A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking a trip out west with one of my best girlfriends, Alison, to visit Napa Valley. We’ve been the best of friends for so many years, and with her living in Chicago we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like, so we were super excited for a reunion in wine country! If you love wine, beautiful weather and breathtaking views, then Napa Valley is definitely a place you should visit at least once. The views are stunning and the wine is exceptionally delicious!
The first winery we visited was the V. Sattui Winery. This winery had a fun and exciting feel to it and everyone was so friendly. The weather was absolutely perfect so we decided to grab lunch from their Artisan Deli to enjoy out on the picnic grounds before our wine tasting. After lunch we made our way in for a tasting and it was at this winery I realized that I like Chardonnay. My favorite here was the 2015 Los Carneros. It had hints of pear, ripe fig, honeydew and white peach. Doesn’t that just make your mouth water?! They had a really great Merlot as well, the 2013 Napa Valley Merlot. This one had hints of cherries, green olives, currants and tobacco. An interesting combination, but was actually quite delicious. We later made our way to the iconic Grgich Hills Estate where the wine and the views were absolutely amazing! We encountered a very enthusiastic wine steward who couldn’t wait to give us our wine tasting and a little history on the estate. Miljenko Grgich, a winemaker who crafted the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, that won the Judgement of Paris in 1976 as the finest white wine in the world. After the Judgement, Grgich partnered with Austin Hills (of Hills Bros. Coffee) to begin the family owned and operated Grgich Hills Estate producing high quality wines. At the age of 94, Miljenko is still involved at Grgich Hills Estate. I guess wine keeps you young, I’ll cheers to that!
Of all the wineries we visited, this one had the best reds. Alison and I loved the 2016 Yountville Old Wine Cabernet Sauvignon. This is hands down the best red wine I’ve ever had! It’s rich flavors of blackberries, black licorice and a hint of allspice packed a very pleasing punch to the palate. We couldn’t resist pulling over on the side of the road to get pictures of the white picket fence at this farmstead winery at Nickel & Nickel Winery. Thanks for being my photographer, Alison!My beautiful friend Alison. This is Sterling Vineyards, my favorite winery we visited! It’s perched 300 feet above the town of Calistoga and has panoramic views of Napa Valley. As you can see, the views are just breathtaking! An interesting surprise to me is that we had to take an aerial tram to get up the hill to the winery. For those of you who know me, I am terrified of heights, so I was really nervous on the ride up (the ride down wasn’t so bad because I already had some wine in me and was feeling verrry relaxed). We could have stayed here all day soaking in the views. This winery is a must on your list!
This is the Freemark Abbey Winery. Of all the wineries we visited, this one was the most interesting in history to me. Upon walking in there is a very warm and inviting feeling, and once you start your tasting you begin to learn the history of this iconic stone building. It was originally constructed in 1886 and underwent renovations in 2015, click here to learn more. Freemark Abbey Winery graces the label of one of the valley’s legacy wineries, renowned for its participation in the pivotal Judgement of Paris wine tasting of 1976 – a distinction that placed Napa Valley squarely on the world wine stage.
Here is where I discovered a love for Chardonnay! The flavors in this 2015 Chardonnay were bursting in my mouth like a tropical fruit cocktail! The pear, citrus, lemonlime, green apple and peach were so light, crisp and refreshing. This winery had a really great red wine as well, we particularly enjoyed the 2012 Sycamore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. There was so much going on in this wine that I wasn’t sure how it would taste. With flavors of blackberry, currant, dark chocolate truffle with cocoa dust, cinnamon and clove, it was quite pleasant.
So outside of the Freemark Abbey Winery there are these beautiful flowers in which I just had to get a photo with. Little did I know there were hundreds of bees on these flowers buzzing right above head. Along with my fear of heights, I have a fear of bees (usually because they always try to sting me for no good reason) so I was trying not to freak out in this picture while Alison hurried to take the shot. Luckily we survived, me and the bees.
We stopped at Beringer Vineyards just in time before they closed to do a quick walk around the property, it looked so pretty from the road not to. This vineyard is the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley. The landscape was beautiful and I found another water fountain to pose with.
One of the wineries we visited, which I didn’t get any photos of, was Napa Cellars. Here is where I had another wonderful Chardonnay. The 2013 Napa Cellars V Collection Chardonnay was so delicious. Flavors of green apple, white nectarine, tangerine, fig, and honey filled my senses with delight.
We also did an olive oil tasting at the Napa Valley Extra Virgin. I love olive oil and use it every day, so I was really excited about this. Their olive oil is from branch to bottle – first press, cold press. The taste was amazing, so fresh and flavorful. My favorite was the Duck L’Olive. They also offered a balsamic tasting and my favorite was the Blackberry Balsamic.
There are about 400 wineries with tasting rooms in Napa Valley. If you’ve been to wine country, I’d love to hear some of your favorites!