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Being in such close proximity to the highway leading into Napa and Sonoma my friends and I agreed to take a trip into Napa for an afternoon. This marks my first trip to the wine county of Napa and seeing the vineyards all lined up down the highway. This was also my first drive through San Francisco and over any of the bridges.

I spent my time looking out the car windows as we wound our way down the highway looking at the city and out to the bays. We met up with the bridge white beans reaching up to meet at a peak reminiscent of a sail and the white boughs of the ship reaching across the bay to connect the two lands.  It was a beautiful drive and provided an overview of the expanse of the city. Across the bay we connected to the highways that take you up to Napa and Sonoma. Our first stop – Domaine Chandon.

What better way to start a tour of Napa then with some bubbly? Domaine Chandon is the champagne house of Napa, producing many bottle of sparkling wine year after year in a number of styles and lengths of aging. This was our first stop, with many reasons to be good. Heading into the members section of the tasting room the three of us selected which tasting profile we each wanted. Two of us selected the “Reserve Tasting” while the third of our party had the “Prestige Tasting”. The Reserve tasting consists of the Reserve Blancs de Blancs, Reserve Brut and the Reserve Pinot Noir Rose. The Prestige tasting consisted of the étoile Brut and étoile Rosé. Each half glass of this special elixir provided a new experience to fill the senses.

imageThe Reserve Blancs de Blancs was full of lemon and lemon curd on the nose and through to the palate. It was crisp and fresh and did not require a lot of thought to sit and enjoy. The Reserve Brut was dry and crisp with slightly more aging then the Blancs de Blancs. It offered more yeasty notes reminiscent of lees aging, and heavier body and mouth feel. The Reserve Pinot Noir Rosé was only the very slight lest hint of pink, it was soft and very approachable with notes of stone fruit and a slight hint of raspberry. Both étoile selections had been aged on the lees for 5+ years, so both selections were full-bodied and heavily yeasty. The Brut lended secondary notes of dried lemon and apple. The Rose offered secondary notes of strawberry and grapefruit. Both needed time to explore and experience.

After asking about the growth of Pinot Meunier on the property the bar tender offered a tasting of their 100% still Pinot Meunier. This was the first time I had the pleasure of tasting this grape on its own and in still form. The flavour was much different then I would have anticipated it to be. Notes of cranberry, strawberry, bing cherry and pomegranate with some oak notes of smoke, pepper and mild tar. It was complex, yet approachable from the first sip.

imageAfter our sparkling wine we went on the road to find another vineyard that caught our eye. We stumbled across Alpha Omega Winery and pulled in. With complimentary valet service and a gorgeous patio for tasting, we made ourselves comfortable and sampled the Reserve tasting, which gave a selection of 4 reds.

The first red on the tasting Proprietary Red, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. A well blended red wine with enough sweetness and fruit forwardness from the Cabernets. The Petit Verdot added both depth in colour and a hint of pepper that lingered in the mouth. The tannins were supportive, alcohol in good balance. The nose offered notes of cherry, Cassis, tobacco, tomato, bell pepper, red peppercorn, orange zest with clove and cardamom pod on the nose. These followed through on the palate and were accompanied by black pepper. The finish was medium at best.

imageThe Cabernet Sauvignon was next on the list for tasting. Still a blended wine (76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot) but the dominance of the Cabernet was apparent. The nose offered notes of Blackberry, black cherry, thyme, au jus, Cassis, blueberry, vanilla, cedar, tobacco, eucalyptus. The palate followed suit with notes of tobacco, cedar, vanilla, blueberry, Cassis, savoury quality of jus and thyme and eucalyptus.

The Cabernet Franc was well ripened. Showing the gritty tannins typically of the varietal, but heavier fruit notes of blackberry, black current and red bell pepper. The Petit Verdot was a truly interesting wine. Dark, almost opaque in colour with flavours of aubergine, black pepper, blackberry, sawdust, sage, prune, and other dried fruits such as figs and dates. As the wine opened up further notes of blueberry, anise and leather appeared. A complex wine with a long finish, and one that could of used some more time to open up and reveal more of its qualities.

These two tastings did not leave me disappointed about the beauty of Napa, but it was dark and time for the group of us to go and find some dinner before heading back to San Carlos.