I can’t imagine the weather being any more idyllic than what we experienced during our three day visit to the Napa Valley. The fall colors were beyond breathtaking. After breakfast we made our way to Corison Winery for a visit with owner and winemaker Cathy Corison. Joyce McCollum was there to greet us. We were poured glasses of the ’06 Corazon Gewüztraminer (the perfect breakfast wine said Joyce) and we walked through the winery to the vineyards. Joyce is the perfect ambassador for Cathy. She filled us in on the history of the winery while we waited for Cathy to arrive. She told us the painstaking attention to detail they devote to the vines. Workers Salvador and Manuel even sing to them. Peas and other seedlings are planted between the rows of grapes to help prevent erosion.
Cathy arrived and we had a nice visit in the vineyard before heading upstairs where Joyce had set up a tasting for us – a vertical ’98, ’99’ and 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon as well as some Cabernet from her Kronos Vineyard. We continued our visit while we tasted her amazing wines. Cathy doesn’t spend time worrying about what the critics think of her wine. Her focus is on producing the finest quality wine she can, and she succeeds on a number of levels. Here wines are beautifully balanced with a lingering finish. They are elegant. Look for Laura’s story about Cathy in the near future in her Women on Wine page. In the meantime, here’s a video from LRB Productions that will tell you more about Cathy and her philosophy.
Laura and I were married on the 4th of July of this year and a lot of my relatives had yet to meet her. They arranged a luncheon at the CIA, The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. It was wonderful visiting with family and the food was superb. After a delicious meal and a good visit, we made our way to Larkmead Winery for a private tasting on their patio. Little did we know another culinary delight awaited us later in the day. Larkmead is one of the oldest wineries in the Napa Valley and they wear their heritage proudly. Their vineyards are more than a century old. Owner Cam Baker stopped by to pay us a visit as Sonny poured us some exceptional wines. I particularly enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc.
Our last scheduled stop of the day was at Rombauer Vineyards. I think it bears noting that when friends shared a bottle of Rombauer’s ’05 Zin with me a few years ago, it reawakened my passion for wine. It’s still one of my favorites. While we waited for K.R. Rombauer, we tasted superb Chardonnay and Zinfandel and got acquainted with Moose. K.R. joined us and I told him how much I had enjoyed the ’05 Zin. He disappeared briefly and returned with a bottle, saying it had been a while since he had tasted it. It was every bit as good as I remember it. K.R. led us on a tour of the property. We admired the spectacular landscaping while we walked down to the crush pad and bottling line and through the massive barrel rooms. We headed upstairs to Rombauer’s private tasting room and sampled some exceptional single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons and the beautiful Carneros Merlot. We said our goodbyes and started heading back to the hotel, thinking our day was pretty much wrapped up.
We were on our way to The Eagle & Rose and decided to stop in to Merryvale for a quick visit. Merryvale’s history dates back to early post-prohibition and it is a charming room. A large tasting bar is at the center and it’s surrounded by a large gift shop with every sort of wine related merchandise you could imagine. We tasted several wines, bought a few as well as some delicious cranberry mustard. We started visiting with the couple next to us and found out that they lived in Murrieta, same as us. They mentioned they were going to have dinner at Chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega restaurant. We are big fans of Chef Michael and decided we would try our luck at getting in without a reservation. Lady Luck was smiling on us. We were seated on the patio and the outdoor fireplace took the fall chill out of the air. Both Laura and I will tell you we enjoyed one of the finest meals we’ve had anywhere. To top it all off, we met Chef Michael and had a short chat with him. We told him how much we had enjoyed seeing him on Top Chef Masters. He laughed saying he felt underwater on the show, like he was Sponge Bob. It was the perfect ending to an incredible day. We were set to start our last day off the next morning with a stop at the famed Chateau Montelena.