I’ve been to Napa Valley a twice now. The first time I was taking my first Sommelier Exam and I neglected to reserve a room, so I ended up sleeping in a random vineyard, waking up freezing albeit under stars and heady aromas of flowers and blossoms.
The Napa Valley is the prototype for Heaven. It maybe be a 96 point Parker, fruity, cult/list only, high alcohol, at times flabby, and oaky Heaven – but hey, shut up and drink you snob. Driving up the main highway the horizon is dotted scores of hot air balloons floating across the dawn. When I’m there I feel like I am living in a storybook.
Waiting to meet with some friends I decided to follow some signs for the Farmer’s Market. While parking, I noticed The Fatted Calf had a store here, which I previously discovered at the Embarcadero in SF.
This establishment does a great job on twitter, routinely distracting me by tweeting their fantastic sandwich specials daily.
I was assured by the well informed and smartly dressed staff that they would soon begin shipping products to Los Angeles. I purchased some Flat Cut Beef Jerky, which was like chewy meat leather, a little under spiced, but the kind of thing you subconsciously eat until you notice it’s gone. Great stuff, and wrapped really nicely in butcher paper and parchment.
I was so tempted to order a porchetta sandwich. The lamb bacon, and selections of goat all looked fantastic. I think forcemeat is likely my most favorite of all foods, and this was high quality. I WISH I would’ve purchased some.
Around the corner I found the Oxbow Public Market. It reminded me of the L.A Farmers Market (or what the L.A Farmer’s wants to be). The one thing I must say about Napa is that I don’t think i’ve been anywhere else where across the board the quality is as consistently high.
Everywhere you look it’s overflowing with irises, lilies, lilacs, and daffodils.
High quality coffee production going on, excellent cheese shops, spices and fresh fish. All very pretty, at a pretty penny.
Just outside in the parking lot is the Napa Valley Farmer’s Market. Children and birds chirping, fiddle music abounds; I noticed far more fruit than vegetables and quite a few wine barrel craftsman.
The cherries were a little early, but the colors were fantastic. I think most of the stone fruit was a little early as well.
The weather is warm but not humid, the sun is bright and tourists are flooding out of large luxurious touring vans.
Though it was quite beautiful and bountiful, I didn’t see anything that was a terribly compelling buy, or anything that I didn’t feel like I couldn’t find in my own backyard at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.
I went to quite a few wineries, none of which I think deserve any particular mention with the exception of Robert Sinskey. Sinskey actually lives in the Empire of Brentwood, I’ve seen/met/served him several times though I doubt he would remember. The winery is beyond description beautiful, and also featured a nice nosh to go with the wines. I was scolded for immediately eating things that were meant for pairing.
His wines were the best I’ve tasted – the most balanced, moderate in alcohol, and mildly terroir driven. We tasted the 2012 Abraxis Vin Du Terroir, from vines actually in Sonoma. The nose was overwhelming floral notes, creamy on the palate from noticeable malolactic fermentation. I didn’t pick up on any flint, but some baking spice was there. The name Abraxas is Greek, based on some Gnostic mumbo jumbo; I appreciated the depth of meaning yet it seems like they will name a wine anything in California these days.
I noticed some curious practices going on in Napa, like some wineries aging Riesling in oak. Not a fan. As well, there is just SO much blending going on. Riesling with Chardonnay, Syrah with Cabernet .. just fruit exploding everywhere, masking the high alcohol with tannin and acidity taking a back seat. Napa’s wines to me are like Jane Russell, big voluptuous, and in your face. You won’t find any Audrey Hepburn here.
I can’t imagine tasting here if you aren’t industry, as I’m sure we would have spent over $100 in fees if we were paying. In Santa Barbara, I usually have no problem tasting at quite a few places and driving, but after going to places where 800ml tasting glasses are filled with 15.1% fully oaked Cabernet, I needed a wheelchair and a bib. I am in complete agreement with sentiments echoed on the Blake Report regarding the accurate reporting of alcohol levels in California.
Everyone is so happy and kind, you don’t catch any attitude, anywhere. Huge smiles, happy to pour you another taste or open up something special. I highly recommend going for a visit, just bring funds, an appetite, and a designated driver.