Category Archives: napa valley

Earthquake in Napa

The headline this morning for the San Francisco Chronicle was “Wake Up Call.” We, like more than 1 million residents of the Bay Area, were awakened at 3:20am Sunday by the ground doing its shaking thing once more. This was the third earthquake of 6.0 or larger that we’ve experienced first hand. Thankfully, no one in our circle of family and friends has been hurt in any of them; just some property damage. And this one was not so bad at all, from our perspective 40 miles away. One of our sons lost power for a few hours was about the worst of it.

From the perspective of the people living a lot closer to the epicenter, this was not so easy. Our thoughts are with the people whose houses were damaged, or even red-tagged, and with those whose businesses lost so much. Our thoughts are also with those injured during the earthquake.

Most of all, our thoughts are with our friends and family. This was another reminder that lives can change quickly, and out of our control. So we take a deep breath, and try again not to take every day for granted, to treasure our time with those we love.

We hope our readers are all well, and hope that the next time you lift a glass, your toast will be To Life!


Lori and Larry

Napa Valley Wine Train – BART Connection

Here’s an interesting idea for an outing:  take BART to the Napa Valley Wine Train.  Earlier this year the Wine Train and BART started shuttle service between the BART North Concord/Martinez station and the Napa Valley Wine Train.  $30 round trip, and you don’t have to worry about a designated driver.  Here’s where you go for more information:  Wine Train – BART connection.  

Your outing does not have to be just the Wine Train.  From the train station, it’s a 5-10 minute walk to the Oxbow Public Market, where more food and wine treats await.  Three Twins Ice Cream might be a good way to finish off the day.  

Also, there are a number of wine tasting rooms in Downtown Napa within walking distance of the Wine Train and the Oxbow Market.  

No excuses now!  It’s easier than ever to get to Napa for wine tasting.  



Thanksgiving Wine and Ullage

Thanksgiving is always interesting from a wine perspective,
because you can do so much, and because you want to do so much, but …


Hi kids! 
Welcome to Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood.  Yes, for those of us of a certain age, this is a reference
to Eddie Murphy’s Saturday Night Live skits, where things didn’t always go as
smooth as Mr. Robinson would like. 


Well, for our Thanksgiving day skit, our word of the day is


I thought I had the Thanksgiving wine situation under
control.  Thanksgiving was going to
be great, with both boys and their families coming (all three grandchildren) as
well as my parents and Lori’s mother. 
No problem.  Let’s start
with a little bubbly, then move into the still whites.  That should get the afternoon rolling
fairly well.  Then as we get closer
to the meal, I was going to open up 3 different 2006 Dutton Goldfield single
vineyard Pinot Noirs, and we would do a blind tasting.  Then we’d have the Pinot with the meal;
usually a pretty good bet, Pinot Noir and turkey.  (This year there was both turkey and turducken, but that’s
another story.  Ask Lori for that


Anyway, I had a great plan, which I told to the wine
providers (my father and Winemaker B so that they could plan any wine they
wanted to bring to fit into that framework.  And Winemaker B did bring a bottle of his 2012 Armida
Gewurztraminer, which fit in pretty well with the still whites.  And he also brought an old bottle of
Gamay Beaujoulais, which he didn’t really have much hope was any good, so it
wouldn’t disrupt any other plans. 
But my father – argh, my father – he’s past the point of anyone being
able to control him, except my mother. 
And she doesn’t interfere in wine matters. 


Well, my father got it into his head that since we are
rarely in Southern California to drink wine with him, he was going to bring up
some of his old wine to share.  So
two 25 year old Cabernet Sauvignons came up north, for the express purpose of
being opened on Thanksgiving with all the family.  It is pretty hard to say “no” to those old bottles, and even
harder to say “no” to my father when he’s on a roll. 


Ah, you thought I had forgotten about ullage.  Well, ullage is the distance between the
level of the wine in the bottle and the bottom of the cork.  For old wine, a look at the bottle to visually estimate the
ullage is a good way to guess how well the wine has been kept.  The closer the wine level to the cork,
the less evaporation has happened. 
If wine has evaporated through the cork, then air, and with it nasty
oxygen, has come through in the other direction, and has accelerated the aging
of the wine. 


Unfortunately, evaporation is not the only sign that an old
wine is bad.  You can have a bottle
with minimal evaporation and it can still have gone bad.  With these bottles there wasn’t
excessive evaporation, so we thought there was a pretty decent chance of some
good wine. 


