Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Napa Valley, California

We had some friends visiting from California that said we had to stop by the Napa Valley since it was the Walla Walla of California. A valley famous for its red wines. Well, the Napa Valley reds are good wines, but they will have to work harder to match the quality of Walla Walla reds or even Royal City. But that Zinfindal grape is pretty special. We do not have any of those vines in eastern Washngton.

Here is Napa we picked up the December 31, 2009 edition of the Wine Enthusiast. Their number 2 wine with a perfect 100 score is the Charles Smith, 2006 Royal City Syrah. Now Royal City has good pheasant hunting and a quick stop that is good for gas and snacks. A friend fixed a front end with help from a local gas station while bird hunting. So now Royal City joins the ranks of the greats of wine making. Will 30 years Royal City be yuppie stop on the wine tour or a place where people will help fix your front end??

All teasing aside we have been visiting and staying in the Napa Valley since the late 1960's. In 1973 I worked on a timber sale just outside of Middleton and stayed in the Napa Valley. I had to get back early to the Napa Valley to catch dinner before they rolled up the sidewalks.

Those were the days when a cheap date was to pack a picnic basket and head up to Napa to drink wines for free at the tastings. Krug, Christian Brothers, Beringer, BV, and Inglenook were the main wineries. There was that new fellow Mondavi with his winery at the "southern" end of the valley.

Now the Christian Brothers Winery has become the Culinary Arts Institute of America or the CIA for short. They went so far as the "clean" the building so that when I drove past it I did not recognize the building.

The wine tastings are still in the valley, but no longer free. The wineries now charge by the ounce for tastings. Basically, you end up buying the bottle one way or another. Now I am not complaining, since the Napa Valley is now in the mass tourism and somebody has to pay the bill.
So come here in winter on weekdays and enjoy the valley.
This is the Franciscan tasting room. The vineyard was established in 1973, by an investor group from San Francisco. Hence, the name the Franciscan. So if you are looking for monks, I suspect they left the valley with Brother Timonthy and Christian Brothers.

Napa Valley has always had good restaurants, but they were much fewer in 1973. That little Basque restaurant where I had dinner is long gone. But others have replaced it. We would pass on the wine tasting charges and look for good places to eat. They are expensive, but all over the valley and you can always buy a good wine with the dinner. We will list more places in our next blog.
The Napa Valley is where American wines beat the French in a blind tastings back in the 1970's. Ah, but the French said those wines will not age well and not hold up over time. Well, that same tasting was redone in the 1990's with the same bottlings and the results were the same.
Yes, there are outstanding wineries in eastern Washington, the central coast of California, and even western Oregon. But the Napa Valley is where it began. If you drink wine, the Napa Valley will be a stop on your usbackroads tour sooner or later.

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