Thursday, April 23, 2009

Queenie's Take: Drinking your way through Napa.

Welcome to second edition of Queenie's Take! This week, we're talking travel!

Hall (no stranger to first-class travel experiences) is headed to Napa for a vacation in June, and is looking for some off-the-beaten-path spots to visit. He's been to Napa before, and he's done most of my favorites - Schramsberg, Far Niente, and so on. This time, he wants to try something new. And so I racked my brain, consulted my tweeps, and got down to business.

The question is where to go next? Any 'cult' vineyards that are worth seeing? Any over-the-top oenological experiences there that are hiding under my nose? Or, is there something else that is a must do? - Hall, Christchurch, New Zealand

After rigorous research and vetting (read: visiting a couple of these myself and asking some trusted friends), I think I have some ideas for you, Hall. First up, Frank Family Vineyards. I'm not really sure that Frank Family qualifies as a hidden treasure, since so many people mention them to me, but I love them all the same. Tucked away on a dusty side road just south of Calistoga, Frank Family produces delicious wines (I am particularly fond of their sparkling wines and their cabernet). They also have one of the livelier tasting rooms I've visited, with a casual, easy-going atmosphere.

Next, Reynolds Family. (Apparently, I have a thing for families.) I visited Reynolds Family with - appropriately enough - my mother, when we went to Napa in 2007. Our friends Rick and Aimee had alerted us to the awesomeness to be found at Reynolds, and they were right. The staff were some of the most knowledgable I've encountered in Napa, and the thirty-minute tasting was pure fun. They specialize in reds, and I actually have a bottle of their cabernet that needs drinkin'. Hmmm...

If you are hankering for a twisty drive, impressive views, and a gorgeous tasting room, head for Pride Mountain, which straddles the borders of Sonoma and Napa counties (and has the taxation headaches to prove it, it seems). Perched at the peak of the hill, the tasting room has expansive views of the valleys below, and the wines ain't bad, either. Just remember to designate a driver for the trek back down. (Safety first, kids!)

My friends Caroline and Brian are the ultimate Napa experts, so I trust their every word. They both (separately, so I REALLY trust it) recomment Vincent Arroyo, where the wine is so good that you really buy futures, as opposed to bottles. It sells out before it's out of the barrels. Seriously. And Brian says that August Brigg's Dijon Clones Pinot Noir is the best thing he tasted on his last trip.

So, Hall - I hope that'll do ya good for this trip. Don't forget to stop in at Bouchon Bakery for a caramel macaron, and you're golden.

As for the rest of you - please chime in with your favorite Napa and Sonoma destinations, and, also, with any questions you'd like to see me take on in a future edition of Queenie's Take!


brianstarke said...

I definitely second the Frank Family recommendation. Best Sangiovese I've had in the valley and their cab's are something special.

Jane Blocker said...

I definitely agree, Brian. The reason I sought the Frank Family out is because a friend of mine gave me a bottle of the Sangiovese and I wanted a case! Perhaps an all time favorite! Another favorite was Rambauer, but I am sure that Hall has been there.

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