Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Napa valley

We're on our last day in Napa Valley. This has been a beautiful and educational three days. I feel like so lucky to have had the opportunity to meet all these amazing people and learn so much about wine and wine-making. The first day, we went to Joseph Phelps and had this VIP tour with a gentleman named Keith. I'm pretty sure he was actually Garrison Keillor. He spoke in this soothing midwest accent and told us stories about the property and the development of Napa and winemaking. I listened to him for two and a half hours and I could have stayed around for more.

After Phelps, we made our way to Quintessa. Phelps is an old well established winery. Quintessa are sort of the new kids on the block. I think they bought their land twenty years ago. Here we had a young woman named Kaitlyn take us on a hike through the property and sat on a hill drinking one of their sister wineries' sauvignon blanc, Illumination. Quintessa was hands down my favourite tour. They are bio-dynamic and after some gentle prodding, Kaitlyn opened up and gave us some really great information about how that works. I particularly like the use of animals to tend to the crops. Kaitlyn explained that some wineries are quiet about being bio-dynamic as it is considered flaky and can keep some 'serious' wine drinkers away. I have to say, I did notice an odd reluctance to discuss organics, bio-dynamics and the environmental impact of say, hundreds of thousands of new oak barrels, at other wineries. I was surprised.

Our final tour that day was Caymus. Caymus is a wine we've stocked for most of the time we've been open. This event was actually just a tasting, with some quick notes about the history of the business from the wine educator. The group had a very drunk couple from New York in it and that kind of made the dynamic a little wonky. In the end, it was the weakest event of the day.

Yesterday, we did Cakebread and Sequoia. Cakebread is a consistently fabulous wine that has always been a popular wine on our menu. It's pretty high end but when you see the production, it starts to make sense. Essentially, the winery tracks every barrel and mixes the barrels in specific lots to achieve a specific profile. It is painstaking. Once they have achieved the profile they are after, they then mix the same combination of barrels to create a run of a wine. The other wineries we met worked in a more 'batch' approach. They played with the chemistry but they didn't track each barrel from each lot. We had a very passionate tour guide at Cakebread, who had been a winemaker himself in Oregon, who clearly felt Cakebread was simply the best. He said that their 2007 Cab had such high ratings that they have pulled it from the tastings! He was also the least interested in talking about organics or the environmental impact of winemaking! Ironically, my favourite part of the tour was meeting with the Master Gardener and touring the organic gardens!

Sequoia is a beautiful winery right next door to Cakebread. Aptly named for the giant sequoias growing on the property, they are a teeny winery with some lovely wines. However by this point, I was pretty worn out and got distracted by a great cheese book from a collective cheese shop in Berkeley. The wine educator liked Alex so she poured him a lot of a big variety of reds, most of which we can't get because they only sell them from the winery. By the end of the tasting, Alex was pretty looped so we made our way to the Rutherford Grill and had a fantastic lunch.

Today, we are heading to Rubicon (Francis Ford Coppola's winery) and then to Boon Fly Cafe in Carneros. I love the name so hopefully we'll have fun! Tonight we head to San Francisco for a different type of fun and hopefully some night life!!

Finally, I just want to send a big thank you in Tina Jones' direction. I know that we buy a lot of wine from Banville & Jones and it makes sense that they would want to get us connected with the winemakers but Tina has gone above and beyond in taking care of this leg of our trip. She's pretty awesome and a great role model for business women in Winnipeg.

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