I found an amazing route taking a side road over the mountain separating Sonoma from Napa. I made it to Napa just in time to visit the recommendation from my breakfast companion.
Orin Swift Tasting Room
The Orin Swift tasting room was in St. Helena Napa, just a small tasting bar on the main strip. I tried a handful of wines made by this producer. Every bottle had a funky piece of art work as the label that did not tell you about the wine nor its contents. Each wine was full of character like the art work on the bottle.
- The first wine I tried was called the China Doll that had a photo of an eerie porcelain china doll on the label. A Rosé, blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes, it was very dry, crisp, and more of a pairing Rosé than a cocktail wine.
- A Sauvignon Blanc that was called Blank Stare. This wine was blended with 5% Semillon and sauvignon blanc 40% barrel fermented in old French oak and the other 60% fermented in stainless steel tanks. Crisp and acidic just as the varietal should be with a nice balance of oak characteristics to give it some subtle and enjoyable palate flavours.
- Three reds – all wonderful wines with Napa characteristics – big, boozy and ripe fruit.
- Grenache, Trigger Finger
- Petit Syrah, Machete
- Cabernet Sauvignon, Mercury Head
A major difference that I noticed between Sonoma and Napa was the way the sun fell right onto everything in Napa. Sonoma had shaded regions from trees, or mountainous regions. From the two pictures you can see how bright Napa was and how the sun hit every part of the land allowing for full sun exposure on the grapes.
After spending the night in San Francisco, I took the Pacific Coast Highway to Monterey Bay along the coast. The fog coming off the ocean made the drive cool and tolerable. The views were stunning.
From Monterey Bay I took the inland highway to save some time geting back to Los Angeles. This allowed me to make a final wine visit – the Central Coast.
In Santa Maria I visited two wineries.
Costa de Oro Winery
All of the grapes were grown off site and transported to the winery to make their wine. The wines weren’t bad but there was no distinct characteristic or story to them.
The winery is owned by a couple from South Africa. They had had a property in New Orleans but relocated to Santa Maria after Hurricane Katrina along with a South African winemaker. This winery was breathtaking in its views, size of the vineyard, and the tasting room itself. The wines reflected the terroir. Although an inland winery the sea breeze from the Pacific Ocean passed through the valley. This resulted in a wonderful climate, much cooler than that of Napa and Sonoma. The worker told me the average temperature here was mid 20 degrees Celsius, allowing for the varietals grown here to have a different expression.
The wines I tried were a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir Rose, Pinot Noir, and a Syrah. I ended up buying the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir Rose, and the Syrah because I loved these wines so much. The wines were all more acidic than the Napa and Sonoma wines. At this point in my wine tasting and developing of my palate, I was not a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, but the expression of this one had me wanting more. Fermentation was in stainless steel, concrete eggs and old French oak giving the Sauvignon Blanc complexity and a smoothness that I had not experienced from that varietal. The Pinot Noir Rosé was crisp, acidic and just enough sweetness. Finally, the Syrah reminded me of a Washington state Syrah as it was crisp and acidic rather than full and boisterous. I only had 1.5 hours before closing (could have spent the whole day).
After leaving this winery, my wine portion of my trip was sadly over. But within three days, I had seen, tasted and experienced wine regions and wines that I will never forget and that will cement ideas in my pending studies.
I just need to visit another wine region now!
I returned to Los Angeles for three more nights and spent it with the friends I travelled with. We spent a day downtown L.A., saw a Dodgers game and went to Magic Mountain by Six Flags.