The Stakes are High

A significant responsibility was laid upon my shoulders not too long ago: I’ve been charged with creating an itinerary for a Day in Napa Valley for a very old and very dear friend and her equally dear and loved husband who will again be coming up to see us for a spell.

They are BIG wine lovers. We get together regularly and when they have come up from LA to visit, I’ve taken them on tours of Carneros, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek, Anderson Valley, but  never Napa. This time, they requested Napa.

With approximately 2 Gazillion wineries in Napa Valley, it’s very hard to determine where to take these folks. So, I started thinking, why not break the Valley down into themed tours, then let them choose the theme I cover for them? It’s not unlike the Walking Tours one can choose from in, say, New Orleans when one can take a "Vampire Walking Tour", a "Famous Bars Walking Tour", a "Graveyard Walking Tour", "A Garden District Walking Tour", etc.


For now, here are the choices of themed tours I’ve come up with:

Clos Pegase Winery
Hess Collection
Mumm Napa Valley

Clos Pegase

Chateau Montelena

Atlas Peak Winery
Howell Mountain Winery
Spring Mountain Winery
Hess Collection

Far Niente
Grgich Hills
Stony Hill Vineyard

Being asked to develop the tour for a trip to Napa is a little like being assigned to pick the wine when you are out with people who know you are in the wine industry. There is an expectation that your selection will somehow be infused with expertise.

The stakes are high. You don’t want let on that not everyone that works in the wine business isn’t an expert on this sort of thing.


16 Responses

  1. Agent Red - September 8, 2008

    I volunteer to take your guests on a 4 winery covert mission. We can give each a special assignment, and shuttle them from winery to winery in a limo. If they budget is high enough, we can ferry them in our plane, and do a 3 or 4 region mission, covering Santa Barbara, Monterey and Napa/Sonoma…

  2. lori narlock - September 8, 2008

    Hi Tom,
    My recommendations below are based on the overall quality of wine and experience each offers and they are:
    ART: Quixote, Clos Pegase
    HISTORY: Schramsberg
    ARCHITECTURE: Quintessa
    ALL AROUND GREAT: Round Pond, Spottswoode
    FUNKY BUT COOL: Terra Valentine
    MOUNTAIN: O’Shaugnessy on Howell Mountain or Mayacamas on Mt. Veeder
    Also, I’ve never been but have heard Palmaz is supposed to be very interesting.

  3. Trevor - September 8, 2008

    Good stuff Tom. This is EXACTLY the driving force behind Uncork29. We’ve got a few ‘themed’ itineraries, see: including AVA-themed tours, all ghost-winery tours, varietal tours, etc. Good luck!

  4. Tom Wark - September 8, 2008

    Very Cool. I can imagine a tour company going whole hog in designing customized tours around interesting things. The list you have is pretty neat.

  5. Tammi - September 8, 2008

    And I was just thinking of heading to San Fran and Napa for a long weekend… these lists have almost sealed the deal!
    What do you think of Napa in November? (early November…)

  6. Anneliese - September 9, 2008

    Tammi: You probably are asking only Tom, but let me tell you please, that November is my favorite time for Napa! Wine sits better on the tongue during tastings. Fog settles over the valley at night, making for beautiful cozy mornings. Autumnal leaves in burgundy, fire orange, and golden yellow. Chimney smoke. Crisp fall air. Crowds – gone.
    Boy, from my description, I should either be a poet or write copy. Ha! Just an average enthusiast. Go Tammi – enjoy!

  7. lori narlock - September 9, 2008

    I didn’t follow directions in my previous comment. Here is the theme tour you want:
    Time Travel Tour
    1. Schramsberg—Start with sparkling wine in a historic and gorgeous locale
    2. Stony Hill—move on to whites in a mid-19th century winery
    3. Robert Mondavi or Opus One—visit the home of the man who revolutionized the industry in the 70s for a cab tasting
    4. Quixote—experience the second generation of Napa Valley’s renaissance
    5. Patz and Hall—visit a premium Pinot producer in their ultra modern Salon in the heart of a commercial setting—the new, new Napa Valley
    6. Head down to Napa Smith brewery to cleanse your palate at the Valley’s newest beverage producer

  8. Erin - September 9, 2008

    Along Agent Red’s idea, I think a “Wineries Under the Radar” is the best. Anyone can go to the big ones, why not show your guests the small production, really special gems in the valley where you have to be in the know to get an appointment?
    Black Cat Vineyards, anyone?

  9. Valli Ferrell - September 9, 2008

    Spring Mountain Vineyard, AKA cabernet mountain, is THE place for visitors desiring an visual immersion in 19th century architecture, gardens and caves. Add the SMV estate grown wines to the mix and its a sensory delight…and off NV’s beaten path.
    Plus tour fees are waived with purchase.

  10. Jim Preston - September 9, 2008

    We are developing what you need for wine tasting road trip planning:
    We have pretty much all the rural Napa wineries with tasting rooms that are regularly open to the public in our profiles and GPS maps to find them. Not geo-coded addresses like the other maps. We drove about 8,000 miles and actually GPS mapped most of the rural winery tasting rooms in regions, almost 600!
    Search the Napa for the winery features you are interested in such as historical or monumental architecture, trophy views or landscaping, picnic areas, and much more.
    The search interface design is being worked on now so it will be more friendly and useful.
    I’ve added wines to winery profiles in some regions but I haven’t had a chance to do that for Napa. I have almost 300 winery profiles left to enter but I’m done with Napa and Sonoma Counties, Santa Barbara, Gilroy, and Murphys / Calaveras.
    I haven’t notified the wineries to take over maintenance of their profiles yet but that is the next step in our development. Much more information needs to be entered by them.
    The forums are available to members for asking questions. Please rate your winery experience after your visit.
    Wine Questers is focused on the wine tasting experience, not the wines, although wineries can add wines to their profiles to be rated and reviewed. See Ironstone in Murphys as an example.
    We are currently producing video introductions to 19 California wine regions. We were shooting in Carneros last Sunday and this coming weekend in El Dorado County.
    The site is quiet during development but we are starting to get the word out. We have the best tools for planning wine tasting road trips! All the other sites and printed media are just — vinegar.
    – jim
    Quester in Chief
    Santa Clara, CA

  11. John Witherspoon - September 9, 2008

    I would throw Caymus in the Napa Classic tour. The tasting is free, and very well done, plus the wines are great albeit a bit pricey, and Caymus is a classic.

  12. Alison - September 9, 2008

    Smarty pants – you know exactly what you’re doing. This way, when they next visit there’s at least another four tours they can choose from. You’ve got five vists/hosting tours here which should cover the rest of this year and some of 2009!

  13. Morton Leslie - September 9, 2008

    How about a Disneyland World Wine Tour. Start at the Sterling Vineyards for a ride on the tram, go across the valley to over-the-top Castello di Amorosa complete dungeons, then down the valley to the pretend horse farm, Nickel & Nickel, and finish it up at the replica of a French Chateau at Domaine Carneros. In one day you can pretend you are in Santorini, then Tuscany, then imagine you’re in Virginia horse country, and then after a short drive finish your day in Epernay. I think one or two of the places sell wine.

  14. Joe Becerra - September 10, 2008

    I recommend the Historic Tour on Wine Country Getaways
    See this page:

  15. Mary Gellish - September 10, 2008

    Without having to think too hard, structure your vists alphabetically….wineries beginning with the letter “S” for example will provide a full weekends’ worth of destinations. Pick a letter, pack a lunch, and cheers.

  16. lori narlock - November 5, 2008

    Where did you take your friends?

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