Okay, the title alone is a little cheesy, and a true wine critic is cringing right now, but they most likely don’t read my blog (yet), so who cares? It’s catchy though, right?
Lets face it, I am definitely not a sommelier when it comes to wine. I wouldn’t even call myself a connoisseur, but I do absolutely LOVE wine! I like white wine, red wine, blends, and even sparkling. Pretty much if it was once a grape in its first life, I adore it during its second. Yes, wine is my friend and we travel together quite nicely on this journey called life! That being said, I couldn’t tell you if a glass of wine has blackberries, apples, oak, butter, tobacco, plumeria, or anything else descriptive in it, and I really don’t care. If I like it, I like it and that is about it.
So, when my husband and I were planning our trip to California, one of the first things we decided we wanted to do was spend a few days in the Napa Valley area in Northern California and enjoy some wine tastings. First of all, it is a gorgeous and picturesque area, and second of all…well…WINE!
During the past two days, we have visited several wineries, but the two I want to talk about here, and the two I would highly recommend if you are planning to visit Napa Valley anytime soon are: Sterling Vineyards and Castello di Amorosa. Both wineries are very different from each other, but both are very informative as far as the wine process goes, and both are made up of a uniqe ambiance.
Lets first start with Sterling Vineyards……
As soon as you walk up to the entrance where you purchase your tickets for Sterling Vineyards, you see a gondola station. This gondola is how you enter the actual property of the winery. Depending on the time of year, the line could probably get pretty long for the gondola, but it is definitely a unique way to get started. In fact, as a sign clearly states near where the line forms, Sterling Vineyards is the only winery in the world to have a gondola on the property. Pretty cool! Anyway, once you arrive up the mountain, there is a self guided tour of the property that is very well organized and marked, and the wine tasting occurs at different stations throughout the winery. You carry your very own, take home wine glass as you go, and it is sort of like a little gas station…you get empty, no worries, right around corner, they fill it back up! This is great because your not just standing in one spot at the bar (like most wine tastings), drinking many different wines, with the salesperson (or wine pourer?, not quite sure what they are called), waits for you to mark which bottle of wine you want to buy. Pressure!! Yes, I prefer the low key, do it yourself way of doing things. Sterling Vineyards does this very well. You can watch videos throughout the tour that discuss the different processes for wine making (or not… your choice), you can sit on one of the terraces the property offers that overlooks the beautiful valley with its plush and green views, or you can just get to the different stations as fast as you can so you can get on your way to the next winery. Again, the choice is yours in this self guided tour.
My husband and I chose to pay a little bit more than the general ticket price, which allowed us to go up an extra flight of stairs to participate in a sit down tasting in addition to the self guided tour. This was only $10.00 more, ($35.00 versus $25.00) and it was well worth it. We enjoyed 4 additional wines than what you would normally get to experience if you just did the self guided tour, and we also were able to purchase a cheese platter to go with the extra wines. We enjoyed a nice afternoon, sitting next to a floor to ceiling window, and toasted several times to well…what else….great wine!! (and of course our kids, and health and love, and all that other good stuff)….Sterling Vineyards is definitely a must see stop in your next Napa Valley adventure. Here are a few pictures I took on the property:
(First picture: gondola ride going up~Second picture: view from terrace~Third picture: just a few empty wine glasses from the tasting, and a thoroughly enjoyed cheese platter)
Our next stop was a surprise. It was not a winery that we had on our pre-designated list, but one we drove by and thought…hmmm, we should check it out. Boy am I so glad we did! It was fabulous. It was unique. It was Castello di Amorosa. This translates to “Castle of Love”. It is literally a castle, made out of authentic bricks and stones that were brought over from Italy to build this modern “medieval” castle, and it is a manifestation of the owners love of his Italian heritage and medieval architecture. Every detail concerning the structure of the winery was well thought out and executed as if it was truly built back in the Middle Ages. It just happened to be built starting in 1993, (actually opening in 2008), and as our tour guide cheerfully stated “we are the only 8 year old medieval castle winery in the world“, I thought, well, that IS different! Then the tour began……
The tour of the winery takes about 2 hours. It starts with a tour of the property, which includes 4 levels of underground caves that hold a torture chamber (it is a castle after all), an armory, the caves where all the aging barrels are stored, and finally the wine tasting room. The castle is truly a step back in time, and you definitely don’t feel like you are actually in Northern California. The staff were setting up for a masquerade ball for New Years Eve, and with the gothic decor and ambiance, I know it will be a one of a kind way to bring in 2016. Too bad, I won’t be a part of it, but I know they will have a blast. Cheers to them!!
The wine tasting at the end of the tour was a more traditional tasting. Our group lined up at a private bar and enjoyed several of the property’s unique wines. This winery is considered a “boutique” winery, so you will not find any of their wines distributed outside the winery itself. Overall, the variations of white wines and red wines that I tasted were great. Then again, as stated above earlier, of course I thought they were great. I am not hard to please. This winery is also a “not to be missed” destination for you if you have plans to visit Napa Valley. My husband and I will definitely be visiting the castle again the next time we are here. Some pictures for you from the castle:
Well, there you have it. Probably the most unprofessional write up about wine tours you have ever read. It is also not my typical type of blog post. But hey, it is what I am up to at the moment, and I thought it will be fun to start talking about my travels as I go along my journey, so there you go……thanks for listening. Cheers!!
Your very unofficial wine tour guide, Kalee