Thomas Keller has the French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro, and the Bouchon Bakery. Top three all, but to the locals the bakery is what is the draw.
Morning wake up and you spent the night sleeping in the middle of the Napa Valley, wine country. Many tourists hit the winery maps first thing in the morning to find which winery to go to first to taste the variety of wines that helped make Napa Valley famous. The locals think of Bouchon Bakery, as well as wise tourists who spot all the people going inside this bakery first thing in the morning. Those entering are rewarded with the aroma of fresh bread and coffee with my favorite, cappucino ready to enjoy. The breads and pastries are a treat and also part of the Bouchon Bistro's menu offerings.
Try the rustique loaf of bread with the wine you may buy at one of the wineries in the area. The macaroons are butter melt dreams. Located next door to the Bouchon Bistro is the Bouchon Bakery at 6528 Washington Street, Yountville, California. Opens at 7 am.
Every Sunday before Labor Day (first Sunday in September), Napa holds a River Festival in its town center area by the river. Booths are set up with food, wine and beer Local musicians and bands perform throughout the day. In the evening, the Napa Valley Symphony performs on the bridge, and there is a fireworks display.
This year was the River Festival's 14th year.
The Festival began at 2:00 pm on Sunday. We stuck around for the beginning and were treated to a performance by a local Dixieland band.
Here in California, we love Dixieland!
Until the late 1980s, wineries never charged for tasting. The reason was simple: tourists came to enjoy and inevitably bought wine to take home. The tour and tasting room served to teach about wine and how to drink it, and grateful consumer purchases paid for tasting room expenses. Then, as wine became more popular as an alcoholic beverage, winery hopping became an entertainment in itself for the masses, and the flood of consumers choose to shop at discount stores for their wine, rather than at the winery. The local wine enthusiast tradition is generally to taste (and spit in the cuspidor) and then buy a couple of bottles not available on the discount store shelves. Napa Valley residents know that there are many wines which are consumed entirely within the valley, or within Northern California, and that these wines simply don't make it to market in New York, Chicago, and Houston. I recommend that visitors prepare to pull out the credit card and buy the big bottles. Those are the best value purchases in the tasting room. See my shopping notes for more about buying wine locally.
FREE, Every Friday 5 - 8:30 pm May 25 through August 31 in downtown Napa on 1st street. This was great because you have many restaurants with food booths, wine tasting booths, artwork displayed and for sale and much more. I'm not into eating raw oysters but there was even a booth selling them! I saw at least four different areas throughout with musical entertainment. I'm glad we didn't miss this.
Adams Ridge Winery
Total Production of 400 - 500 cases per year. One wine produced: a Cabernet Sauvignon from 2 regions. Aged 20 months in 100% french oak barrels plus and additional ageing of 12 months in the bottle before its release. Price: US$58 per bottle.
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Owner | Winemaker
Ronald Adams created Adams Ridge Winery after working in the wine industry for 27 years. As an independent contractor, he was an important asset in creating and developing over 30 Wine Caves in the Napa and surrounding valleys. Along with his extensive knowledge and experience in the wine industry, Ronald's love for fine wine lent him creative vision for his own hand crafted wine, emphasizing the use of caves for optimal climate control, as well as optimal barrel aging conditions to create a premium handcrafted product.
