If everyone doesn’t mind, I am going to break the “fourth wall” of blogging past events. Today, I am writing about the day Tom and I shared in Napa Valley, the wine capital of America. As I write this, Tom, Sarah, and I are currently enjoying a day in Oregon wine country in real time. Right now we are driving towards a bunch of wineries on a wine trail. Tom located it by plugging the word “winery” into the GPS, finding a cluster of close results, and picking the closest of them to drive towards. We had Mimosas this morning to kick off the day, as well as fried, flat cut home fries in a cereal bowl with tender, delicious sausage links, thick cut bacon done to perfection, two over-easy eggs, and quick-fried, cherry-sized heirloom tomatoes on top.
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In Napa, Tom and I started our day off with Jack in the Box burgers. They had some good, thick cut veggies, but overall they were a little dry and pretty boring. Carl’s Jr. remains at the top of the West Coast burger chains for now.
We then headed to a winery called Stonehedge in downtown Napa, and ordered a tasting of several wines for three or four bucks; we each enjoyed five tastings of our first on-site Napa Valley wine. We liked them all, again with Tom accepting the dryer wine and the fact that he would, indeed, have varying levels of heartburn all day. The man was very talkative and friendly, and he told us about something that some of the later wineries maybe hoped that he hadn’t. It was the Napa Downtown Wine Tasting Card.
We immediately went downtown and purchased one at the Tourism Center. Unlike any wine region we had visited thus far, the wine card guaranteed us free tastings at each of the downtown tasting storefronts. Napa has a sleepy little town center, which was fine with us — especially because it is small enough that we would both be walking all day. This meant that Tom and I could both drink as much wine as we wanted, as long as one of us took a break at the end of the day to drive back to our hotel.
We parked the car on the side of the street and ventured to our second wine-tasting location, “The Wineries of Napa Valley.” Here, they had a cool tap system, with each bottle hooked up to a hose that pressurized and preserved (but not carbonated) each bottle. We didn’t do the full five wine tasting that was suggested, but instead had our two free tastes and moved on.
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Today, we are traveling by car with our new humane society dog, Delilah. We just stopped on the top of a mountain for Tom to take a picture of the fog-filled valley below. We are continuing on gravel and paved roads, and just got to Adelsheim Vineyards. I’ll let you know how they were when I get back. The wine was light and clean if not a little watery and boring, even to Tom’s taste. It was fifteen dollars for a tasting. We just arrived at Arbor Brook. BRB. Arbor Brook was similar but better, I think I am noticing a style. Oregon wine is crisp, not as sweet as upstate New York, and not as gloriously bitter as Napa and Sonoma Valleys. We just arrived at Bergstrom, these wineries are like one mile apart each, and I am not getting much typing done. And I’m off!
Bergstrom was good, depending on whom you ask, just a little better or worse than Arbor Brook. The wines, again, were refreshing and clean-tasting. They had a big German Shepherd hanging out in the Winery. We just passed some llamas and sheep.
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After we visited the “Wineries of Napa Valley,” we started hitting actual… well... not wineries, but downtown tasting storefronts. Ceja Vineyards had a different menu for tastings, again, but we weren’t worried. We took whatever we could get for free, the drier for me and the sweeter (not much sweeter) for Tom. We walked a bit to Trahan Winery, where they also had a dog which which was featured in a “Dogs of Napa Valley” coffee table book that focused on wineries. We went to another winery on the Napa Card, and found that a few wineries were closed…
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Their wine was very good, more flavor and small batch. All the grapes that they grew on their own vineyard were Pinot Noirs, and they seemed to me to be aged in the perfect barrels and made from the perfect grape. When we paid we picked up some French truffles, which are delicious and unique chocolate. They look like they have a dusting of cocoa powder on the outside, almost like they are going to be dry before you take a bite, but they are smooth and rich. Sarah is sleeping now and it is only 4:38. It doesn’t require a long day on the wine trail to get a little tired.
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We continued to the Napa General Store. This place was indeed a general store, but it was also geared for tourists, as evidenced by the touristy trinkets and wine bar. The latter is what concerned us most. We were served by a very helpful lady who gave us some free wines; it was one of the longer walks of the day to get here and would be another longer jaunt back. We continued to Bounty hunter wine bar and restaurant, which had a bunch of local wines, a great pub atmosphere and big pours, an experience we were happy to have. The Copia Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts was closed, and we headed towards Oxbow Tasting Room, which was shared between two friends, Waterstone Wineries and Mahoney Vineyards. Again, we tasted some great wines. The partial owner of the store explained that for him, wine making was not an extremely profitable business, but a passion of love. I can appreciate that. We continued to another store that also shared the name “Oxbow,” this time the Oxbow Cheese Merchant. We tasted our wines and bought eight kinds of Cheese, each a generous portion, for thirty dollars or so. These included Caprino Cramosa, a goat cheese, Prefere des Montagnes, a cow milk cheese and Salametto Fra’Mani, a handcrafted Italian sausage, and some mixed Italian Olives. See the picture to get an idea of the variety that we were eating.
We walked back to Stonehedge, our first stop of the day, and got the free tastings that the card allowed. The friendly man that was there earlier was still present. He appreciated that we enjoyed the wine enough to come back. We told him about our day, he gave us what would be considered big pours for tastings, and about a half dozen cork screws/wine keys. We chatted and drank a bit more and headed back to our hotel room, where we ate as much cheese as we could. Rich, unique cheese was a poor choice as the only item eaten for dinner after a day of wine drinking, but it was verifiably delicious. We ate as much as we could enjoy, which was most of each kind and all of the meat and olives, and went to bed.
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Right now, we are heading back to Portland. We are going to wake Sarah as soon as we get to Pastini Pastaria, a restaurant where Tom has been working for several weeks and we had not visited as patrons yet, and where Tom gets fifty percent off on parties of four or less, a welcome respite after spending ten to fifteen dollars each for tastings today. Wine tasting days are the best days, whether in the greater Portland area, Upstate New York, or Napa Valley. Plan a wine tour right now. I insist.