Monday, 17 June 2013

who are the vintners in my neighbourhood?...

Fresh off a month in (arguably) Canada’s premiere wine region, the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys, I have the fortune to spend a fortnight in the Napa Valley. With both work and pleasure opportunities abound, I am putting up with being put up as a house-sitter (i.e. “squatter”) in suburban Napa, complete with convertible to explore the vineyards and pool to freshen up with after a long day of sipping. Not my traditional way of exploring wine regions (frugality-balanced with-cleanliness accommodation and public transport to winery), but I have to admit that it is nice to see how the other half live.

And the other half live well, especially here in Napa. Where land prices in the Okanagan can rival vineyard acreage this far south, the plethora of massive estates and convertibles is surely unmatched anywhere else in the world. Add to this exclusive country clubs and wineries “by appointment only” and you have a mix that is well-suited for the well-healed.

If living alongside verdant golf greens and the fabulously wealthy isn’t enough for you, then don’t forget the massive wine industry that dominates the area. More wine is produced in Napa than is produced in all of Canada, so there is no shortage of wineries to visit. This being my first full day here, I decided to check out my temporary neighbours and the wares they bare here at the southern end of the Silverado Trail:
Poolside & Pink-hued with Luna's "Minuet"
Luna Vineyards ( – One of the closest to my “home,” Luna Vineyards has been growing estate grapes for about 30 years, and releasing wines under their own label for about 20 years. Setting them apart from other Napa producers is their focus on Italian-influenced grapes, most notable Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio. Ahead of their time, Luna was among the first Napa estates to see the potential of Pinot Grigio, and just this year have released the first (and only?) Pinot Grigio Rose. Dinner Choice: Luna Pinot Grigio “Minuet” Rose with Mexican-inspired stir-fry.

Del Dotto ( – It’s been a few years since my last visit to Del Dotto, and how can I resist a return when their premium label is called “David.” Iconic and limited (just like me!), the David label sources grapes from two estates; one in the hotter valley-floor Rutherford AVA and the other higher up in the Howell Mountain AVA. (I preferred the Howell Mountain; a bit more refreshing and complex, again, just like me…). A Chardonnay and Pinot Noir programme from North Coast vineyards is very good, and look for their first release of a traditional method “Ca’Nani” in the coming weeks.

William Hll ( – Perched on rolling hills above the Silverado Trail, William Hill estate fruit not only benefits from more moderate afternoon temperatures than the Valley floor but also has among the most stunning scenery. 140 acres of rolling landscape define the William Hill terroir, and their Unfiltered Chardonnay shows classic Cali fruit and weight but balanced with fresh acidity. Only 7,500 cases produced…”limited” by Napa standards.

Razi ( – A family-run winery, Razi is just off the beaten path and worth the hidden turn off the Silverado Trail. The 18-month, American-oak-aged Chardonnay in particular shows classic Napa structure, but flavours are enhanced by naturally occurring acidity this far south in the Napa. The pure Cab-Sauv and Cab-Sauv-based blends are also good, but with a hint of mint not expected from a traditional Napa Cab. Special shout out to their value Shiraz; produced specifically in honour of their Persian roots (where, it is argued, the Shiraz grape originates).

Worth noting is that with the exception of Luna, the above wineries advertise "by appointment only." For future wine-savvy travelers, I've discovered the best way around this is to travel in small groups, don't show up on a Friday or Saturday, and have cards on the ready.
With neighbours like these, I suspect greater things are waiting for me as I delve deeper into the wine cellars of Napa.

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