With old bottles, decanting is a must, so there went my
three decanters (previously earmarked for the Pinot Noir) for the three old bottles.  With the decanters being used for the Cabs and the Gamay,
and wanting/needing to wait at least an hour to see if there was anything good
there, the blind tasting went by the wayside.  In the end, only the William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon was any
good, and at that it was past its peak. 


We did end up grabbing a couple of random bottles of Pinot
Noir from our cellar to have with the meal, which partially rescued the wine
situation.  Actually, the bubbly
and the whites were really tasty. 
Here’s a list of the bottles that were opened over the course of about 6
hours of snacks, appetizers and main meal: 


Mitchell Katz Non-Vintage Sparkling Wine, Livermore Valley

Armida 2012 Gewurztraminer, Russian River Valley

Armida 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley

Optima 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

William Hill 1986 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Louis Martini 1987 Gamay Beaujalais, Napa Valley

Desmond Estate Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

Soquel Vineyards 2005 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains

Next year I think I’ll drive down before Thanksgiving and
raid his cellar myself.  



Wine Tasting in Napa July 2010

Surprise, surprise, surpries!  I had another great time in Napa last week.  We had cousins in town from Southern California, they came up to Napa for a water polo tournament.  They had Friday available to “play” with us, so we met them in the southern part of Napa and started our journey for the day.  

Our first stop was at Hagafen Cellars .  They are located on the south part of the Silverado Trail.  It’s a small family owned winery, Ernie Weir is the current owner and winemaker.  He and his wife have owned the winery since 1979.  They produce about 6,000 cases each year.  Their wines are made in within the Jewish dietary laws.  The new winery was built in 2000 and the tasting room, which is designed in a Tuscan style, opened in 2002.  When we arrived they had two small vans loaded with guests who were in the middle of a tour and tasting.  Even though they were very busy they were able to get us started with sampling their wines.  After about 10 minutes the vans left, so we were able to go and sit outside in their very quaint patio with arbor. 

     Relaxing under the arbor at Hagafen Winery

The next half hour we sent the boys in to gather more wine for us girls.  A nice treat.  We just spent the time catching up and relaxing.  After a bit, George, their outreach manager came and asked us if we wanted a little tour.  Larry and I had met George at the Silverado Wine Trails this past winter and again at the most recent Pinot Days in San Francisco.  Everything about Hagafen Cellars was lovely.  They have very nice and happy people working behind the counter and their wines are good and the place is very comfortable.  They also have a winery cat that was doing his job-hunting in the bushes.  

Next we went to explore another small family winery in the Howell Mountain area called Pope Valley Winery .  This winery is north off the Silverado Trail and to the east into the hills.  We went to the winery not ever experiencing this area before.  First of all it was about 5-10 degrees warmers up there.  There are a few wineries up there but they are spaced far between each other.  For sure there are a lot of beautiful winding roads.  Ed Haus established Pope Valley Winery in 1897. The winery is a showcase of 19th century winemaking technology; the main building – situated on top of the Haus Creek that meanders through the property so as to conserve usable land – rises three stories against a hillside so as to use gravity to move the wine from stemmer/crusher to press to barrel.
                        Entrance to the old winery                                                                         Dog “Gus”

The winery is built into the hillside to create cave-like cool temperatures and higher humidity for the bottom barrel room.  We tasted a nice variety of their wines in their little no frills tasting room.  Their dog Gus, a brown lab mix, was very sociable and loved for us to throw his ball for him.  He had recently been lying in the local river to cool down.  For a taste of down home, good wine and friendly service I strongly recommend stopping here.

Our next stop was at Cade Winery .  This was a suggestion of Pope Valley Winery.  It was just down the road 5-10 minutes.  As we were driving up the long driveway to the winery the laborers were just finishing up for the day.  When we got to the winery we saw a sign, “by appointment only”.  “Oh darn”, we said.  But we still meandered towards the tasting room.  Once we walked through the opening of the walls protecting the tasting room we were awestruck at the amazing views from there.
                                                              Gorgeous views from Cade Winery

We were able to see about 60 miles across most of Napa Valley clear to the East Bay where we could see the tip of Mt. Diablo.  They offered nice comfy chairs and a table to just sit outside and look at the views.  In front of the view was a large rectangle fountain with an endless waterway.  As it turned out they were busy with other guests but they were generous enough to give us a sampling of their Sauvignon Blanc, which reminded Larry and I of what we would have had down in Marlborough, New Zealand.  We sat outside in the chairs relaxing for quite a while.  This was a nice tease.  We definitely need to go back to visit Cade.