TOURS & TASTING:
12707 Old Redwood Hwy, Healdsburg
Complimentary tasting and tours 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. Picnic tables. www.foppiano.com
2000 Denmark St., Sonoma
Complimentary tasting 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. Hourly tours on weekends beginning at noon; on weekdays by appointment. www.gunbun.com
Mirassou Vineyards, Mirassou Winery
3000 Aborn Road, San Jose
Complimentary tasting noon-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-4 p. m. Sunday. Tour daily at 2 p.m. www.mirassou.com
Mirassou Champagne Cellars
300 College Ave., Los Gatos
Complimentary tasting noon-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday. Tours 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. www.mirassou.com
2950 Sage Canyon Road (Highway 128)
St. Helena (707) 963-0717
Open weekends for complimentary tasting, picnicking. www.nicheliniwinery.com
389 Fourth St. E., Sonoma
Open for tastings 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Some wines complimentary, others by fee. Tours, $2.50, 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10:45 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. weekends. Trolly tours through vineyard and downtown Sonona 2 p.m. Thursday- Sunday: $5. www.sebastiani.com
Seghesio Family Vineyards
14730 Grove St., Healdsburg
(707) 433-7764 or (866) 734-4374
Complimentary tastings 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. www.seghesio.com
Viansa Winery and Italian Marketplace
25200 Arnold Drive (Highway 121)
Sonoma (707) 935-4700
Complimentary tastings 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tours 11 a.m., 2 p.m. daily: $5. www.viansa.com
Wente Vineyards Estate Winery and Tasting Room
5565 Tesla Road, Livermore
Open daily 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Some wines complimentary, others by fee. Tours 11 a.m., 1, 2 and 3 p.m. daily. www.wentevineyards.com
(Pictured here: A Wente family portrait, taken in 1895, includes Carl Wente and his daughter Carolyn.)
Penniless Samuele Sebastiani arrived in California from Tuscany in 1893, but soon earned enough to buy a wagon and four horses, which he used to haul cobblestones from Sonoma quarries. By 1904, he had saved enough to buy a winery in Sonoma County and started shipping bulk wine. Like most other wineries that survived Prohibition, Sebastiani made sacramental wine, but also turned the winery into a cannery to keep his employees busy. After Prohibition ended, the winery expanded into national distribution. The growth in the 1980's created family conflict. Sam Sebastiani wanted to focus on quality, brother Don on volume. It was like an Italian soap opera. Eventually, Sam formed his own company; later, Don did the same. Now their sister Mary Ann Sebastiani Cuneo is CEO, and realized that it couldn't compete with big companies like E&J Gallo.
They sold the operation to Constellation Brands, the nation's second largest wine producer, and decided to focus on producing better wines. Using part of the proceeds, they renovated the historic winery to make it more attractive to visitors, and instituted new tours, cooking demonstrations, seminars and other programs to attract tourists.
Sam and his wife, Vickie, opened Viansa Winery and Italian Marketplace on a hilltop in southern Sonoma County. It's a tourist magnet that's also shrine to their Tuscan heritage. Featuring Italian varietals, his operation also has an elaborate deli and gourmet shop on a knoll overlooking 90 acres of waterfowl refuge Sam has developed. On the principal road to Sonoma and Napa Valleys, the business has become a must stop for many visitors. Viansa also has a second location on the Sonoma Plaza.
Don Sebastiani, by contrast, has built a big brand, buying bulk wines and selling them under its own label, Pepperwood Grove. It is one of the best values and hottest brands in America.
CALIFORNIA WINE DYNASTIES
FOPPIANO...founded in 1896 by Giovanni Foppiano, a native of Genoa who emigrated to California in 1864 hoping to find gold. When his prospecting failed, he purchased a working winery called Riverside Farm, where Foppiano Vineyards stands today near Healdsburg. Today, the fourth and fifth generation of the family run the winery, which is best known for its Petite Sirah.
MIRASSOU...began in America in the early 1850s when Pierre Pellier settled in Santa Clara Valley and planted the grape cuttings he'd brought from his native France. In 1881, his daughter married neighboring vintner Pierre Mirassou, who joined Pellier in business. Their vineyards thrived, but the following generations faced epidemics, recessions and Prohibition. The fifth and sixth generation continue the family's tradition of winemaking even though they've sold the family name to Gallo.
NICHELINI...While other wineries have changed with the times, Nichelini Winery seems preserved in the past. In a historic winery clinging to the side of a mountain east of St. Helena, the Nichelini family makes 2,500 cases a year of wine, some from very old vines. Though the processing has been updated since Anton Nichelini founded the winery in 1890, the winery seems a museum. Joe Nichelini is the president, and his sister and cousins are part owners.
