spending more does not guarantee quality. With that in mind, this article turns its attention to Italy in general and Tuscany in particular.
I am often asked which wineries mailing lists I should sign up for. Before I answer that question, let’s back up a bit. What are mailing lists? They are different than wine clubs. A mailing list is an offering from a winery to buy their wines. Many wineries offer their wines to allow a consumer to buy directly from the winery. Typically, the prices are not any lower than one would find at retail and at times, they are even priced a bit higher. For the wineries, it’s a great deal as they can avoid the middleman and capture more profits from the sale of a bottle of wine. But, why would a consumer want to do this?
In 1855, the Exposition Universelle was held in Paris to showcase all that was good in France. Emperor Napoleon III requested the leading Bordeaux merchants to rank the best wines. The top wines were rated as First Growths. Over the years, many people in the rest of the world have discussed what wines from their country would be First Growths. I am often asked what I think the First Growths of California are. It is an interesting conversation with lots of room for debate.
We all know the standard wine varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc, but there are an astounding 10,000 grape varieties here on Planet Earth. The majority of California vineyard acreage is planted to just eight grape varietals and less than 10 percent is home to grapes few people care about, and even fewer understand, let alone can pronounce. But an accomplished assemblage of odd-ball varietals and their winemaker shepherds champion these grapes. These winemakers are the first and only line of defense against the abyss of sameness. Here in alphabetical order are just 25 (there are more) of the most odd-ball grapes turned into wine in the Golden State, followed by their producer, and location.
In putting together a list of the top California Cabernets, there is sure to be some disagreement. I tried to include those wines that have a track record, the wineries still making great wines, those that seemed to have the commitment for the future and some personal favorites. I am sure I left some out.
1. Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select – It’s always hard to name the number one wine. But this has a track record that’s very long. Even in less than stellar vintages, it is an outstanding wine. They just don’t seem to make a dud. My only complaint is the price at over $200 a bottle. But, in comparison to other Napa Cabs or elsewhere in the world, this is a fair price.
In my last article, I listed the Top 75 French Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking. In this article I look at the “non-dump bucket” list for wines from California. This proved to be a different task. First, very few wineries have a long track record of making great wine. Secondly, while California is diverse, it does not have the diversity of climates and terroir and grape varietals of France. Still, it does produce some of the best wines in the world and any wine lover should make it a point to try as many of them as they can. Here is my list:
1. Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon – It’s hard to pick the first wine. This one is a great wine in every vintage and has been for a long time. Expensive but still possible to afford and made in large enough quantities to be found in grocery stores. Every lover of Cabernet should try this once.
If you are a wine lover, wine connoisseur, wine aficionado or even if you just like to have a couple of glasses on a Friday night, it soon becomes obvious that there are some wines that are held in a higher esteem in the wine world. Sometimes, it is because these wines are very rare. Other times, it’s because the wine has a place in history. Sometimes it’s because the wine is just that good. Here is a list of 75 wines from France that make up that category. A few caveats. I have not tried every wine on this list. Some I have and others I hope to. Many of these wines are rare and hard to find. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be on the list. After all, if the opportunity presents itself, go for it.
Let's face it, not everybody is enamored with football. But if you're invited to a Super Bowl party, you go. If you don't you're that person sitting at home in the dark, surrounded by stuffed animals, drinking prune juice and watching PBS. If you are a football fan but not the beer guzzling boisterous breed, IntoWine.com’s wine guide will help you not only learn about the game (and potentially forget the game quickly) but will make the endurance challenge of Super Bowl Sunday more palatable. So we offer 10 wines for 10 of football’s most often heard terms, and what to drink when you hear them.
A Napa Valley boutique winery is always a good time. Finding a unique, family owned, small production winery to visit can honestly set fire to your wine desire. The best boutique wineries in the Napa Valley give you the opportunity to taste the most captivating, passion driven, and rare wines Napa has to offer. A noticeable factor about boutique wineries is that your visit may include a tête-à-tête with the winery owner or vintner themselves (sometimes both!). Boutique wineries are exclusive and are small production which means they produce a fraction of the wine larger more industrialized wineries produce in a year, this is the defining factor in finding a proper “boutiquey winery.” Spending time at one of these quaint boutique Napa Valley wineries will help you to understand how incredible wine truly is (if you didn’t know that already) because boutique wineries respect the art of winemaking and seek to convey their passion and love for what they bottle!
Shopping for holiday gifts is always tricky. Who wants what; does this size fit them; is that gluten free? This year, ditch all that and focus instead on 10 wines that cover all manner of tastes and budget, guaranteed they won’t be returned, but will be shared with others.
Wine tasting in the Napa Valley is an experience that’s more than the exploration of wine, it’s also about ambiance. Good wine can be even better when you’re sipping fireside and nothing sounds cozier than warming up by a fire while tasting delicious Napa Valley vintages.