After hiking my booty off in Yosemite, I meandered my way over to the wine country in Napa. I unfortunately only had time to spend 1 night, but I made sure it was a good 24 hours : )
There are several campgrounds throughout Napa Valley, I paid $20 for my site at a state campground. They had the same ‘no dogs on trails’ rule as other California State Parks, but for once I wasn’t bothered since the focus was drinking and not hiking ; p.
As a budget minded lady, I stopped at a Costco a couple of hours before we arrived in Napa. I picked up a local bottle of wine and some cheese, sausage, bread, yummy! Those things, the doggies and a good book kept me plenty of company that evening at the campground. And we always have plenty of visitors : ) Between the pups and the Scotty, people are always stopping by our campsites to say hello~
Before settling into the campground, I stopped by 2 places in Napa proper. The Napa Valley Visitor Center was very helpful with maps, brochures and plenty of information. There was also cute little wine tasting shop practically next door to the visitor center. The cool thing about this place was that they carried wines from 8 different wineries, all in 1 location. The guys there were awesome, and even called the campground for me to help me secure my reservation for that night.
A few things about California wine country
~wine tasting here is not free : ( Depending on the winery, tastings are usually $10-$20 for 5-8 tastes. You can pay a few $$ more to add a few reserve vintages to your tasting experience, something I highly recommend!
~many wineries require that you make tasting reservations in advance.
~some wineries don’t have snacks or picnic areas. I brought my own water and bought a delicious bar of chocolate to accompany my wine tasting.
~there an awesome free guide at the visitor center. It has a ton of information on all the area wineries, as well as info on wine tasting etiquette, the history of wine and winemaking, and how to get more out of your time in Napa. Please forgive me that I cannot remember the name of the guide, currently….maybe something to do with the drinking, again : ) But, if you ask around about ‘the bible’, someone will hand you a copy.
~one of the tips in the above mentioned ‘bible’, said to take notes at the tastings, and gave other tips for having a more enjoyable tasting experience. It also mentioned that the more you seemed into the tasting, the more likely it was that you would get more than that stated number of tastes. I only tested this theory on one winery, but it definitely held true! I was supposed to get 8 tastes, but I’m pretty sure I had something more like 16. I pretty much got a pour of anything that anyone else was trying, as well as the wines that I myself wanted to try. Of course, getting you drunk is probably not a bad way to get you to spend lots of $$$ on wine, and it definitely worked in my case! Then I had to walk around and sober up for another hour before I got back on the road. : ) : )
~the Castello di Amorosa is pretty fabulous! They are the one tour and tasting I had the time to participate in, and I am glad I chose them! The weekend tour and tasting is $30 or $42 if you add in the reserve wines and speciality chocolates…which of course I did : ) The castle is pretty amazing, made with 80% imported materials from Italy, Austria, Germany, etc. The stones and many of the furnishings are 100s of years old, and artists were brought in from all over the world to create the woodwork and frescoes. The castle has all the traditional and authentic trappings, including a torture chamber, chapel, candle makers room, etc. All VERY COOL! Click on the photographs below to link through to their site~
Oh!! and the wine was pretty tasty too : )
And, If you make it there for a tasting, try and get Joshua. Of course, the other guides may be even more fabulous than him, but he was pretty great. He had a pretty good knowledge of the castle and its background, as well as lots of information on the wine itself. Plus, he’s cute and pretty charming….what more could you ask for in your sommelier and tour guide??? I know, a few extra pours goes down pretty well, and Joshua assured us that even though he was supposed to give 5 pours (for the regular tasting), he made a vow to stop counting properly after he left college : ) Ahh, good stuff!
And…Missouri is better because wine tastings there are free, and so is the zoo!