Napa Valley: Articles on California's Napa Valley Wine Region

Best Napa Wineries for Sipping by the Fire

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.

Napa Valley Wineries With the Best Views - Wine Tasting Recommendations

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.

Top 25 Most Awesome Tasting Rooms in California

Wine tasting is not merely the act of drinking wine, it is the total experience and that includes the physical space you are standing in when sampling Sauvignon Blanc or pondering Petit Verdot.

The Three Legged Winemaker - An Interview with Napa Valley Legend Mike Grgich

Mike Grgich and Brad PrescottI recently had the great privilege of spending an afternoon with legendary Napa Valley winemaker Mike Grgich. Over a long lunch and more than a few bottles of his finest wines, we discussed his career and its influence on Napa winemaking as well as his myriad accomplishments, winning both the 1976 Judgment of Paris and the Great Chicago Showdown to name but a few. I had never met Mike in person before and did not know what to expect. What I found was a man with deep pride in his accomplishments but one who is equally grateful to all those who helped and influenced him along the way. I also discovered a man who is the living embodiment of the American dream, having fled communism to find success in Paradise, California. It's safe to say that my long lunch with Mike was the most enjoyable and interesting day of the six years I have spent running IntoWine. I interviewed Mike via email in 2007. The interview below is round two, where I get to ask my wish list of questions. Thankfully, Mike obliged.  

Top 75 California Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking (a non-dump bucket list if you will!)

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.

Napa Valley Chardonnay: Foods to Pair With, and Meals that Call for, Napa Chardonnay

Chardonnay—a chameleon of a grape. There are an especially large number of choices to be made in terms of winemaking when it comes to Chardonnay. It can be still or sparkling. It can be aged in oak or un-oaked, filtered or unfiltered, subject to malolactic fermentation or not. Even the type of oak used, or the decision to keep the wine in contact with dead yeast cells during the winemaking process affects the style of the final product. These factors (not to mention the concept of terroir) result in endless Chardonnay styles that can range from Burgundy’s crisp, austere, mineral-driven wines to Australia’s tropical fruit-packed, viscous style.

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Foods to Pair and Meals That Call for Napa Cabernet

Napa Valley Cabernet—the wine that proved to the world it was possible to make world-class wine someplace other than France. When Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon beat famous French Bordeaux such as Château Mouton Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion, among others, in a blind tasting conducted by French wine experts at the now famous 1976 Paris Tasting, the world took notice. Now Napa Valley Cabernets are served everywhere, and producers like Heitz Cellars and Ridge Vineyards are familiar names on restaurant wine lists.

Q&A with Bernard Portet, Winemaker at Heritance

Mentored by his father, a technical director at Château Lafite, Bernard Portet grew up tasting each wine vintage. Born in Cognac, his family has owned vineyard property in France since the late 1600s.  A firm believer that making wine is all about a specific place, Portet’s journey led him to the United States, Australia, Morocco, South Africa and South America. Due to the similarities of several of his favorite wine regions in France, it was California’s Napa Valley that inspired him. With a clear vision of the potential of the Napa Valley, in 1971 he co-founded Clos du Val. He pioneered several Napa Valley regions and developed a keen focus upon the Stags Leap region. Portet remained at Clos du Val for more than 35 years. His latest wine label, Heritance launched in 2011.

Q&A with Peter Mondavi, Jr., Winemaker at Charles Krug Winery

The name Mondavi is synonymous with wine, there is no denying that. Peter Mondavi, Jr., son of Peter Mondavi, Sr. and nephew of Robert Mondavi, heads the Charles Krug- Peter Mondavi Family Napa Valley Winery. Part of the Mondavi vision, and one that he believes only a successful family-owned and operated business can make, is the investment of $25.6 million made to replant the 850 acres of their Napa Valley vineyard land, renewing the winery’s focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and other red Bordeaux varietals and converting to sustainable farming methods. In 2010 the winery received the California Governor’s Historic Preservation Award for the restoration of the winery’s historic structures.

What prompted you to pursue winemaking as a career, and was there ever a thought about leaving the family business for something else?

My original intent was to pursue some form of engineering, thus the BS in Mechanical Engineering. But my experience working in virtually every aspect of the winery during my summer vacations since I was 8 years old was too strong of a draw. There are way too many draws and positive aspects to living and working in the Napa Valley and in the agricultural business of winemaking.

Q&A with Chef William S. Bloxsom-Carter: Executive Chef and Food and Beverage Director for the Playboy Mansion West

Chef William S. Bloxsom-Carter has worked as the Executive Chef, and Food and Beverage Director for the Playboy Mansion West for over two and half decades. A frequent wine judge he constantly looks for wines to pair with his foods for the multitude of foods he presents to guest at the Mansion; this can mean an intimate dinner party of 12, or upwards of 1,200 people. Complementing his responsibilities for Playboy Enterprises, Chef Carter has prepared winery dinners in Sonoma County, Napa Valley, Paso Robles and the Santa Ynez Valley as well as special events for high-profile clients throughout the United States, focusing on the importance of food and wine pairings and extraordinary hospitality service. Additionally, Chef Carter is a recurring featured guest on numerous radio shows syndicated nationwide describing and promoting California wines and foods.

You routinely plan food from appetizers to entrees for up to thousands of guests at the Playboy Mansion. With so many people, is it ever difficult to pair wines with the diverse variety of foods you prepare?

When I’m evaluating and selecting wines for events, I take copious notes based on flavor profile, nose, finish, integration/body, visual clarity and any perceptible flaws. Depending on the demographic for an event dictates the food and wine selections. Like with food, seasonality also plays an important role when selecting wines. At the Playboy Mansion, I have the liberty to create and select food and wine based on many variables. Some may look at it as a challenge; I look at it as a way to offer every guest an impeccable hospitality experience based on the bounties of the harvest.

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