A couple of Fridays ago, I felt like life on earth was coming to an end. There was just too much going on at work. And I had committed myself to way too many events.
After 8 hours of work and a few holiday parties, I met Agam in SF and we started off from downtown at about 7:00pm. I was sure that traffic was going to be bad and we wouldn’t be able to make our reservations at 8:30pm. I was proved wrong and we reached Uva around 8:00pm, almost thirty minutes early.
My obsession for food resulted in a short list of must visit restaurants. Perhaps you can use it on your next trip (also see note below). For Friday I had made reservations at Uva (http://www.uvatrattoria.com/) — An Italian restaurant at the very end of Main Street, in downtown Napa. The live jazz was a big highlight here and the service was commendable. Their seafood pasta and veal were amazing. We also relished their bread pudding with freshly brewed Lavazza coffee. With full stomachs and heightened senses, we drove to our bed and breakfast in Calistoga – Brannan Cottage Inn
I had researched before that the Old Faithful Geyser of California was only a few miles away from our hotel and so we made it the first stop on our way to explore the wine country next morning. The Old Faithful Geyser is quite a sight. Every 10 minutes you get to see a natural fountain of steam and water. Nature couldn’t be more impressive in any other form.
We picked Sterling Vineyards for this trip. There is a trolley that takes you atop a hill where this winery is perched. The views of the valley are fabulous from the top. You can take a self-guided wine tour and can pay a little extra to experience some wine tasting in a tasting room, usually open to members of the club. We chose to do so.
The self-guided tour was quite interesting. We learnt about the wine making process and how it differs for white vs. red wine. Red wines need a warmer temperature as opposed to the white wines. We also learnt that red wine gets color, not only from the grape but also the skin of the grape that is added to the fermentation vessel. There were many other trivial things that one can probably pick up on Wikipedia but when learnt in context, they register better in one’s memory.
At the end of the self-guided tour we were escorted to the tasting room, where we met Jean Pierre Huser. A grey-haired gentleman with over 52 years of wine tasting experience. He asked us to pick three wines each, that we would like to taste from Sterling’s reserved collection. Agam and I made our picks. I picked the flowery, fruity ones and Agam picked the ones with cinnamon and oak flavors.
As we tasted wine, Jean Pierre explained to us why Napa is so famous for its wines. I wish I could record all that he was saying or perhaps I should have written this article a little bit earlier in the week so that I could have recollected his words better. But it went something like this – Napa has the variety of climate that most wine regions in France put together cannot compete with. Hence we have a variety of wines that come from a very small valley. It is a combination of weather, soil and geography of Napa that makes it unique. The only thing that Napa lacks is rain.
Jean also went on to tell us the story of how he got involved in wine tasting and took pride in telling us that he thinks his son is even better than him when it comes to recommending wines. The shine in his eyes while he spoke about his son triggered a tear in my eye and I thought of Papa. One additional trivia that he shared with us was about wine bottles. I for one have never even noticed how the shapes differ. He told us about the shapes of the German, Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne bottles. Each of them thus defining the shape of the glass in which the wine should be served. (Hence the vast variety of wine glasses available in the market.)
Agam thoroughly enjoyed talking to Jean. I felt as if he suddenly started seeing the rationality behind the different types of wine and how one can be better than the other. I thanked Jean for that and he posed for us with his signature bottles.