27 Dec 2017

Visit to Napa Valley in California USA

When you are in this region a visit to Napa Valley in California USA is a must. The area is peppered with wineries. There is so much to choose from, whilst surrounded by many vineyards. At the time part of this area was still recovering from the recent extensive wood fires, which had also affected some wineries. Other wineries were holding events to raise funds to support the affected properties. Some wineries had lost everything and it may take a long time to get back to normal.

In volume this valley represents only about 4% of California’s total wine output, however in monetary value it stands for 20%.

So, where do we start!

First was Robert Mondavi, Oakville (AVA).
It started in 1966 and was (and still is) a major player in the (development of the ) Californian wine industry. The grounds are interesting to walk around, taking in the facilities. We did not join their wine tastings, as we had plans to do that elsewhere. For a little more on its history, read our own review for Woodbridge here.


We then drove on to nearby V. Sattui Winery, St. Helena (AVA).
The winery has been around since 1885 when Vittorio Sattui immigrated from Genoa and settled here. From the prohibition to 1967 the winery lay dormant and was revived by his great grandson Dario. They produce a wide selection of wines, often small batches, from ‘vine to cork’, mostly from their own vineyards. Amazingly all their wines are sold on-site or by on-line mail order. Their wines are not sold through 3rd parties, i.e. shops. The large tasting room is a very busy operation. Obviously everybody is trying the selections, at a charge, and taking some bottles home. These sorts of wineries are are for many visitors a destination for a day out, often with events, etc. You can have some wines delivered to the UK, however it is quite pricey and only 24 bottles at one time are permitted.

Our selection that we tried was:
Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2016
Zinfandel, Russian River, 2015 (our winner)
Merlot, Napa Valley, 2014
Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, 2013
Madeira, 1885

Sattui on their Madeira. “Our Madeira is a rich, smooth and nutty after-dinner wine that belies the complex method of preparation that goes into making it. Its blend of ancient port, rich Zinfandel and fine brandy gives it a sweet hazelnut, burnt-caramel flavor that is both intriguing and haunting. Many people who favor great ports and sherries know us solely for this single wine. The solera process is an ingenious system of fractional blending perfected by the Spanish to ensure consistent quality, based on the fact that old wines can be refreshed by the addition of a younger wine, which then acquires the characteristics of the old wine. We begin with what is now a 107-year-old vintage port, a lasting vestige from Vittorio Sattui’s original winery, as the mother, or master-blend. We then fashion primary, secondary and tertiary blends (criaderas), using varying ages of Zinfandel the oldest is more than 35 years old and add a little back to the mother to keep it alive, much like sourdough breadmaking.”

We wanted to finish our quick visit to this valley by stopping off at Opus One, a majestic and mysterious ‘flat’ mostly white building at the end of their long drive. It is just across from Robert Mondavi. Alas, we were just too late. The gates were already closed as they shut up shop at 4pm. Maybe next time!

We drove (and one of us did not drink!) for our visit to Napa Valley in California USA. However, if you want to discover this valley in another way, perhaps make use of the Nappa Valley Wine Train, with the opportunity to stop off at many wineries. A good approach and alternative for drink and drive.