I visited Napa Valley today to pick up some purchases and loiter in St. Helena, always an enjoyable outing. I found myself at Taylor's Refresher, enjoying a burger in the late afternoon, along with a small swarm of wine tourists.
A foursome next to me were breathlessly exclaiming over their visit to Domaine Chandon and the castle. Their 24 year old relative, an architect, picked out the list of wineries for them to visit. Their next stop was, therefore, not surprisingly, Sterling. All wineries based on architecture spectacle.
I was reminded how hard it must be for tourists to find good wineries.
We struck up a conversation, and after awhile, I suggested they might want to make an appointment the following day to see one of my personal favorites in Napa - Volker Eisele's. Located high above the noisy valley floor, there's no fancy architecture (unless you like historic barns like I do)...but you do get a tour with the owner, a walk through the organic (for 40 years) vineyard, and a sit down tasting with the owner. All for a very affordable price ($40). (Compare that to a "reserve tasting" at any major big brand winery.)
You also get the opportunity to purchase wines that are as good as it gets here in California - the top of the line Terzetto (written about previously here - it did better in Wine & Spirits magazine than Joseph Phelps' finest) for $75 or a very beautiful Cab for $45. These are some of Napa's gems.
They left, enthusiastic, and vowed to seek out the book Napa by James Conaway, which I also recommended to them. You can read about the heroes (including Volker) who saved Napa from development in it, and it's a fantastic piece of I-can't-stop-reading-this social history.
I left, feeling sad that tourists are led astray so easily - a fact we all know, but which I forget about. But happy because they were so open to discovering new things - and the bigger picture. It's renewed my interest in finishing my app and the book I hope to write on All This Stuff!
So, may you find the best organically grown wineries to visit this year - using the map I've created here. It's FREE and it's the only resource that shows you this information - in the whole wide world! So ENJOY...and make 2013 your year to drink wine grown without super icky pesticides! It will only heighten your pleasure.