One of my favorite times to visit Napa Valley is during harvest. My husband and I toured Chappellet Winery – pronounced [shap-pehl-LAY] – after tasting these fabulous wines at an industry event and knew we had to visit. I’ll be sharing with you a few of the highlights of our trip including the winery tour, the wines we tasted and a couple of our favorite restaurants.
Driving south on the Silverado Trail from Calistoga, we turned onto the road leading up to the winery. This drive is a slice of heaven, so be sure to pull over and look back at the valley floor for some amazing views. These beautiful mountain vineyards atop the famed Pritchard Hill, are family-run using sustainable and organic farming practices. Pritchard Hill is known for it’s rocky volcanic soil which creates intense fruit like no other in the Napa Valley.
Once there, we met our host, Candice, the Director of Hospitality and started the tour with a glass of Chardonnay. She shared the winery history with us and we then headed to the crush pad where forklifts were bringing in bins of just picked fruit. The grapes are crushed and the juice is collected in steel tanks and we were able to taste it on the spot. To my surprise the white grapes tasted like apple juice!
While walking through the vineyard, it was explained that the use of cover crops, bird boxes, and organic fertilizers are used to eliminate the need for synthetic chemicals. In fact, 90 percent of the grapes grown on Chappellet’s vineyards come from blocks that are farmed using organic methods. The views here are breathtaking, the scenery epic and there are picnic tables for noshing and enjoying a great bottle of wine.
We usually stay in St. Helena or Calistoga when visiting wine country and the food is always exceptional. Two of our favorite restaurants are on main street Calistoga within walking distance of each other and I highly recommend both. Barolo, in the Mt. View Hotel, has an Italian flare and its sister restaurant, Brannan’s Grill, is steak and seafood. Be sure to say hi to Ron Goldin and tell him Cheryl and Ron sent you!
On a recent getaway weekend close to home we opened the 2006 Signature Cab that we had been saving for a special occasion such as this. It showed deep, rich, dark berry fruit with a slight bit of mocha and a smooth finish. It was absolutely fabulous! The following day we attended a wine event with Chappellet in attendance and to my delight, Candice was there (pictured below on the right). We tasted through the stellar wines she was featuring; I even joined her behind the table to pour for the other attendees, practicing for my future stint at a Napa Valley winery.
We tasted the 2008 Mountain Cuvee which showed soft, dark, voluptuous fruit with a bit of spice and nicely integrated tannins. This was great both with and without food. The 2009 Signature Cab showed similar character to the 2006 but could use a few years in the bottle. Finally, the 2008 Pritchard Hill Cab exhibited soft tannins, dark black cherry, currants and chocolate with spice lingering on the finish. This will definitely benefit from cellaring but was still fabulous that day!
I’d love to hear about your favorite wine country experiences, so please share.
Until next time, Cheers to you!