Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Ok, apologies for the clickbait title, but it does hold a bit of truth for us. While Mike was living in San Francisco in 2010, we tried to take day trips up to Napa Valley as often as we could. We would drive up in the morning without a plan, stumble across a cute winery for a tasting, ask them for a recommendation and then drive on to the next cellar. Wash, rinse, repeat. At the end of the day (having inevitably joined too many wine clubs), we would walk into the nearest In-N-Out Burger, order a Double-Double "Animal Style" and hope to soak up some of that delicious juice - leaving Napa with full stomachs and purple smiles on our faces.
During our downtime we found ourselves on Zillow, daydreaming about buying a place, retiring, making wine, and opening up a B&B. I think what we loved, and still love, is the culture - everyone seemed to be connected to the wine industry, working towards a common goal, striving for quality, making something beautiful, and then sharing that with others. We loved the connection to place and the land (we now realize that ALL wine regions share this trait), the sense of community, the pride in the local products, and of course, the scenery - doesn't the best wine seem to always come from the most beautiful places on Earth?
Those trips to Napa, led to discovering its neighbor to the west, Sonoma County, which led to enjoying the more subtle flavors of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which piqued our curiosity for the Pinot Noirs of Oregon and Burgundy, which led to eventually traveling to those places, which led to loving old world wine and discovering the wines of Italy, Portugal, Spain....you get the picture. Learning about wine leads to learning about the culture of the place it came from, the people, the food, the customs, the scenery - all of it so wonderful and seemingly endless. We know we are still early on in our wine journey, but we feel like we've already evolved so much since our first steps stumbling into (and out of) Napa Valley.
Here are some of our favorite Napa Valley producers in no particular order:
Rutherford Hill Winery - Consistently great wines at a reasonable $. We are still members today.
Chimney Rock - Single Vineyard Cabernets that go the distance. Bring your credit card as these wines are $$$ (**hint: they are a sister winery to Rutherford Hill and each offers perks at the other's estate).
Hess Collection - Incredible tasting room/art collection with very good wines.
Smith Madrone - A small throwback producer that keeps their Cabs on the lighter side.
Burgess - Tasting room on Howell Mountain with a great views, a personalized visit, and tasty wines.
Terra Valentine - Go for the wine, stay for the wine and cheese pairing. Yum.
Favia - Super small project of a rockstar winemaker. Super high quality operation with an extensive private tasting.
Grgich Hills - Historic producer. Many great wines that are organically farmed.
Pure Cru - We are lucky to know winemaker Mitch Cosentino through mutual friends and he makes high quality wines with a lot of personality.
Clif Family Winery - This is Mike's life encapsulated in a winery. Wine, Bikes, Food, Coffee. The founder, Gary, plays trumpet to boot! The wine also happens to be absolutely fantastic.
Please let us know your favorite Napa Valley wines in the comments - we would love to check them out!
Left: Mike and Liz @ Rutherford Hill Wine Caves, 2019.
Right: Baker Beach, San Francisco, 2011. Photo credit: Mike