Wine Tour of Napa & Sonoma , California

In April, I was one of the leaders of my store chosen to attend a workshop in the Gap Inc. San Francisco corporate Headquarters. There I was also given a day off to explore the city. I purchased a ticket through allsanfranciscotours.com where I was able to participate in wine tasting in both Napa and Sonoma Valley. The forecast for the day was 70 degrees but the tour started early in the morning so the heat wasn’t felt until the afternoon.
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The first winery we visited was the Madonna Estate Winery (madonnaestate.ewinerysolutions.com).
Madonna Estate is located in Napa in the Los Carneros Region. In class, we studied about the climates of this area. I am a testament to these facts because as we stepped out of the bus I noticed the cooler and foggier conditions of the area. While listening to the host, she mentioned that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varietals strive in this environment. This has to be true because the Estate Pinot Noir that I had the option of tasting was one of the most fruitful wines and were described as “Strawberry, black cherry, exotic clove with a toasty oak finish.”

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When we first arrived, we were able to meet and greet all the guests that were on the tour. I was able to network and made two new friends that were also visiting san Francisco for the first time. They were from Oklahoma. I enjoyed most of my trip with them as they were in my age group. Most of the people on the tour were couples and older guests. When we went inside, we were first brought into the cellar where they kept their barrels. Most of their barrels were made in France and shipped to them. She mentioned that they spent at least $2,500 on each barrel. They use wooden barrels for all their wines, which gave the chardonnay a creamy butterscotch note at the end. This Estate prides itself on organic farming. They hand-pick their grapes, they don’t use pesticides and use only natural rain water to feed their vines (meaning they let the grape stress more to obtain the natural sugars of the grape), making the juice fruitful and more concentrated than grapes that are watered down and get added flavoring other than what nature provides.

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The Madonna Estate was by far one of my favorite wineries that I visited. They offered organically grown grapes and great wines. I was fascinated by the fact that they kept their traditions alive and that even a small estate has keep able to keep up with the times as it is four generations old!

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The second Winery we were able to visit was Cline Cellars (www.clinecellars.com). While I was there, there was a wedding ceremony taking place, which is why I felt that this place was more commercially there. In this specific winery, we were not directed to the fields, instead, were directed towards the shop inside the cute little white house. I felt no connection there. As the wine director attempted to gain our attention, his voice was lost in the ocean of communication. We went in tasted several wines, took some photos, and were off to the next winery.

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Sebastiani (www.sebastiani.com) was the perfect example Volume/Quantity vs. Quality. Large portions of their wines were around $20. They were very affordable. They also used an irrigation system to take care of their soil and vines. They use large machines to pick up and drop off grapes to begin the fermentation process. We were actually able to go inside one of their cellars to see the large tanks in which the grapes go in to produce the wine. Most of what we saw was stainless steel tanks. The hostess here mentioned that a majority of their clients prefer no oakiness in their white wines which is why they keep them in the stainless steel. She also mentioned that the white wines are produced first before the red wines because they continuously use the same machines and they did not want mix in the red grape skins. While we walked towards the back of the shop she showed us some of their eldest vines. She also mentioned how they are able to keep pests away or rather how to detect them early before they attack the vines. There are rose plants planted in front of the vines so that if they attack the roses, the planter can detect it and act fast before the pests attack the vines. She mentioned that the insects are first attracted to the roses which gives them a heads up if there is something on its way. Sebastiani’s winery for me was the most educational part of this whole journey as the host was very knowledgeable. I was able to trace back what she mentioned to what we learned in wine class. Although I only enjoyed their white wines, I felt that this was a top runner overall.

I didn’t know what to expect when I purchased my first wine tour ticket. This assignment ended up being one of the best parts of my trip to San Francisco, California. I was able to see the country, network, and add another trip to my long list of places I want to see. I hope to travel more and in my travels stop by some more wineries.

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I also had a chance to accumulate some clips from my journey I will attach the clip here soon.

Retail Wine Shop- Wines of California

Retail Wine Shop- Wines of California

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I was on trip for work and as I was trying to hit all the big tourist areas I landed upon the Fisherman’s Wharf. In this area there were several wine shops to choose from. The one that got my attention was the Wines of California.

The decoration was very minimal. I don’t believe they needed marking as much because of their location. They were in the middle of a highly populated area. Besides being located by the ocean, this area is also mostly visited by tourists. They were also one of the wine shops that had specials on wine tasting.

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Like most shops, there weren’t many employees in the store but they did have one employee just greeting in the front. The store layout was set up for even someone that doesn’t really know about wines to find a great red or white bottle of wine that they think they might be looking for. The layout was marketed mostly to their ‘California Wines’ from Napa and Sonoma.

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If I wasn’t as knowledgeable about the wine bottle information I would’ve been happy with drinking wine from ‘Sonoma County’, as labeled in one of the bottles of Chardonnay that I saw in store. What they had out of glass was their white wines so pinot noir, Chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. They did have red wines on the back side of the shop. What they also had was reserved wine but those were behind glass. What I learned about reserved wine was that those were the best of the best. To be more specific, the reserved wine is the wine from the top vineyards, from best vines, from the best grapes, from the most expensive barrel they own. What also makes it a reserve was the fact that the employees nourished the wine and kept it in the barrel longer. Several testers also come in to play when deciding what wine has the most of what they want to give. It could be more tannins or age (it just depends on the vineyard).

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There was a huge list of wines that you could taste. They sorted everything by White and red wines. (White wines being more affordable) There was a separate tasting room for all who were willing to send a few hours tasting. At the time I visited the shop was packed so I was moved along to the back to see what else they had. I realized that this particular shop they were looking for an older crowd to lavish in the wines.

While walking around in the shop I realized I would’ve been uncomfortable if not for taking this extensive wine class. I appreciated the labels a lot more as I picked out their vintage wines and looked at the prices. Going through the bottles of wine in class I was able to sort through the vast collection of California wines to find which one was the best for me. I loved the descriptions that they had under the bottles. I reminded me of the tastings we’ve gone through in class. My favorite description was ‘This Moscato is the closest thing to summer that you can capture in a bottle! It has refreshing flavors of peach, tangerine, melon, and honeysuckle’. It intrigued me to look at the wine. Obviously I wasn’t able to purchase but when I’m of age I would definitely come back to sit for some tastings.