Friday, September 10, 2010

Red, red wine...

...and whites, and even rose! Our provisioning has continued apace, for after three days of soaking up the scenic vistas of Sonoma and sampling the wines at a number of wineries and vineyards, we moved over to northern Napa Valley. We were reluctant to leave Sonoma's MacArthur Place, for we fell in love with our accommodations there, but were eager to explore the Harvest Inn in St. Helena, where we were delighted with our room's vineyard views! Napa Valley is spectacular with its fields of green grapevines against the jutting mountains!
Ron checking out our room's back patio view at the Harvest Inn

We stopped in at Stags' Leap Winery on the way to St. Helena; it is one of the Stag's Leap Appellation District's oldest vineyards, with plantings going back to the 1893 when Horace Chase first built his Napa Valley vacation home there. Within the Napa Valley, regions have emerged that possess distinct microclimates and terrains, imprinting recognizable characteristics on the grapes grown within them, and Stags Leap appellation is the first area in the United States to be approved based on the distinctiveness of its soils. Stags' Leap Winery is quite the estate, and through the years has been through various incarnations as a working ranch, resort and vineyard! Nowadays, the numerous outbuildings on the estate's beautiful grounds are used for accommodating visiting wholesalers or other folks in the business. (Note, Stags' Leap Winery is not to be confused with Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, another famous vineyard down the road in the same district.) It was an impulsive stop for us, but one we really enjoyed. Ron, normally a red wine man, was amazed at Stags' Leap's crisp, cool and dry Savignon Blanc and Rose wines -- so much so that we bought several bottles each for drinking on the back deck of Equinox on those hot, sunny evenings! More wine provisioning accomplished!

Every morning we've been out on our bikes riding some 30-40 miles a day, mostly along the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley. From its beginnings as a dirt trail along the eastern side of the valley, it became the first permanent road connecting Napa in the south to Calistoga in the north, stretching some 29 miles. The name "Silverado" comes from the road's history carrying quicksilver (mercury) wagons from the mines in northern Napa County. The quicksilver was eventually taken to the gold fields of California where it was used to separate gold from the ore or sand in which it was found. The road is incredibly scenic, winding along at the foot of steep valley hillsides and through sweeping vineyards vistas. The riding has been wonderful!

We reserved Thursday for a couple of our favorite wineries, visiting Cakebread Cellars and  Frog's Leap Winery. We were at Cakebread for a lovely, informative food and wine pairing, and whom should we meet walking from the parking lot among the vines but Bruce Cakebread  himself! (As is probably usual with all vintners/vineyard owners at harvest time, he was moving with harried purpose, but was immediately gracious as could be, showing us the way to the proper building where the food and wine experience was to take place. His welcoming attitude during such a busy time spoke volumes, and reinforced our feelings about such a classy winery!) We indulged and made sure a few bottles of their special Dancing Bear Cabernet was among others in our case of wine!

In the vines at Cakebread
Some of the many French oak barrels at Cakebread  Cellars 

From there, it was long and relaxed tour of Frog's Leap Winery. We toured their certified organic vineyards, where we tasted grapes right off the vine, and went from their pressing facilities, to their barrel cave to their Old Red Barn. Originally an old "ghost" winery from 1884, the Old Red Barn is the oldest board and batten building in the Napa Valley. Now beautifully restored, Frog's Leap is happy to continue the tradition of making fabulous wines there. The tour guides were clearly having fun, and seemed to enjoy the tour as much as we did, in keeping with their motto that they print on all their corks: T F W Y H F  -- "Time's Fun When You're Having Flies! "

           The old Red Barn, now beautifully restored

 View from inside the Red Barn
Beautiful flooring planks inside the 100-year-old Red Barn

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