My wife and I were in San Francisco for the New Year (at a wedding), and popped over to Napa for a few days before flying home.
We stayed in the outstanding AVIA hotel in downtown Napa. Given the short stay, we only got to visit a few wineries, but had a great time and a couple of great meals.
We arrived the evening of the second, and after checking in, drove to Bouchon in Yountville. Outstanding. Charcuterie, salads, quiche, and steak frites, all very good. We also liked the wine program, and had an absolutely fantastic half carafe of Pinot from the Central Coast of California.
On Monday the third, we headed out to the one winery that was a ‘must’, Silver Oak. On our last trip to Napa, other folks travelling with our group insisted we go, and we loved the wine. We tasted the 06 Alexander Valley ($70, 4/5), the 05 Napa Valley ($100, 4/5), and the 03 Napa Valley ($110, 5/5). While the wine was great, the people are even better. Upon explaining when we were there last (they were building their new facility, so the tasting room was in a trailer), they gave us an impromptu tour.
Next up was Judds Hill for a private tasting. Judds Hill makes some great wine, but they also will work with you to make a custom wine with your label. We tasted 5 of their wines. The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($22, 4/5), 2009 Rose (3/5), 2008 Estate Pinot Noir ($34, 3/5), 2009 BBQ Zinfandel ($30, 3/5), the 2007 Petit Sirah ($30, 3/5), and the 2006 Cabernet ($45, 3/5). All of these were good, and most are only available at the winery. We purchased a few bottles of the Sauvignon Blanc.
We visited Charles Krug as well. We met their director of marketing in the San Diego airport, and she gave us her card and got us a comped tasting (which shows it pays off to be friendly to strangers in airports). We did the standard tasting, but again, making friends with the folks working at the winery might get you a couple of pours off the reserve tasting list as well. We tasted the 09 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley ($18, 3/5), the 08 Chardonnay from Carneros ($20, 3/5), the 07 Pinot Noir Carnaros/Napa ($25, 3/5), the 07 Zin from St Helena ($25, 4/5), the 07 Napa Merlot ($24, 4/5), and the 2008 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($27, 4/5). Since all of these are nationally distributed, no need to weigh down our luggage trying to get it home.
Finally on Monday we went to PEJU. This was the only winery to offer a way to ship us wine (as Maryland residents, we are unable to receive direct shipments, but there are some ways around the laws… at least we’ll try them). We tasted the 09 Chardonnay ($28, 3/5), the Provence, a non vintage red and white blend that was interesting ($22, 3/5), the 06 Merlot ($35, 3/5), and the 06 Cabernet Sauvignon ($45, 2/5); The tasting was entertaining, lead by Alan, the “yodelmeister. We joined the mailing list/wine club, and got a couple of quick tastes of some of their reserve wines (the ones we’ll get), and they were very good.
For dinner, we went to Morimoto. Frankly, after such a long day of tasting wine this was a bit overindulgent. We both went with Omakase, and each course was fantastic. Be warned, there is a celebrity chef price premium here. It was worth it to go, but I don’t know that I’ll go back given all the choices in Napa for outstanding food. (I much prefer the French Bistro vibe of Bouchon over the raucous club feel of Morimoto as well). Of note was the beer I had with dinner, Morimoto Imperial Pilsner, made by Rogue. Absolutely fantastic.
One disclosure: As Lexus owners, our tastings at Judd and PEJU were comped as part of an affinity program. I at no time identified myself as a wine blogger or that any review would be published, the wonderful treatment we got at each winery was evidence only of the wineries’ committment to customer service (and selling wine, of course).