Friday, June 03, 2011

A wine education in Napa Valley

Just about an hour north from San Francisco (by car that is) lies Napa Valley, and its wine country was first on our road trip agenda this morning. Our destination was the beautiful Robert Mondavi Winery for two very interesting tours.
First, we had a Wine Tasting Basics class at 10:00! A bit early, but it was the only time they offered this and we wanted to learn how to read wine labels, how to smell, taste, and describe wine, and to know why wine is swirled. We were lucky we were the only ones to sign up for the class, so it was a private session! 
He taught us how, when and why smell wine, he told us how to judge a wine's age from it's color, and he taught us how to taste wine. We learned to use a kind of air sucking technique, with wine in your mouth, that makes the wine dance on your tongue and brings out so many more of the flavors in the wine. The result always surprised me, and even though you may look and sound weird doing this, I'm convinced this is the best way to enjoy your wine.
It was an enlightening experience. I used to believe I just liked the really sweet white wines, like Moscato,  and was actually dreading tasting dry white and red wines. But I learned how to taste wine, and I really enjoyed the red wines as well. I was finally able to appreciate the fuller and more complex taste of a red wine. I've changed, I think know I like all wine now, even red!

This Wine Tasting Basics was so much fun, even Yasu joined in and really enjoyed himself, and he detests the taste of alcohol (any and all). I really recommend this tour to all wine novices, like us. I learned so much and it's a great way to start a day of tasting wines in Napa, which is probably why they offer this so early.
It's amazing how tipsy you can get after just a few sips that early in the morning, but minutes after our tasting class ended we were scheduled to join a Signature Tour and Tasting (yes another tasting), so there was no time to do something about the tipsiness.

This tour was an in depth winery tour with a very knowledgeable tour guide all over the winery grounds. The tour started with some history about Robert Mondavi and his winery, which sounded quite intriguing, but I had a hard time focusing after my morning wine sipping session. I was very happy to go outside for some fresh air and to visit the baby grapes in the breathtaking vineyard.
This tour was very well organized and we learned all about how these baby grapes finally end up as a bottle of wine. And I was happy to learn that nobody's feet were a part of the grape squashing process. Because it's June, they're not actually making wine right now, they just have uncountable barrels of red and white wine aging in the cellars.
This tour included another educational tasting of wines... yay! This gave us another chance to practice our new skills. And they even gave us a little piece of pizza, to be able to taste how much better red wine is with food, because it gives the tannin something else than the inside of your mouth  to grab on to. 

By the end of the morning I had tasted seven different Mondavi wines (three on the left in the tasting class, and the four on the right after the winery tour). They were all really good, but my favorite red wine will be Cabernet Sauvignon, and even though I feel I can drink any white wine, Moscato will always be my number one!
After the last tasting, we tried taking some more pictures on the beautiful grounds, but Yasu not being used to alcohol, especially not seven different kinds that early in the day, turned into a Dutchie shrinking monster. So we decided it better not to go to other Napa wineries anymore...
Instead we thought it better to get some food into our bodies, and a lot of it, so we went to Black Bear Diner, for a truly awesome lunch with great service.
After a mind-clearing lunch we feel we're up to continue our road trip! Next stop, the Jelly Bean Factory.

1 comment:

Lia-Louise said...

De wijn ging er goed in bij ons in de ochtend. Was wel blij dat we lekker gingen eten. Wat een stelletje zuipschuiten zijn we toch heej!