I had the great opportunity to visit Napa Valley while I was in California with my friend! It was really special because the past 8 months I have really begun to appreciate wine, so it was exciting to get to learn about it and be in an environment that produces some of the top wines known around the world! I’ve seen pictures of Napa, but I wasn’t prepared for just how insanely beautiful it would be in person! Absolutely gorgeous! Everywhere I turned was picture-worthy and the weather couldn’t have been better! I visited at the perfect time and was able to see many of the vineyards filled with grapes just about ready to be harvested! It was so lovely to see these perfect little bundles of grapes just waiting to be turned into equally perfect bottles of wine! While in Napa, I did tastings at Chappellet Vineyards and Hendry Winery, followed by a tour and tasting at all-of-the-most-beautiful-adjectives-in-the-world-can’t-do-it-justice Palmaz Vineyards…
Chappellet Vineyards was a great way to kick off my time in Napa! When my friend and I were researching vineyards to do tastings at we knew that we wanted to go to smaller vineyards that wouldn’t be brimming to capacity with visitors, so we went off the beaten path a little bit! Chappellet is built into a small mountain in St. Helena and sits atop a hill that overlooks Lake Hennessy and Napa. What better way to start your day at 9:45 a.m. than with a glass of Chenin Blanc?! The interior of the Chappellet Winery was so pretty, lots of abstract art and furniture! During the tasting, there were 10 people and we were seated at a table inside of the tasting room which was also where many of the wines were aging in barrells. Being that this was my first wine tasting EVER, I was initially a little intimidated by everyone else, but once I got comfortable (or a little buzzed, who can really tell? LOL) I was able to enjoy the experience much more! I really enjoyed our host who did an excellent job of answering questions and explaining what made Chappellet’s wines unique! My only qualm with my experience at Chappellet is that on the website you see all of these amazing pictures and you think that once you get to the property you pretty much have that view and you just don’t. I wish you did, but you just don’t without going a little out of your way to get it, the ride out of the vineyard was much more scenic, I’m sure because you are able to see the lake and the rest of Napa. Aside from that, I really enjoyed my time there and everyone who worked there was SOOO nice!!!
So my friend, who’d gone to Napa before, told me that we had to eat at one of the most popular places in Napa, Gott’s Roadside. Gott’s is known for its Ahi Tuna Burger, so I was really excited to try it out! When we got there, around lunch time, the line extended far outside of the door, but fortunately moved quickly, we had another tasting booked at 1 p.m and didn’t want to be late. The tuna burger was all right, not life changing, I think I’d have to try it again to really make a decision about it, but I enjoyed the atmosphere and getting to see downtown Napa! Once we left Gott’s, we headed to the Hendry Winery in Napa. This place got stellar reviews on Yelp. Like 5 stars out of almost 400 reviews. My friend and I knew we had to check it out! The Hendry tasting did not disappoint! Our host, Jeff, was so funny and his sense of humor really shined throughout the tasting. He taught us so many cool wine tasting tricks like turning the glass on its side and rolling it forwards and backwards to coat the glass as opposed to swishing the wine in the glass around to bring out the aroma. However, I wouldn’t suggest trying this out in public if you think your server may have put too much wine in the glass for the initial tasting because well spilling wine is both a major party foul and hurts your heart a little! I learned so much from this tasting, from what types of wines pair best with what types of foods to how tannin heavy wine is responsible for that well-known dry-mouth feeling that some wines can give you! At times, Jeff’s wife would come in and they’re just hilarious, one of the most memorable lines from the tasting being, “The reason my back hurts is because my wife brought some new sex moves into the bedroom.” LOL! Caught everyone off guard! The other great thing about the Hendry tasting is that you can waive your tasting fee and put it towards purchasing a bottle of wine! So that was the obvious choice of course! I didn’t explore much of the property here, mostly because time just didn’t allow for it, but it was a beautiful overall property! Definitely go to the Hendry tasting if you’re in Napa, such a great experience!Ok, so the last stop my friend and I booked in Napa was our wine tasting and tour. Again, we wanted to refrain from the crazy popular vineyards and their tours so I did a lot of research when it came to picking what I hoped would be the most perfect tour for us. And boy did I do good!!! Palmaz Vineyards is like the quiet, but amazing person in the corner who you don’t hear much about or from, but are intrigued by and want to get to know. It had 5 stars on Yelp out of almost 30 reviews, I read each review and each reviewer absolutely raved about it, so I took a leap of faith on a good feeling and I’ll never regret it! From the moment we approached the property, I just knew we were in for a treat. This property is so visually stunning that pictures can’t even begin to capture or show you all the true depth, dimension and beauty that this property encapsulates. I was truly and utterly blown away! As soon as my friend and I entered the property, we were greeted outside by our absolutely fabulous guide and estate ambassador, Diana Lasso. (Anyone who knows me and reads this blog regularly knows that I’m a total shoe gal and when I saw Diana rocking a killer pair of sky high wedges it was yet again confirmed that I made the right choice!) Anyways, let me get back on topic! When we walked through the doors to the winery, it was clear that the exterior visuals would extend themselves into the interior and my eyes feasted on all of the gorgeous interior design and architecture that Palmaz offers.
