Free bubbly, tram rides to a winery perched atop a hill and surprise tapas – here’s the best of the rest of our long weekend in wine country.
After our last trip, I was determined to seek out more sparkling wine houses. On the short list: Gloria Ferrer, Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon, Mumm Napa and Schramsberg. We made it to the first four, eschewing Schramsberg because of its exorbitant $45 tour/tasting fee. Has anyone gone? Is it worth it? (Is any winery tour worth $90 per couple?)
I really do love all types of wine, but for my money and experience, there’s nothing better than sitting outside in the sunshine with a chilly champagne flute. At Gloria Ferrer, our server recognized the couple next to us, and from the conversation I overheard, it sounded like they were Friday afternoon regulars at the winery. Can you imagine? What better way to unwind at the end of a long week?
On the Napa side, our favorite bubbles were at Mumm and Chandon. Chandon won my heart with its hip, sleek tasting room done in pop-art with floor-to-ceiling windows. A young, energetic staff eagerly and efficiently filled our glasses, even as a large crowd built.
Thanks to a coupon, we were able to get two “classic” tastings for the price of one. We tried generous pours of the winery’s Brut Classic, Blanc de Noirs, Chandon Rose, Extra Dry Riche and Sparkling Red. And then our server slipped us a surreptitious taste of the beautiful reserve étoile Rose. Benevolent gesture or shrewd marketing move? Either way, we took a bottle home.
At Mumm Napa, our Club Vivant membership scored us preferred seating and free tastings. I felt like Tom Haverford. Swaaaaag.
We visited twice to enjoy our perks. On the first day, we chose sparkling samplers – complimentary for members – that would have otherwise cost us $38. On the second day, we “splurged” on discounted glasses of 2005 DVX Rose, our favorite from 2010.
Beautiful Peju Province Winery in Rutherford, with some serious reds:
At Peju, I found this Tuthilltown barrel-aged maple syrup, which caught my eye immediately since I’d just finished this story about the barrel-aged cocktail trend in Connecticut.
The award for most scenic route / most interactive experience goes to Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga, where the admission fee gets you not just a tram ride to the winery on a hill overlooking the Napa Valley, but a walkaround tasting. You stroll through the winery’s whitewashed Greek-inspired buildings, stopping at five or so stations to taste each offering.
Our second-to-last stop, ZD Wines, ended up shaping the final day of our trip. The lovely tasting room employees pointed us down the road to Robert Sinskey (excellent Pinot Noir) and then to tapas bar Zuzu in downtown Napa for dinner.
I still can’t believe how much action we packed into three-and-a-half days. I’m still sad we came home. I’m already planning a return visit.