Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> Jim Bandy's Napa Trip 2012 Part I

Jim Bandy's Napa Trip 2012 Part I
Wine Guy Jim Bandy pays yet another visit to Napa Valley...

Doug and Linda’s trip to Napa earlier in the year reminded me that I did not make my usual trip to Silver Oak’s Napa release in February, choosing local Super Bowl activities instead. An opportunity then presented itself to meet some new friends in Napa in early May.

We approached the three-day trip like beverage pairing with a several-course meal (not sure it that was intentional but nice that it worked out that way). We arrived before our friends and decided we needed an aperitif. Almost nothing fills that bill better than sparkling. We opted for Carneros where we could visit two sparkling houses just minutes from each other. First on the list was Domaine Carneros. Like Doug and Linda, Ralf and I thoroughly enjoy visiting with them. Especially now since great swaths of blooming roses filled the landscape creating an exceptionally inviting atmosphere. We reaffirmed our appreciation for their wines but were especially interested in a new bottling: Extra Brut, the next higher step in dryness than traditional Brut. The added crispness was delightful! Keep your fingers crossed that they continue their efforts and we see this new bottling distributed.

Domaine Carneros, 1240 Duhig Road, Napa, CA 94559 (800) 716-BRUT (2788)

The afternoon was getting on so we made a prudent decision to eat before continuing to Gloria Ferrer. We pulled in to Schellville Grill along the Carneros Highway for a quick bite. New to us we were pleasantly surprised to find they had been featured on the Food Network! Guy Fieri had highlighted a few of their signature sandwiches making our food choices easy. My Buckaroo sandwich (chicken marinated in Mexican Achiote topped with grilled onions) was a very nice departure from any of the traditional chicken sandwich preparations.

Schellville Grill 22900 Broadway, Sonoma, California 95476 (707) 996-5151

We were staying at the River Terrace Inn just across the river from old downtown. We had good reviews from other travelers and found they were justified. Rooms were very clean and comfortable, and the outdoor patio adjacent to the Napa river was very pleasant. Visiting the famous Oxbow Market was just a quick 10-minute walk. The heart of downtown, though, is just at the edge of ‘a long walk’ making the use of a car or taxi a good call.


River Terrace Inn, 1600 Soscol Avenue, Napa, CA 94559 (707) 320-9000

Having met our friends early Friday morning, we breakfasted in that old downtown at the ABC. No, that’s not the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (for those of you familiar with state-run liquor stores).This ABC is the Alexis Baking Company in downtown Napa. Open for breakfast and lunch this is some serious breakfast food. Nothing fancy but the coffee is delicious and everything from my Mexican breakfast sandwich to our friend George’s enormous stack of pancakes was good preparation for a day of wine tasting. They only accept cash, though, so come prepared.

Alexix Baking Company & Cafe (ABC Cafe) 1517 Third Street, Napa, California 94559 (707) 258-1827

Like starting a party with a favorite appetizer, sticking with the earlier reference, I like to start my Napa trips on the Silverado Trail. It’s a scenic drive that conveys a sense of place easily missed in the hustle and bustle of Highway 29. If you’re on the Silverado Trail, one beautiful property to visit is Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Made famous for its winning Cabernet at the 1976 Judgement of Paris, it’s not uncommon to find one of their current Cabernet’s at Grapevine Cottage. (We currently have the Artemis Cabernet 2008 Wine Enthusiast 95 Points $44)

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 5766 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558 (866) 422-7523

Anymore, it seems like I spend more and more time in St. Helena than in Napa. Our next stop was Flora Springs in St. Helena, the home of the famous Flora Springs Trilogy. Located just south of downtown St. Helena, Flora Springs is a fun visit. They produce some nice whites including the very special Flora 1911 Sauvignon Blanc, a special bottling to celebrate their matriarch’s 100th birthday. Special bottling meant no distribution but they had a few bottles left in the tasting room so they became ours. Indiana best knows them for their Trilogy Meritage. If you were lucky enough to purchase any from Grapevine Cottage, raise a glass to Flora Komes who, at least in early May, was 101 and going strong.

Flora Springs, 677 St. Helena Highway, Hwy 29, St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 967-8032

I always like to introduce a new dish or two throughout a multi-course meal. So our next stop was a new winery one for us. Spring is when many wineries are bottling, and it was a full family affair when we arrived to meet with Snowden Vineyards. Diana Snowden Seysses is their winemaker. She had just arrived from France, where she also makes wine for Domaine Dujac, her in-law’s winery in Burgundy. That’s right - a young woman from California making wine for a Burgundian estate.

They do not have a tasting facility and were bottling on that day yet they gave of their time graciously so we could learn more about wines. We sat at a picnic table on Spring Mountain with picture-perfect weather while Diana, along with her parents, Scott and Joann Snowden, and extended family walked us through three of their four wines. First was a Merlot that they rarely make but had some excess available due to replanting Cabernet vineyards. Only 125 cases were made and we’re so glad we could taste it – wonderfully balanced yet lush in fruit. Even Miles would have waxed quixotic. Next came the 2009 Snowden ‘The Ranch’ Cabernet, which Scott drove down the mountain to their office and to retrieve just for us. A Parker 93 says it all – simply delicious. Larger production with 1600 cases this was simply delightful. Finally, the 2009 Cabernet Reserve. With a 1500 case production, this wine was, to quote Parker ‘…drop dead gorgeous.’ That same review awarded 94+ points.

Diana says she does as little manipulation as possible letting the vineyard take center stage. These wines’ personalities were truly stars, then, guided to brightness by a careful and nurturing hand.

Snowden Vineyards

After a beautiful day of wine tasting, you should really consider a beautiful dinner at Angèle. Located at the end of Main Street, at Fifth, this restaurant is tucked away among other restaurants and stores making it feel like a secret find. We felt like it was. Intimate setting with good vibe at the bar this was a place you could relax, relive the highlights of the day, and relish wonderful food.

Angèle, 540 Main Street (at Fifth Street), Napa, CA 94559 (707) 252-8115



Click here to see Jim's Napa Trip 2012 Part II