Thomas Keller’s elusive French Laundry and its endless waiting list put Yountville on the map. And it is a true food and wine lover’s paradise, bursting with boutique hotels and wine collectives.
One of these is Maisonry Winery Collective where boutique wines pair perfectly with art. The ivy-covered manor is filled with local works of art and limited production wines, both available for purchase. Maisonry is just north of the heart of Yountville and a short walk to many acclaimed hotels and restaurants. (maisonry.com)
Another coveted tasting spot is hope & grace, modest producers of 3,500 cases annually. Focusing on limited production, winemaker Charles Hendricks creates 100 percent single vineyard vintages—Pinots, Cabs, Chards. For a nominal fee, you can taste them all at the chic Yountville salon. (hopeandgracewines.com)
The town is also home to other Keller hot spots, including his French bistro Bouchon, where meals can be made from starters alone: oysters, pate, and escargot, followed by savory crocks of French onion soup. Be sure to save room for the chocolate chip cake at Bouchon Bakery next door. Sold by the bagful, the decadent cake chunks are the perfect gift to take home (if they make it that far). (thomaskeller.com)
Before returning home, sample another type of gastronomy: grilled fish tacos topped with cabbage and tangy dressing at Tacos Garcia, a taco truck in the parking lot of the dive bar Pancha’s. Trust us, it’s worth it.
Pinot Noir is a wine with a cult following gone mainstream. We did our research to discover that pinot noir first came to California in the mid-1800s. A debate still rages over whether it was brought by Agoston Haraszthy of Buena Vista Winery, Charles LeFranc of Almaden Vineyards, or Frenchman Pierre Pellier, but by 1880, it was planted in Napa Valley by Gustav Niebaum, founder of Inglenook Winery.
The Stanly Ranch in Carneros soon became pinot noir’s home. In 1942, ahead of his time, Louis M. Martini bought 200 acres of the Stanly Ranch and experimented to find the best pinot noir clones. From there, Carneros Creek Winery, Acacia, Saintsbury and a host of others became known for their pinot noir plantings and wine.
Carneros remains a special place for pinot noir. Its close proximity to the ocean keeps the wines vibrant while letting them show off intense aromatics. Be sure to check out these spots when celebrating the holiday (or on any other day for that matter!)
It’s the obvious choice. Most recognize Domaine Carneros for their famous bubbly and the massive Chateau that sits along Highway 12. But they also have a dedication to pinot noir, with four current offerings all sourced from their estate Carneros vineyards. Seated tastings take place at intimate tables on the balcony, offering flights of sparkling wine, pinot noir, or a combination of the two. The blanc de noir is made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes, which are fermented without the skins so that the wine loses its red color. Pairing plates of cheese, charcuterie, smoked salmon or caviar are also available for an additional cost.
1240 Duhig Rd., Napa
Just down the road is Cuvaison. The views are nearly as incredible as the wine at this modern glass house. Their typical wine flight includes a smooth estate pinot noir, and it’s worth asking if you can compare it to the Spire, a rich single block pinot reserved for club members. It will awaken your taste buds and just might make you a club member!
1221 Duhig Rd., Napa
Just off Highway 121, Saintsbury is a hidden gem within the Napa-Carneros region. Dependent on the weather, your tasting will either take place in the English-style gardens adjacent to the Home Vineyard or on the eastside of the cellar overlooking the vineyards. The classic seated tasting lasts about 1 hour and includes four Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay exploring wines from select vineyards in Carneros, Anderson Valley, and Sonoma Coast. A Saintsbury host will also walk you through a tasting of current releases, detailing the winemaking practices, different terroirs, and story behind iconic Pinot Noir vineyards.
1500 Los Carneros Avenue Napa
The Russian River is a fantastic Northern California summer destination. But beyond the rushing river, canoes and beaches, there is an entire world of wine tasting. Healdsburg is the “capital” of the Russian River Valley, but we encourage you to venture away from the Healdsburg hub to explore a few unique destinations.
Hook & Ladder Winery is the epitome of a “garage winery.” From a car garage to production facilities and a tasting room, Hook & Ladder combines the DeLoach family winemaking expertise with a laid back atmosphere. http://www.hookandladderwinery.com/
Inman Family Winery has a Rosé reputation with sustainability as a high priority. And, yes, they are even sustainable when it comes to vehicles, providing visitors with an electric car charger. So drive your electric car over to Inman for wine and a charge. You’ll save the environment one bottle at a time. http://www.inmanfamilywines.com/
Lauterbach Cellars is a small family winery and tasting room. It has a rustic farm appeal reminiscent of old time Healdsburg. The proprietor, Stew Lauterbach is the wine-maker and the tasting room manager - really, a one-man show! https://www.lauterbachcellars.com/
Porter Creek Vineyards is well known among the locals as a Pinot Pioneer. Tucked away from the road, it offers great wines and little noise from outside traffic. It’s Healdsburg’s best kept secret. http://www.portercreekvineyards.com/pages/home_main.html
Red Car Wines is a beautiful destination. If not for the wine that comes from Sonoma Coast vines, this place is a sight to see. Part music lounge, part boutique, part game hub, you will come for the wine and stay for the fun. http://www.redcarwine.com/