Spent some time in California last week, just a couple days mostly in Napa Valley, with a quick jaunt or two to Sonoma. What was supposed to be a relaxing, vacationey sort of trip yielded little time in the sun by the pool with a pretty girl, and lots of winery visits. No complaints here, it was completely awesome, but the next time I want to relax, I’m booking the sofa.
There are all these big wineries, not really corporate but still commercial; agricultural tax shelters built on the valley floor by guys who made too much money somewhere else, producing consistently delicious but safe wines at acceptable tonnage. The only thing missing here is the heart, the myth, the character.
Then there are classy hillside estates, purchases that represent early gambits in the region that stayed in family hands for a generation, until being sold to global soda companies and flipped to luxury goods conglomerates. These places still produce classy, interesting wines that live up to their deserved reputations. You can touch some romance, just by the fingertips. And if you’re lucky, they might let you taste a library release.
And then there are vineyards where somebody took a chance and broke into the industry. Because they love wine and want to live it. Where grape growers live on the vineyards with their families, and then make the wine themselves. Where the conversation can shift from the science of winemaking to the myth and to the passion and then back because it’s all the same thing anyway. I like these kinds of places, and their wines, and more importantly, I like these people.
Here are some pictures. Click for a bigger view.