Weekend of Feb 7
While Dave was away in Salt Lake skiing I decided to not rent a car and check out the local Vine bus system to get to Calistoga for the final weekend of the Wine Passport. The Vine system is very similar to the old Hampton Jitney local buses back home on Long Island – they run every hour if you’re lucky and these buses make very few stops out on these country roads so walking shoes are a must! 🙂 I was actually very much looking forward to clocking more than a few miles of walking because our exercise has been pretty much limited to our gym and its old, used, and dusty equipment.
Our lucky streak with sunny weather in the 70s nearly every day was also broken this same weekend as Fri and Sun saw horrid downpours and wind for most of the day. Sat was dry but cool…
Beneserre (Thurs 2/5) – Targeted this winery after having a very reasonably priced and delicious pinot grigio at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. Took the bus to the nearest stop, which was about a 30 minute walk from the winery. It was cool to get a little more up close and personal with some vineyards along the way instead of flying by them in a car. Walked past Madrigal Family Winery which we visited recently, turned down Big Tree Road and enjoyed a relatively quiet walk with just a few cars whizzing by me (cars tend to not even slow down when you are walking on these country roads with no sidewalks and small shoulders.) I was the only customer in the winery for a good hour and enjoyed a complimentary ‘Napa Neighbors’ tasting of 6 of their wines as well as a fun chat with Dennis, the wine attendant. This tasting was a bit different from others in that all 6 wines were poured at once, allowing you to compare and contrast them at the same time – instead of many other tastings where you tend to drink them one after the other. Dennis was interesting to talk to – we shared our observations on the book Unbroken and how incredible it is (unlike the movie) – he is reading it to his girlfriend each night and was having a hard time doing so since it is so emotional. He recommended the book Modoc, about an elephant, after we talked about how great Water for Elephants was. Towards the end of my tasting another customer came in, along with a tour guide, and we chatted for awhile and they offered me a ride over to the CIA where the customer was attending a food/wellness seminar. After a few glasses of wine, I thought a 30 minute walk plus a potentially long wait for a bus didn’t seem so appealing. I bought a pinot grigio and zin and was on my way to the CIA with the ladies.
Beringer (classic tasting room) – Dave and I have been to the reserve tasting room (which is beautiful and we enjoyed the wines), but hadn’t made it over to the classic tasting room. Since I was dropped at the CIA right next door, I decided to pop in. This was the only winery to-date (and the tasting count is getting up there!) that requested proof of residence for my Napa Neighbor discount. After showing her the lease email we began the tasting. The attendant was pretty fun to talk to – she was younger and we talked about some hijinks we experienced in high school (such as a large party getting broken up by the cops making it into the local paper! eh em…)! Met some older couples visiting from Queens and Long Island and bought a bottle of their premium red blend Quantum on sale.
Fri – 2/6
Failed attempt to visit Castello di Amarosa winery on Friday afternoon due to a downed tree. Bus turned around, I had to get off and walk for a while on the wine superhighway in a down pour, and graciously accepted yet another ride from a local! 2 for 2!
Castello di Amarosa (aka, The Castle) Sat 2/7
On Sat the bus ride was successful to The Castle. There was quite a long hill to climb to get there but it was well worth it. Pretty and interesting grounds with a cool (albeit new) castle, along with sheep and goats, to greet you at the top! This winery is definitely a destination, similar to and by the same owner as V Sattui on Rt 29 in St Helena. You can take tours of the castle and grounds, or you can cruise right to the tasting room in the basement (or dungeon!) as I did where you can taste and shop to your heart’s content!
My attendant was from Capri, Italy and geared the experience based on my wine preferences. There is a huge variety to choose from (including a variety of sweet wines and there is also grape juice for the designated drivers and kids) and I opted for a few whites and reds. I think he threw in a few extra to be nice (as many of these wineries do!) I met a couple visiting from Miami, told them a bit about my new traveling lifestyle, and attempted to give them some tips on where else to go in the area – Sterling for the view, Duckhorn for the experience, and Rombauer for the wine!
I bought a few bottles (chardonnay and Il Brigante, a red blend) and made my way back down to Rt 29 for the hike to the next winery just outside of downtown Calistoga. The Miami couple did stop and ask me if I wanted a ride, but this time I declined as I really wanted to earn ‘my steps’ on my Fitbit that day!
The Road to T-Vine & Other Calistoga wineries
Rt 29 was my ‘Lake Shore Drive’ for the day as I racked up quite a few steps walking along this wine highway to my afternoon destinations. I once again enjoyed seeing the vineyards and surrounding on an up-close and personal basis. I however did not enjoy the roar of engines as cars sped by me and I definitely was prepared to go diving head-first into a vineyard if necessary!
This place is a few blocks outside of downtown Calistoga. Cool barn-like but modern, clean interior with a nice view over the vineyard. My attendant’s father is the winemaker at Shafer, which was a good reminder to book that tasting appointment! Really enjoyed the petite sirah!
Sister winery to T-Vine, wasn’t planning on stopping in here, but glad I did! The tasting room is in a garage and the wines all have interesting creative names and branding – most are blends, but I surprised myself by really digging their uniquely rich single varietal pinot noir….
Tasting room located right on the main drag in Calistoga. The tasting room was simple and straight up – the staff a bit complacent, or maybe just not that experienced. I did get to pick up a few boxes of Girl Scout Samoa’s and a 2012 zin because we are here to buy, buy, buy.. he he!
Romeo Vineyard & Cellars
This was a cool little find, diagonal from Maldonado’s – a nice sitting area on the main street and a second area by the tasting room. The attendant may have been the owner – she was very animated, intense, and knowledgeable, and looked like she stepped off a Harley in the 70s! Their tagline is “Sempre Vive” – Always Alive. Introduced me to the term ‘clone’ in winemaking where clones are artificially bred for favorable characteristics – some adapt to their environment and develop differently than their ‘host’. Tried my frist 98% petit verdot wine (usually petit verdot is used to ‘mellow out’ strong grapes and give wines a richer color – it was quite good, but quite expensive, so I declined adding that one to our collection! Picked up a bottle of their reasonably-priced Chardonnay instead.
5 wineries in one day with LOTS of walking – put a fork in me I was DONE!