Wine tasting in Napa – from Cab Sav to sparkling wine via fried chicken

Wine tasting in Napa - panorama from Opus One

Given our penchant for fine wine and food we couldn’t pass through California without stopping off for a spot of wine tasting in Napa.  When we woke up, we were sad to see that the rainy weather had finally followed us from the UK – I guess this was bound to happen at some point! Still, what better place to be than an area where its acceptable to stay inside and taste wine from an hour that would more frequently be considered breakfast time…

We started our day at the famous Opus One winery.  I’m generally more of a white wine girl but the cabernet sauvignons that we tasted here were delicious and, given that it was 10.30 am, it said a lot about the wine that it slipped down so easily.  The 2005 vintage in particular was smooth but full-bodied with a real variety of flavours coming through from raspberry to olives to dark chocolate – and who wouldn’t want their wine to taste of chocolate?!  

Wine tasting in Napa - Opus OneThe main tasting building at the winery has a terrace with a fantastic view. Even with the rain clouds looming we were able to pop up and appreciate the rolling valley.

Wine tasting in Napa - panorama 2 (from Opus One)We also made sure to take a wander to clear our heads and appreciate vivid colours of the vines themselves.

Wine tasting in Napa - grapevinesOur second stop was Chateau Montelena.  Given that it is one of the oldest vineyards in the area – it grows a variety of grapes and won the white wine section of the “Judgement of Paris” competition – we decided to opt for the limited release tasting.  This tasting takes place in the Library Room, rather than at the bar, and with a small group so it was a great chance to learn more about the different wine that can be produced in the region.  You get to try five different wines with this tasting. The Potter Valley Riesling stood out for me, and I was pleased to hear that you can buy it in the UK so I didn’t need to lug bottles around in my suitcase for the rest of our trip!

Wine tasting in Napa - Chateau MontelenaAfter our tasting we took advantage of a break in the rain to wander around the beautiful gardens and the Jade Lake.

Jade-Garden---Chateau-MontelenaIn order to soak up all the wine we had consumed so far we made a pit stop at Addendum (the take away outfit connected to the renown Ad Hoc restaurant) which specialises in fried chicken, pulled pork and pork ribs.  Having, rather unexpectedly, developed quite a taste for karaage while I was living in Tokyo, I was keen to try the American version.  I have to say this rivalled some of the best I had while in Japan – the buttermilk batter was light, salty and had a hint of rosemary while the chicken was tender and moist, the only thing lacking for me was the spice that I usually opt for.  The corn bread and beet salad served on the side were also fresh and incredibly flavoursome.  In an attempt to balance out the excess of the day so far, I washed the chicken down with a delicious cold-pressed green juice from Pressed Juicery that I had carted with me from San Francisco.

Addendum-Ad-HocAfter lunch we headed for our final tasting of the day, Domaine Carneros, to try Napa’s answer to champagne.  This chateau is connected to Tattinger, which we visited last year on our trip to Champagne, so I was keen to compare the two.  We tried both the sparkling wines and the Pinot Noir. 

Wine tasting in NapaI may well have been suffering from a slight overload by this point but I found that the sparkling wines in particular were a bit too sweet for my taste and lacking in flavour compared to their French counterparts – I much preferred the Schramsberg extra brut which we picked up later in the trip.

We ended the day with a casual supper and lots of water – I wanted to ensure I woke up on top form as I knew I had a treat in store for lunch the next day…

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