Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Scenes From Napa: Day 1

My husband and I spent the last few days in Napa Valley eating and drinking as if we were preparing our bodies for hibernation. Over a whirlwind three-day trip we sampled wines from twelve properties, visiting smaller wineries as well as several of the more renowned estates.

Our first day began at noon overlooking the manicured grounds of Joseph Phelps Vineyards. We followed the 2005 Insignia, the last of 7 wines poured during the “Terrace Tasting”, by drinking 3 estate bottled wines in Grgich Hills’ Estate Wine Library, then moved onto a “Harvey Tasting” featuring 7 wines known as Salon Selections in the Salon Room at Swanson Vineyards, and finished with an impromptu, complimentary 6 glass tasting in Jessup Cellars’ Yountville Tasting Room.

Looking out from the terrace at Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Last month Wine Spectator awarded 93 points to Joseph Phelps Vineyards' 2007 Sauvignon Blanc

Grgich Hills Estate

My favorite at Grgich Hills- the 2004 Yountville Selection

A complimentary cheese plate and wine tasting at Jessup Cellars' Yountville Tasting Room

A rosé from Jessup Cellars

While each of the wineries we visited during the course of the afternoon provided a unique experience, Swanson Vineyards emerged as a clear standout. The Swanson family (the same pioneering family that introduced frozen dinners in the 1950s) began producing merlot in the 1980s. The family’s vineyards, complete with a whimsical circus tent for small events, currently produce a number of varietals in addition to merlot. The 90 minute “Harvey Tasting” took place around a beautifully decorated table in the family’s colorful Salon Room. Swanson's 2008 rosato, 2007 chardonnay, 2005 merlot, 2005 sangiovese, 2005 Alexis (the vineyard’s signature wine, named after the proprietor’s daughter), 2005 Arsene, and les trois filles (a dessert wine) were perfectly paired with caviar (showcasing the family’s playful side the caviar sat atop a crunchy potato chip and crème fraîche), artisanal cheeses from Italy, France and California, and an Alexis wine infused bonbon made exclusively for Swanson Vineyards by Vosges Haut Chocolat of Chicago.

The table setting for Swanson Vineyard's "Harvey Tasting"

Menu for the June 27, 2009 1:30pm "Harvey Tasting"

Cheeses included a mimolette vieux from France, a grana padano from Italy, and a bermuda triangle from California

The 2007 chardonnay paired with a Yukon Gold potato chip, crème fraîche from Vermont, and wild American caviar from Mississippi

Pouring the 2005 merlot

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