Napa Trip-May 17th 2010

Day One-Monday
Amazing! Cold and Rain….lots of rain….in Napa….yes rain.

Somehow I’ve managed to pick the worst week of weather this year to be in wine country (although even lousy weather in wine country is better then great weather at home!) Of course, the AirTran flight was 2 hours late due to the great weather in SF.

Checked in and had dinner at one my big favorites, Mustards Grill.

I enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich plus some onion straws making it a great roadside meal. Barnett Vineyards Cabernet complimented the dish.

Comfort food while it’s drizzling and wet everywhere.

All is well.

Day Two-Tuesday May18th
The rain went away but the fog managed to linger most of the day. Temps got up to 74 and all in all it was a nice day.

First interview of the day was with Napa Valley Legend Rafael Rodriguez of Rubicon Estate. Well over 90 minutes of in depth history of his journey out of Mexico and deep into Napa history. Rafael is almost 90 years old and you would never know it. Quick witted and humble, his memory was quick and in fact he had a very clear picture of his past and present. It was an honor to meet this amazing man.

Off to lunch at Farmstead restaurant in St. Helena. I originally had dinner here in February and after a poor visit, promised myself to give them a second chance. Oddly enough I had the very same server as in February…what are the odds?. The service was all smiles but without the attention to detail of other Napa eateries. The focus seemed to be on selling and growing the tab. As for the food, in my opinion…..I have no reason to visit there again. Nuff said.

The next interview was in St. Helena with Amy Aiken of Meander Wines. Amy is a fiercely independent winemaker with an exceptional history and a fantastic attitude toward life. She knows how to laugh and she knows how to make great wine. Small production has grown to a second ‘project’ called “Conspiracy”. Her Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best I’ve tasted at the price point.

After chatting we went out for a ride in her 1958 Morris Minor pickup truck….and she let me drive!

After a quick stop at Paraduxx to purchase a couple of bottles of ‘Reflection’, we went to the final interview of the day with Kevin Morrisey, winemaker at Ehlers Estate in St Helena.

Kevin has a great sense of humor and you get the feeling that even though he is passionate about making wine, but somehow he keeps things from getting too serious. He also revealed his love for Rose (specifically, European Rose).

I’m seeing a Rose pattern in wine country….we’ll look deeper into this in future podcasts.

Dinner was as the CIA sitting comfortably at the bar.

This was not my first experience at the CIA but to be frank for the price (I had Salmon), we would have done better at the Rutherford Grill….or even Taylors Refresher.

Facebook gets caught up and off to bed.

Day Three-Wednesday, May 19th
…and the rains came down again. After a promising start (meaning for an hour-the sky was blue and the sun was shining) the day went to heck and the rain followed us up north of St Helena to Boeschen Vineyards to meet with Doug Boeschen for our next interview.

The Boeschen property was beautiful and included a rose garden with colors galore. The cave was equally as amazing featuring a horseshoe type design with a ‘grand’ room at the center housing the winemaking operation.

Doug was a great interview giving concise answers and again showing the deep passion that winemakers are known for.

And a very special tour of his dad’s Porsche collection (including one gull wing Benz).

After a quick visit to Castello Di Amorosa (Napa’s very own REAL castle) we stopped by Alpha Omega to catch up with our old friend Charly de’Pottiere, Enologist at AO, as well as Bruce the wine club manager.

To make it a perfect day we were invited to lunch with Tierra Roja’s Linda Neal at Napa’s Bounty Hunter Restaurant. As we munched the conversation made me feel as if Linda could be an old friend. She is an amazing woman in Napa Valley, making her dreams come true by putting 110% effort into her business with physical labor, marketing and management. And she’s a damn nice person.

From there we headed over to Sonoma (oddly enough finding the very same rain that had pounded Napa Valley, imagine!) to hang around the downtown square only to end up at Mary’s Pizza for dinner. Before leaving the square I managed to purchase vino from a winery called Highway 21 who I was not familiar with….good stuff with a reasonable price. Plus a blast from the past, picked up a bottle of Bradford Mountain which was part of the old Belvedere wine club of years ago……….sigh.

Back to the hotel to end the day.

The Life Between the Vines work for this trip is complete and the rest of the trip will be personal vacation time with my daughter. We will be headed to San Francisco tomorrow to be genuine tourists by visiting Alcatraz and then the following day to San Jose to visit the Winchester House.

rf 5/10

Written by Ray Fister

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