Napa & Sonoma Wine Tour

We had an amazing visit to Napa for a wine tour July 9-16th to celebrate our friend Brent & Sarah’s 10th anniversary, as well as our other friends, John & Johanna’s 18th anniversary and our two week anniversary. 😉 Brent organized everything and did an awesome job coordinating our trip. It does help he’s in the wine and spirits industry. Definitely the way to do a wine tour!

We visited, dined and stayed at so many amazing places!

Rombauer: Our first stop in Napa. So pretty and the vineyard is very down to earth. We had a tour of the caves and a great tasting. I’m not a chardonnay drinker normally, but theirs is amazing. My favorite of any I’ve ever had. We took two bottles of the Chardonnay with us as a group and they didn’t make it into the “bring home” for later supply. One of my favorite stops!


IMG_0653Cain: Way, way, way up on Spring Mountain. We were lucky enough to spend the night here in their private guest houses. We brought a picnic dinner up the mountain to have overlooking the vineyards and valley. Gorgeous view and the fog rolling in (and staying until morning) was spectacular. Private tour and tasting in the afternoon. Later, numerous bottles of Cain Five, Cain Cuvée and Cain Concept were consumed that evening by the pool playing cards. We hiked through the vineyards in the evening and had hoped to do a longer hike, but the fog was so dense in the morning, we were unable to since it didn’t clear in time.



IMG_0671Louis M. Martini: We didn’t have a scheduled tasting set up for here, but Brent knew we’d like it and we had some extra time to fit it in. Very pretty garden area where you can bring your own picnic and do a tasting. We did ours in the tasting room. We really liked their 2008 Gnarly Vine Zinfandel and also their 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. After, since we were in the neighborhood, we stopped by the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and browsed around for a little while.



IMG_0681Stags’ Leap: We arrived here early in the afternoon after a delicious meal at the Rutherford Grill. We had a private unscheduled tasting at the Manor House. They know how to take great care of their guests! We sipped their Napa Valley Viognier as we toured the grounds, then had a great tasting in the old Speakeasy in the Manor House. We spent two nights staying in the guest cottages here. We had the whole place to ourselves in the evening and played our never ending game of Rummy on the porch of the Manor House. Ed and I headed out for an early morning walk the second day we were there and checked out their beautiful vegetable garden and the vineyards. Very peaceful!


P1000006Berringer: We headed to Berringer for our scheduled tasting (notice…we are back on schedule!). A very large place, but beautiful. Easy to take tours for the public. We did a private cave tour and then went up to the private tasting room. No White Zin for us here! We mainly tasted their private reserve wines which were great. We had a great dinner at Mustard’s Grill after our tasting later in the evening.




IMG_0692Chateau St. Jean: Another beautiful vineyard! We had a private tasting on the Chateau Patio overlooking their famous palm tree. A great tasting experience and really enjoyed their red wines. Good thing, since Brent & Sarah gave us two bottles of the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Cinq Cépage which were signed by all of our guests at our wedding. They’ll be stored until a future anniversary! We picked up lunch from the bistro in the tasting room and brought it with us for our next stop…



P1000052B. R. Cohn: Our first Sonoma vineyard and it definitely had a very different feel. Much more relaxed and low key. The owner, Bruce, has been the manager for the Doobie Brothers for many years. We had a chance to talk with him and also extensively chatted with Tom, the wine maker. We enjoyed our lunch under the olive trees (they make their own delicious olive oil from them…yummy!) where Tom brought us out some 2010 San Luis Obispo County Rose and Panel Wagon Pinot Noir. We later went inside to the tasting room and tried several more wines, my favorite being their Port, which was rich and smooth and perfect with chocolate. We bought a bottle of it and sipped it as we continued our endless Rummy game later in the evening.



P1000086Etude: We ran a little late for our scheduled tasting and just made it before they closed the main gate! Oops! A very modern and clean looking tasting room. Some might say a bit pretentious and stuffy. A big contrast from our prior vineyard. They had a very beautiful ironwood table in the tasting room which was for sale for around 28K. Ouch. They made the recommendation we go to Cole’s Chop House for dinner, which was delicious and went very well with the bottle of their Heirloom Carneros Pinot Noir we brought there.

