This past weekend I celebrated the much needed long weekend with my cousin who was in town from New York. Since it was her first time in the Bay Area, a trip to Napa was absolutely necessary. I've really only been wine tasting in Napa once before (my very first trip to the area in 2007), so it was a pretty exciting day for me as well. Unfortunately the weather gods were not on our side and we woke up to a gloomy, rainy Saturday.
Once we got up to Napa, the weather cleared up a little and we eventually found ourselves at winery numero uno - The Hess Collection
Hess is tucked away on super windy Redwood Road, just off Rt. 29 (the main highway) in Napa. Not exactly a picturesque drive after a storm, but it sure is quiet and off the beaten path. In fact, it reminded me of trips to the wineries in Healdsburg that required us to drive through these long windy roads that seemed to never end.
We walked up to the winery and the gardens were perfectly landscaped with fun sculptures scattered about - all of which I'm sure look even better on a sunny day. The main building was covered in ivy (or something like it?) and had these huge wooden doors that were as heavy as they looked!
We were greeted by a very friendly host who told us that we had several options for our visit - we could head upstairs to check out the art collection, go straight to the tasting room, or join one of the scheduled tours for the afternoon. Since we were on a schedule, we opted to go straight to the tasting.
To our surprise, despite the bad weather, the tasting room was packed. We managed to find a small spot and for $10, we began our mix-match tasting of four Hess Collection and Artizen wines.
My personal favorites:
Hess Collection 2007 Mount Veeder 19 Block Cuvee
Blend: 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Malbec, 4% Syrah, 4% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot
You all know I love blends. This one smells wonderful and I think it's the currant I like so much. The tasting notes mention carmel and molasses, but I didn't pick up on those...maybe I just need another taste :)
Hess Collection 2006 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon
Blend: 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Malbec, 1% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot
Ok, I either really love blends or I love how Hess blends their Cabs with Malbec. I liked this one almost as much as the Cuvee, but clearly I wasn't buying both. The black cherry and currant are very noticeable in this one and while I also prefer bold reds with lots of tannins, I thought this was a perfectly balanced red. The tasting notes say there are underlying flavors of graphite and cedar box...I don't know about you, but I haven't smelled or tasted graphite lately. Eeh.
Onto winery number two!
Located on Rt. 29 with all the other Napa/Rutherford wineries, Peju Province Winery greets you with a long tree-lined driveway that leads up to a very unique looking building - it looks like someone chopped off the top portion of a tower and plopped it on the grounds!
After a little searching, I found out it's known as the Peju Tower and was designed by a Southern California architect named Calvin Straub in 1980(ish). Check out all the info here.
This might be one of the most informative and structured wine tastings I've been to in awhile. Upon arriving we put our names in with the host and were told we had to wait for the next available tasting. It wasn't too long of a wait and next thing we knew we were guided up a flight of stairs to the tasting room.
The tasting room overlooks a ton of barrels and fits about 10 people comfortably per tasting station (there are two). Our pourer was super knowledgable and enthusiastic about the winery and the wines. He started off by saying he tells people to sip the wine three times - first to introduce the wine, second to taste the wine, and third to look for the specific flavors.
Not a big chardonnay fan, but this is not your regular chardonnay. It's not oaky or buttery at all. In fact, it's crisp and light...almost like a sauvignon blanc. Hints of crisp apple and apricot. Very nice start.
Blend: Red & White
Our pourer started telling a story about how Tony Peju created this wine for his daughters who weren't really into the reds or whites and immediately I assumed we were going to taste a rose. Nope. I was introduced to a DELICIOUS red and white blend. Served chilled, this wine is slightly sweet and bright like a white wine, but not too sweet like a white zinfandel *gasp*. You definitely get a hint of refreshing strawberry and oh, it's SO good with everything. I imagine this would be perfect on a spring day. Or, you know, a gloomy day in February after wine tasting.
Blend: 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Normally I don't like merlot. I think it feels too slimy in my mouth and blech. Pass. This merlot, however, was surprisingly enjoyable. Maybe it's that hint o cab? I think so. It has just enough tannins in it to make my mouth happy, but not too much. I love. You should try it too.
Tastings are $15 and the fee is waived when you make a $30 purchase. Totally worth visiting and buying since the majority of their wine sales are in the winery and through the wine club.
We actually ended our wine tastings with Peju (I know, two is kinda wimpy!) so we could squeeze in a trip to the outlets. You think I'm crazy, but it's totally worth it. I went with friends to the Napa Premium Outlets over Memorial Day weekend and the sales were INSANE. Naturally I pointed them out to my cousin on the drive up and we decided that we could totally swap some wineries out to accommodate some shopping. Presidents' Day sales, hello! Do yourself a favor and knock out some shopping AND wine tasting on your next trip to Napa :)