Saturday, April 28, 2007

Rutherford Hill Winery

With nearly 300 large and small wineries to choose from, selecting one to tour and taste wasn't easy. What was interesting for us certainly may not be on the priority list for some one else. But if you really wanted to experience the wine-making process, the tasting as well as the most extensive cave system for cooling and ageing...then I think Rutherford Hill is your best bet.
As the name suggests, it is located on a hill, and commands spectacular views of the valley.The whole place has such an "italian" look and feel (and I have never visited Italy...but want to now). They run hour long tours 2 times a day and 4 times on the weekends.
Founded in 1976, Rutherford Hill Winery is one of the leading Merlot producers in the United States.They believed that the Valley's climate and soil, were well suited to Merlot and were among the first to pioneer what has become one of Napa's premier varietals.
The tour is a very informative one, taking you through all the different stages of wine-making such as harvesting, crushing, fermenting, barreling and ageing. What is unique and distinctive about it, is that it includes a walk through the extensive cave system where you get to taste one of their fine Merlots taken directly from the barrel.
Rutherford Hill was one of the first to recommence the construction of barrel-ageing caves in this century. Rutherford Hills caves extend nine-tenths of a mile into the volcanic ash behind the winery. These caves contain over 8,000 French and American oak barrels in which all of the winery's harvests are matured. This unique, natural environment enhances the wine-ageing process and produces wines of consistent, notable character.
And not to mention on a hot scorching 85 degree day...the caves were natural airconditioners and gave a much needed respite from the heat and exhaustion. The tour ends in a special cave-dining room which is beautifully decorated with white-linen tables, vine-trellises and exudes a magical V.I.P appeal!
With 5 top varieties of wine to taste from...a informative wine-making tour, a unique cave experience and olive-grove orchards(see TIP) wonder how can a vineyard have it all??? You have to visit it to believe it.

TIP: Surrounding the perimeter of the vineyard are picnic-perfect olive groves that are absolutely a delight to sit and enjoy an afternoon lunch. Just make sure, that if wine is part of your bread basket, that you buy it from Rutherford Hill. It comes highly recommended and certainly makes the visit worth it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Wine country for Non-Connoisseurs

Much against popular belief, Wine country is Northern bubbling with lots of things, other than just wine.
I mean the cliche` thing to do would be to drive...or as the case may be, be driven to visit one winery after another, and to sip and taste one wine after another. And this would make perfect sense to someone who enjoys and appreciates good wine.

For us, we belong to the category...that is the title of this article. So, I have to say, Wine and Vineyards are so much more than just to taste and get drunk (yes...people do have agendas behind such a trip)....they usually have a predesignated driver, or have a fancy limousine ride them while they indulge in the art of wine tasting (after a point, its really drinking/gulping down)!
We had never been to this part of California, and had read and heard enough about its beauty, to want to visit it anyways. And I am glad we did!

"Spectacular", "scenic" and "breathtakingly gorgeous country" would be some ways to describe what our eyes feasted on. Its a pity, this part of the story never gets least not in person (people generally are too drunk to recollect). But half the fun is in getting there! Its amazing, how the rolling hills beckon you towards their every bend and turn, and how each winding road, reveals a magical and sensational view briefly giving you a glimpse into what Tuscany in June might actually look like! It was truly a treat.
So for all of you out there, who ever thought, that you don't drink...therefore what is the point in going to Napa...reading this, and watching the pictures should motivate you enough to jump-up and go! Take "shots"...I mean with the camera, and "taste" the fresh smell of grape in the air. The weather is one thing, you will never have to worry about, and it will be a trip hard to forget.

TIP: This tone of this article would have been completely different, had we driven on Highway 29 through the heart of Napa....that is NOT the way to see and appreciate the hills around here. If you want to loose the crowds, and get your complete fill of wine, tours and tasting, I would highly recommend taking the scenic and peaceful Silaverado Trail (it runs parallel to Hwy 29 all the way upto Calistoga).
Sonoma Valley is another quiet and commercial-free town to experience the vineyards and the culture.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Flying Stand By - its worth it!

I might have heard this in passing, from friends and co-travelers but never really pursued the option further, until it almost became a necessity (or not, depends on how you see it).
Flying Standby...well lets just say, we weren't "regulars" if you catch my drift. Infact, much less, we had never exercised that option before. For some of you who are constant business travelers, this might be the norm. To us, it was a sweet deal that made total sense to go for.
Anyways, in short, we were lucky to get seats on an earlier flight to SFO...and because we were flying across 3 time-zones, it played to our advantage (one-way). Gave us almost 3 bonus hours to spend time with family and friends.
Our red-eye return trip was horrid...and believe me, time zone or are zombied out when you get home. You understand 'jet-lag' more in this case, than if you were to fly half-way across the world!
Back to our California Calling on...we did a lot in 3 days and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

California Calling....

We have been looking forward to this trip for a while now...and yes, there is a very personal reason for it. My brother and sister-in-law are now here in this country, and we couldn't wait to meet them. So a trip to sunny northern california was on the charts for sure, just the timing needed to be decided.We traveled in late April - early May which turned out to be just you will see and read in the adhering to our "travel light" policy...we were ready to head west.