I was barely a wine professional when I visited my first winery. The year was 1975; I had just started buying wines for my family market and been married for a year. Our Gallo representative set up a tour and tasting for me at Sebastiani Winery in the town of Sonoma. I was really excited but had no idea what to expect. My first experience exceeded my expectations. Why? I followed the rules, paid attention to the hospitality and enjoyed the ambiance of the area. Visiting wineries is more than just tasting wines at a bar; it can become a foray into the surrounding countryside. The Napa Valley is one of the most toured places in California. In 2012, Napa Tourist spending hit $1.4 billion. (Source: Napa Valley Register.com, April 26, 2013). Folks go beyond wineries – they enjoy landmarks, recreation and restaurants. The end result is an experience of memorable proportions.
What are the dos and don’ts for winery visits?
Planning is where it begins. With so many options, one must make the most of the opportunities. What is the most important? The wine, the vineyards, the restaurants in wine country, some scenic point, everyone in your party has a magic button. Once the basics have been covered, you are on your way to a grand time. In my 40 years as a wine pro, I have visited a lot of wineries and whether you are an everyday consumer or a well-schooled professional, I have learned that preparation is the key to enjoying and getting the most out of visiting a winery. While serendipity often occurs at wineries (i.e. OMG, the grapes are just coming in or the owner wants to bring an old wine that is not on the list for you to taste), planning provides the underlying structure to a successful winery visit.
DO be respectful
So now you have arrived at your destination? What now? If you are a walk in, understand that you and your party are guests and will most likely be taken care of by the winery’s hospitality team. If you made a reservation, as some wineries require, then the most important thing is to be on time or inform the team of any changes (you are late or the number in your party has changed). In this way winery and restaurant reservations are quite similar. You would not be 30 minutes late for a reservation at the French Laundry without calling them.
DO thoughtfully taste wines – remember, it’s not a bar.
DON’T be afraid to spit.
DON’T drive if you have had too much wine! Lots of great buses, drivers, taxis to get you home.
And finally… DO enjoy yourself It’s wine country after all.
Good morning from beautiful downtown San Francisco, this is Chief Storyteller of Wine.com speaking to you from the heart of the city’s financial district on the eve of one of California wine’s greatest moments. Today we announce the release of the 2012 Caymus Vineyards 40 Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon.
Looking back over 40 years of incredible history, Caymus produced its first vintage in 1972, a rain-soaked year in which so many Napa Valley Cabernets went to the wayside. Yet the Wagner family succeeded in bringing to market a wine of great depth and richness that became a benchmark for California Cabernet. Now fast forward to the present and we find the wonderfully rich and opulent 2012 available for our collections.
From my notes, the 40th Anniversary Cabernet once again stands tall as wine that will ultimately represent one of the vintage’s best efforts. In a staff tasting, we found the wine opulent and long lasting. Dancing on edge of overt black fruit, the wine stays close to home with its unmistakable dustiness.
I first met Chuck Wagner around 1975, when I tasted the legendary 1973 Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. I have had the pleasure of tasting nearly every one of the winery’s 40 vintages and was so happy to experience the 2012. Happy 40th to the Wagner Family and all that you have done for the California wine industry.
Well, warm weather is here, really here and I am feeling a bit like fried chicken and a salad on the side, of course. Today, I enjoyed lunch with two Wine.com pals of mine (Anne and Alma) and was thinking of what would work with fried chicken. Both Alma and I order the fried chicken sandwich, which was pretty good. Anne got the mussels, which she enjoyed immensely. Since I was in a meeting mode, I didn’t have wine at lunch. Nonetheless, I’d opt for an Oregon Pinot Gris with what Alma and I had ordered. It would also have done well with Anne’s mussels. King Estate Pinot Gris comes to mind, though I really love the idea of matching this dish with one of my favorite Napa Valley Sauvignon Blancs- Honig. This picture is the 2013, but every vintage is winner! #pinotgris #kingestate #friedchicken #mussels #pinotgrigio @wine_com
Frog's Leap – a well-established and very respected winery located in Rutherford within the Napa Valley – is our wine alert today. We love Frog's Leap, both for its wonderful sensibility when it comes to growing good grapes and making great wine, as well as their lighthearted sense of humor that makes the wine – and winery – so approachable. We asked John Williams, owner and winemaker at Frog's Leap, a few questions. Make sure you also watch our video as we taste the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from the winery.
Q: Why the name, Frog's Leap?
A: It is a contraction of "Frog Farm", where I made our early homemade wines, and "Stag's Leap" where I had my first winemaking job in the Napa Valley.
Q: Your winery was organic before organic was "cool." Why did you choose organic farming?
A: When you come to the realization that we have, that the surest sign of a wine’s character is when it has the ability to transport you, captivate you and ultimately draw you back to its source of uniqueness, then you must also believe that the vines must be deeply rooted and nourished by their soils. To that end, the decision to farm organically was simple…nourish the soil, nourish the plant and capture the sense of place. No politics, no agenda, just good, honest farming.
Q: What is your favorite part of the vine cycle (or part of the year in the vineyard)?
A: Harvest. That time of year is filled with hard work, great promise and the rarest of opportunities to capture the sense of time, place and people into a bottle of wine. This is the essence of terroir to us. Harvest time represents all the possibilities of the year and all of our hope for how the wines we are making will age into the future for our kids and their kids to enjoy. There is something magical about a well-aged bottle of wine that carries the significance of history with it.
Q: What is your favorite grape to work with?
A:I would have to say Merlot. It is the hardest red wine to make (yes, even more so than Pinot Noir). Merlot is a cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon, so one must “work” the wine in the cellar to soften the tannins and smooth the rough edges…just like one has to with Cabernet. Yet, Merlot has an aroma profile similar to Pinot Noir…the very pretty red-fruits. If one “works” the wine in the cellar too much then the wine will end up smelling “weedy” just like you would with a Pinot. Merlot forces the winemaker to walk a very fine line between working the wine enough and knowing when to stop…it is a constant challenge and one that can reward you with a wine of extreme depth and character…see Petrus for an example.