As Diana began our tour, I honestly couldn’t help but feel awe-struck by how intense of a property this is. You can’t really tell from the outside, but once you enter the property and it hits you that you’re inside of a living cave it literally blows your mind! Palmaz boasts a complete gravity-flow approach to wine making which essentially protects the grapes and wine from losing their integrity due to too much movement and agitation. Ok, now try to wrap your head around this, the wine cave is 18-stories deep in this mountain. 18-STORIES!!!! Insanity!! When Diana took us to the staircase where we could look straight down at all 18-stories my breath was taken away! The interior is broken down into 4 floors, each floor housing a different part of the wine making process used to create the wonderful Palmaz wines.
Diana was such an amazing guide and so incredibly knowledgeable about wine and the history of Palmaz. She instantly made me feel comfortable and I was better able to open up about my questions and experiences with wine thus far. Diana has such a gift when it comes to explaining wine and the wine making process and making it easier to understand! I would later find out over our tasting that she’s a certified sommelier, too!!! How awesome is that?! The other interesting thing about my time at Palmaz was that when I was researching it, all of the reviewers said that the tour was guided by only family members to preserve the integrity of the experience. So, I went into this believing that Diana was a member of the family and I only found out toward the latter part of the tour that she wasn’t, as Palmaz had become so busy in the past year that the family members were no longer able to keep doing it full time. I was shocked, only because the passion that Diana displayed was equivalent to a family member I’m sure, you could hear the love she has for this place in her voice and I think the Palmaz family made an absolutely stellar decision in choosing Diana to be an estate ambassador and representative of the estate, brand and family. I was just so impressed, I could rave on and on!
The tasting portion of the tour was great because the wines are paired with 5 amuse-bouches (smoked salmon canapé with wasabi infused caviar, smoked magret duck breast with creme cheese, fig preserve and chives, piave vecchio (cheese), ewephoria (cheese) and a dark chocolate truffle) and two palate cleansers that are so delectable, I could have had 10 of each and been as happy as having a full entrée! The bite-sized morsels-of-amazingness paired extremely well with the four wines (Chardonnay, two different Cabernet Sauvignons from 2008 and 2009 and a Gaston Cabernet Sauvignon) that comprised our tasting. The Gaston that we tried was sooooooo wonderful. You can really taste the effort that is put in early in the wine making process here, from how the grapes are removed off of the vines to how the wine is bottled! Palmaz wines are the epitome of quality assurance and a definite must have in any wine collection! Lord knows that I’ll be saving my pennies to purchase a few bottles and hopefully join its Estancia wine club and attend one of Palmaz’s fabulous events one day!!!!
If my dissertation-esque rave hasn’t yet convinced you to get your fabulous wino-self onto the first plane smoking to San Francisco and in a car hightailing your ass to Palmaz Vineyards by now then go to all of your local establishments that sell fine wine and search until you find a bottle of Palmaz wine and let the wine speak for itself!
HUGE thank you to Diana Lasso and Palmaz Vineyards for being the absolute highlight of my time in Napa and one of the highlights of my time in the San Francisco area! I enjoyed myself so much and hope that I can come visit again one day soon!!!! (Ps: I wanted to take more pictures, but honestly I was just so in the moment and enjoying myself that I didn’t want to interrupt the flow by taking pictures, but if you want to see more, definitely research it online! However, I did record some footage as we entered the property. Also, so glad we ended our tastings here because had we started our tastings here all of the other tastings would have been a grave disappointment! Yeah, it’s that good!) If you can’t tell, I had the time of my life in Napa and would suggest going if you have the opportunity. It’s so beautiful there, so scenic and full of amazing experiences just waiting to be had!!! I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to go! To go from drinking a few wines from Napa in Atlanta, GA to actually being in Napa, CA and drinking wine where its made in the span of 8 months just reaffirms the goodness of God and how dreams do come true!!! I could have only imagined this 8 months ago! Believe, believe, believe! I feel so blessed to have gone, learned so much and met so many amazing people. I will truly carry this first experience with me for the rest of my life! Such a blessing!
I know this is a really long post, so if you made it to the end of this, thank you so much for taking the time to read it and I hope you enjoyed it! I really loved writing this post and revisiting the experiences that I was having only 4 days ago! Gosh, I miss it so much and I can’t wait until I can go back!!! Napa and surrounding counties have almost 500 vineyards that are just begging me to visit!
Cheers, my friend, cheers! Life is beautiful!!!
I love you!!!
(Ps: You know I had to get my foodie on, even in Napa! For breakfast, my friend and I stopped by Boon Fly Cafe and had an amazing breakfast flatbread featuring mozzarella, applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions and two over-easy eggs and some delicious warm beignet-like donuts.)