Thursday, July 2, 2009

Scenes From Napa: The Final Day

With temperatures reaching nearly 100 degrees for the third consecutive day, we decided to condense our itinerary to three wineries and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing by a pool. It was a wise decision in that it left our stomachs ready for more when dinnertime rolled around.

At 10:00am we stopped at Shafer, a gorgeous 205 acre vineyard that began by producing 1,000 cases of wine in 1978 and currently produces 32,000 cases annually. Shafer prides itself on sustainable agricultural practices. Cover crops help its owners create a natural habitat for insects and eliminate use of pesticides and chemicals. We tasted 6 wines, including Shafer's intoxicatingly smooth Hillside Select, while being treated to tales from the winery's Chairman, John Shafer.

Shafer is located in the Stags Leap District

Entering the driveway

A recent addition- a renovated Tasting Room

Guests are provided with an Owner's Manual at the tasting

John Shafer

Following Shafer we made our way to Kelham Vineyards for a lunch paired with 8 different wines. Kelham is a 10 acre vineyard run by winemakers (and brothers) Hamilton and Ron Nicholsen. Ron holds a degree in architecture and designed the layout of the extremely comfortable, homey grounds. The atmosphere, complete with Miss Ellie- a timid dog Ron rescued from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, provided the perfect setting for a long wine fueled lunch. Our lunch platter overflowed with cheeses, spiced nuts, fruits, meats and chocolate and made a great accompaniment to Kelham's young wines.

Kelham Vineyards

Entering the property

Kelham Vineyard's perfectly manicured grounds

Lunch platter

Miss Ellie- a fixture at Kelham Vineyards

Ron Nicholsen explaining his winemaking techniques

Gorgeous cluster of grapes at Kelham Vineyards

Cakebread Cellars was the last winery we visited during our three day tour of Napa Valley. John Cakebread (I can't imagine a better name- the meeting of two of my favorite foods: cake + bread) began producing wine on his 22 acre property in 1973 with 157 cases of chardonnay. The Cakebread family currently owns over 420 acres throughout Napa Valley and the North Coast and houses a culinary studio adjacent to its Cakebread Cellars' Tasting Room. We participated in a tasting of 5 current release wines while being guided around the winery's facilities. We took our time strolling around, enjoying the views and the wines, before returning to our resort's pool- content with the experiences we had during our three days in Napa.

A sign guiding us to Cakebread Cellars

Cases of chardonnay awaiting shipment

The bottling/assembly line

Barrel stacked atop barrel in a temperature controlled aging room

Our guide giving us a lesson on grape clusters

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