Living within two hours of the Sonoma and Napa Wine Country makes it easy for us to plan wine tasting excursions to the area on short notice. Since we know that we have many opportunities to visit, we can be very flexible in our selection of wineries as we drive through this beautiful part of Northern California.
Wine Tasting Serendipity
We just see what grabs our interest at a given moment. Whether or not we stop may have to do with the way the sun is shining on a particular vineyard, an impulse to try a new place, a nostalgic desire to revisit a favorite spot, or maybe just noticing that a nearby winery doesn’t look too busy.
Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga is a very popular winery for tourists and because of that we’ve never stopped there. However, on our last trip to the Napa Valley, we decided to give it a try and it was time well-spent! Sterling has done an excellent job of providing a welcoming environment and great customer service. Just be sure that you’re not in a hurry. The tram ride up to the winery and tasting room is fun and affords beautiful views, but there can be a wait on both ends. Also, the self-guided tour covers a fairly large area and samplings of 5 wines are available as you walk through the facility. They produce a very good Carneros Pinot Noir that was my favorite of the pours. Take your time and enjoy the final wine of the tasting outside on the terrace.
Also near the town of Calistoga is the original Cuvaison Winery (the newer one is in Napa), where the mood is very upbeat with lots of casual banter between staff and tasters. The pourers are quite knowledgeable, eager to please and ultimately eager to sell, of course. Our purchase there was the Mount Veeder Brandlin Vineyard Zinfandel – old vines produce great Zinfandel.
Located in St. Helena, St. Clement’s tasting rooms are in an old Victorian home on a hill with a wraparound porch and large patio/terrace. The highlight of our tasting was the Cabernet Sauvignon, but we also purchased a bottle of their Abbott’s Vineyard Chardonnay.
We weren’t expecting entertainment, but caught the Allman Stepbrothers Band who were performing on the terrace. We were enjoying the experience so much that we were reluctant to leave.
The next day on our way home, our route went through the southern end of Sonoma County and Viansa Winery was a perfect place to stop for lunch.
We’ve been there several times and always enjoy the Italian marketplace for gourmet food items and interesting gifts, as well as some great wine tasting. We grabbed sandwiches and a bottle of Chardonnay to take out on the terrace. Our timing was also very good since their Cal Italia Festival was taking place on the grounds. Entertainment included the Tracy Rose Trio and a pretty amazing magician who worked his magic right at our picnic table.
Another memorable visit to the wine country ends as planning for the next one begins!