So, you're heading to Napa Valley, Ca.....or you've always wanted to. Here's a few places to visit to make you trip extraordinary instead of just great. We just came back this summer and visited most of these places ourselves. Other recommendations are made from friends who recently had special experiences there.
Gargiulo Vineyards - If you haven't had any of their wines, make an effort to try them. They make a Rose of Sangiovese that was super this summer in the heat. Their signature wine, Aprile is a sangiovese wine named after the founders daughter, April, who is an integral player in their success. The vineyard on Oakville Cross might actually be one of the most scenic views we have seen. Plus, the vineyard is within shouting distance of Screaming Eagle vineyards, probably one one the most expensive wines produced in the USA. Gargiulo Vineyards is located on Oakville Cross, right off of the Silverado Trail. Check their website: http://www.gargiulovineyards.com/ to obtain information about visiting them and obtaining their wines, which often sell out early.
Jessup Cellars - I almost feel guilty for posting this tasting room in Yountville, since the wine is ALREADY hard enough to get now....once you visit you will join the club, buy the wine and then they will tell me that there is no additional allocations for guys like me, who have supported them before YOU even got there! Here's the deal about Jessup: you are looking for a vineyard or a row of grapes even. No luck here: They have a tasting room on Washington St. which runs through the center of Yountville, past Boucheron Bakery and Villagio Spa and Resort. It looks like a honkytonk bar, until you get to the door....then what is a best-kept secret to its loyal followers turns out to be the party of the trip. The room is boisterous in the best of ways. The party revolves around the tasting bar, a half-circle of granite which separates you from the tasting staff. If you are lucky or a club member, you can get a private tasting with Danielle in the private room. If you are even luckier....Grant and/or Charlie are helping out with the pours and the conversation is a treat for insiders and outsiders alike. Join the club and be treated to some of the best wines you can't find at your local store. Jessup is a winner, and you will be a loyalist once you taste the Table For Four. Just thank me when you get home.
Elizabeth Spencer Wines - Most people know The Rutherford Grill as a great place to go for a meal in Napa. They are right, of course, with their southwestern flair and the freshest seafood in the area, The Rutherford Grill is a must visit for your Napa trip. But.....before you head into the Grill for a queso appetizer or a fresh seafood salad, walk across Rutherford Road and head into the Elizabeth Spencer Wines tasting room. Here you will find some grapes growing alongside the parking area outside. Inside is all wood and metal and old-style wineracks. The bar is open, and the wines are spectacular. The best Cabernet of our recent trip was the 2004 Elizabeth Spencer Mt. Veeder Cabernet. The wine is made by the combined efforts of Elizabeth Pressler, Spencer Graham and Matthew Rorick. We met Elizabeth and Spencer in NYC at an industry tasting to introduce the 2005 vintage releases. The Grenache and Syrah were excellent and their Napa Chardonnay was also note-worthy. Elizabeth Spencer Wines are distributed to local wine shops throughout the country and if you can't source them locally, contact them to order direct from the winery. This is a boutique winery, run by people who actually own the company and make the wines. Their commitment to their customer base is on-point and if you have the opportunity to visit them when in Napa, you will be richer for being in their good company. However, you will be poorer in your wallet because you can't just BUY ONE!