travel:: Napa, Day 3

For our final day in Napa, we had plans to visit 4 more wineries that we’d heard great things about. Our driver Denise, who I mentioned in my “Day 1” post, did not disappoint on our farewell tour of wine country.

Winery 1:: James Cole Estate Winery turned out to be one of my favorites of the trip. We were the first to arrive that day, so it was quiet and we had the place to ourselves for a special little tour of some of the back rooms where the wine is made and stored. The girl hosting our tasting was very knowledgeable about the history of the winery, which was impressive because she’d only been there since this summer. She and the other staff we met have a really great vibe and made it such a fun, laid back experience.

James Cole is a husband and wife owned winery, and they actually live on the property just next to the tasting room area where we spent our morning. Their logo, which looks like a Texas Longhorn from a distance, is actually modeled after a sculpture the owners bought (it’s showcased in their tasting room). It is is of a man mid-dive, and I believe the title is “Aliento,” which is Spanish for “breath” (you’ll also see a bottle of their wine by the same name below). We were told that it represented their lives at the time when they took the plunge to move to Napa and begin their winery journey — taking a dive headfirst into a dream. Pretty neat story.
All of the wines we tasted at James Cole were exceptional, but one really stood out — the Pinot Noir Icewine from Canada. Per the Napa Wine Project, this is a rare wine that is made in extremely small quantities. In order for it to be considered “icewine,” the grapes must be frozen for at least 3 nights in a row. The Brix (sugar level) is usually in the upper 30’s-low 40’s — which is very sweet. The wine is then aged in Acacia wood barrels which help to impart a honey spiciness into the wine. I’m not typically a fan of sweet wines, but all three of us let out a collective “oooh!” as soon as we tasted it. A rather small bottle sells for a pretty penny due to the small production, but I’m excited to share it with my family as a special treat this Christmas.
Winery 2:: Regusci Winery felt like we stepped away from the States and right into Tuscany. I loved the old world feel of the property, and while we didn’t have time that day, it would be fun to go back for a tour. We enjoyed 4 of their current wine selections, and even though I’m not much of a white wine drinker these days, their 2012 Chardonnay was incredibly smooth. They also offered freshly made Arancini Balls, which I could have eaten a dozen of.
Lunch:: We stopped at Oakville Grocery for a picnic lunch, and it made for yet another memorable meal in Napa. Denise called ahead to order a charcuterie and cheese platter for us, and that was the way to do it. Oakville originally opened in 1881, and it was quite a pretty site inside — I could have stayed in there all afternoon looking at the various locally made olive oils, cheeses, spices, jams, and spreads.
Meats, cheeses, the biggest loaf of focaccia bread ever, tasty beverages from an outdoor drink stand, and gorgeous weather. 
Winery 3:: Silver Oak Cellars was not on our original itinerary, but we fit in a quick stop for our friend to buy a gift… and of course we needed to taste the wine while we were there. Yet again, this property was immaculate and picturesque. It was far too busy and commercial-seeming for my taste, but then again, it was a Saturday, and we didn’t reserve a private tour. So I’d imagine there are probably better ways to visit Silver Oak for a more personal experience. 
Winery 4:: Robert Biale Vineyards — home of the Black Chicken! Denise recommended this winery due to a couple of us loving Zins, and it couldn’t have been a better experience as the last stop on our tour de wine.

So what is Black Chicken? Along with growing and selling their grapes, the Biale family also sold produce and eggs from the white chickens they had on their property. During Prohibition, Aldo Biale began selling homemade wine, but because his home phone was a “party line,” customers would order his secret wine with the code name “Black Chicken.” And thus, a legend was born. We of course tried their 2012 Black Chicken Zin, which did not disappoint.  
Our wine tasting host was simply lovely — he was an older gentleman who is a retired police officer turned wine lover, and he spent the entire hour-long tasting with us. We loved the personalized attention, and because we were sitting on their outdoor patio right next to the vineyard, he let us pull and eat grapes right off the vines. Let me tell you — those little seeded grapes are SO much better than the seedless ones from the grocery store! 
To cap off the trip, we took a drive to downtown Napa to wander the Oxbow Public Market. I wish we’d had time to eat dinner there, because I wanted one of everything. I did try a miniature Kara’s Cupcake, which was to die for, and we bought some lovely local infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars from The Olive Press to take home.
I can’t say enough how wonderful, relaxing, fun, and much-needed this girls trip was. We even learned a lot about wine making, which I’ve realized is incredibly interesting. Wine country has such a laid back, appealing lifestyle that makes for a truly incredible vacation from the hustle and bustle of real life. I can’t wait to bring Craig back, and once I do, I have a feeling this is going to become a go-to vacation spot whenever we have the luxury.

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