P1000096Chandon: We were treated like royalty here and it was by far my very favorite on our wine tour. The grounds are gorgeous and the architecture very subdued. The design was meant to not detract from the landscape and it flows naturally. We already knew that Brent had great connections, but this was amazing! We started off with a tour, which was different from our other tours, since we saw how champagne was made. We saw the bottling process in action and were fascinated. We then had a private tasting in a secluded patio area of all of their champagnes, as well as their great still wines. Brent, Sarah, Ed & I had enjoyed several bottles of étoile when we celebrated New Year’s 2011 and it was wonderful. After our tasting, we had a champagne lunch in their restaurant, also called étoile. It was a five course meal complitmented by three bottles of champagne and two bottles of their still wine. The food was fabulous!







P1000220Gundlach Bunschu: Pronounced “Gun Lock Bun Shoe”. This wasn’t on our original schedule, but since we weren’t able to reschedule our Opus tasting from Thursday, Johanna suggested this vineyard as a possibility for Friday morning. We had a limited time (and at this point were a little over-wined…note to readers…on day 5 of a wine tour, DO NOT schedule a 10 am tasting), but we did enjoy our visit. The property is beautiful and they have many vintage vines still used in their wine making. A very green vineyard, which I personally liked. They commission an artist to design their Vintage Reserve wine labels and had some of the prettiest labels of any vineyard! Definitely on my list to go back and do their vineyard excursion in their cool Pinzgauer’s and see more of the property! Remember the Gundlach Bunschu sobriety test, “If you can’t say Gundlach Bunschu Gewurztraminer, you shouldn’t be driving!”




P1000252Gloria Ferrer: Another champagne tasting and gorgeous view! Ed ended up sitting this one out after our 10am tasting for a nap, but it was definitely worth checking out. We toured and tasted. They have a large robot that crates their bottles, which was very cool to watch. The view is breathtaking of the vineyards and I loved that you could bring your picnic and sit on their patio, enjoying a generous pour of their bubbly.



P1000265Jacuzzi Family Vineyards: This was another one of my favorites, as well as the group’s. Great Italian style wines. We toured and then had a private tasting in the main tasting room with delicious cheeses and chocolate (their port in the chocolate shot glasses was wonderful). The vineyard is owned by the same family who owns Cline across the street. A very different feel though! The vineyard was set up for a wedding and looked beautiful, so we had a quick tour. They also have a pretty neat family history worth reading. I loved that they keep the family history alive with labels with old passport photos of the original family.



P1000314Cline Cellars: We stayed in the Cline Guest House Villa for two nights in their beautiful and huge guest house. Every couple had their own suite that led out into the common pool and spa. Definitely a wonderful place to stay! We played more Rummy and enjoyed many bottles of wine in this great house. 🙂 Our last tasting of our wine tour was at Cline. We did a mini tasting when we arrived in their tasting room on Thursday, but our final one was on Friday afternoon. We toured the property, which has lots of historical significance and had our tasting on the porch. Relaxing and pretty laid back overall for a large scale vineyard!




P1000226So that was our wine tour of 2011! We definitely plan to do more wine tours in our future as we celebrate more anniversaries with Brent, Sarah, John & Johanna! Cheers!



4 Responses to “Napa & Sonoma Wine Tour”
  1. Betsy Zaepfel says:

    Looks like a fantastic trip and sounds like you’re very knowledgeable about wines! I enjoyed reading your comments and the pictures are lovely.
    We have gotten into doing tours ourselves and it’s so fun to see the diversity between wineries. Maybe someday we will grow our own vines!

  2. Becky says:

    Thanks Betsy! We’ve talked about trying a few grapes on the farm too. I think it’s in the family blood. It’s definitely fun to learn about the different wineries and wines…add in great friends and it is even better!

  3. Johanna Ducker says:

    Becky, loved your blog! Your pictures were great – I especially liked the ones of the fog on Spring Mountain.
    John and I had such a great time. Can’t wait to do it again!

  4. Becky says:

    Thanks Johanna! We had sooo much fun. The fog was amazing up there, wasn’t it? My little iPhone camera came through on the fog shots!

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