SEGHESIO...Italian immigrant Edoardo Seghesio planted his first vineyard in the Alexander Valley in 1895. Today his grandsons and great-grandsons farm 400 acres of vineyards in Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley and Dry Cree
One of California's most prominent wine brands in the '60s, Wente Brothers is now a medium-sized producer focusing on medium-priced "lifestyle" wines.
Carl Wente, the great-grandfather of Carolyn, Eric and Phil Wente -- who are at the winery's helm today -- came to California from Germany in the 1880s.
He soon met Charles Krug and learned to make wine. In 1883, he bought 49 acres of planted vineyards in Livermore and started a winery there.
He also started the Napa Sonoma Bottling Company in Richmond, which shipped wine around the country.
Two sons, Ernest and Herman stayed in winemaking. Ernest, grandfather of present president Carolyn, became interested in Chardonnay, and he obtained cuttings from Cordon Charlemagne in Burgundy and planted them in Livermore.
The business survived Prohibition by selling sacramental wines and grapes to home winemakers, and by raising cattle, hay and grain. Eventually the two brothers inherited the business.
Wente's production peaked at 800,000 cases per year in the early '80s.
On her father's death in 1977, however, the family evaluated their future. Carolyn had worked in banking, her brother Eric was a food scientist, and Phil had studied viticulture and enology. Carolyn was elected to head sales and marketing while her brothers managed growing and winemaking.
But they didn't want to become a 5-million case brand like Fetzer or Beringer
The company abandoned the low end of the market, cutting production in half to make and sell higher-end wines. he family still owns original land Carl Wente acquired, plus 600 acres in Monterey, but has selectively bought and sold property for development. It has resisted a wholesale move in that direction, however.
The family's legacy began when Jacob Gundlach arrived in San Francisco from Bavaria in 1851, established a brewery, and then bought a vineyard he called Rhinefarm in southern Sonoma County in 1858. His daughter married Charles Bundschu, who became owner of the business. Their home was in San Francisco, as was their 250,000-case winery, though they maintained a summer home at the vineyard in Sonoma.
When their San Francisco home and winery burned in the earthquake of 1906, the family moved to Sonoma, and continued to grow grapes and make wine. The winemaking ended during Prohibition, and the family diversified into growing other crops and raising cattle. They continued to grow and sell grapes, however, and in 1969 they resurrected the winery. They planted new vines, and bought neighboring property. It now owns 360 acres.
In the early days the winery stuck to agriculture and winemaking, leaving marketing to others. Many family wineries wanted to grow and grow, When their vineyards ran out, they bought grapes to produce more wine. Kenwood, Buena Vista and Ravenswood are three that followed that path; all were eventually sold to other companies.
Gundlach-Bundschu, however, stuck to its own grapes, growing slowly but not really finding a niche. The company made a variety of wines, some neither ideal for the site nor popular in the market.
In 1997, the family acquired an adjacent 120-acre vineyard, and the high price of the land forced the family to reassess their strategy. They became a top estate wine producer, not just another family winery.
The winery now produces almost 40,000 cases per year and also manages the nearby historic Bartholomew Park Winery.
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The MACAULEY VINEYARD label was originally established in St. Helena in the early 1980s by Ann Macauley Watson and for several years produced a very well received late harvest Sauvignon Blanc with help from renowned winemaker, Rick Forman.
In the late summer of 2000, Ann’s son Mac went to work for Rudd Estate in Oakville. After several months of winery work and education he was inspired to revive the family label, and, working with winemaker and childhood friend Kirk Venge, crushed his first grapes in October of 2001.
Mac and Kirk have one goal: to source the highest quality fruit in Napa Valley and make wines of extraordinary depth and personality. The grapes they choose showcase the terroir of the vineyards and create a remarkable wine-drinking experience.
The Large Napa Valley Souvenir T-Shirts are one of the sought after souvenir items along the many souvenir shops all along the napa valley area and they come in different colors and mostly has the napa map printed in the shirts as a kind of promotion. again a souvenir t-shirt at $ 12.99 a piece and more.
each winery in Napa sells it's own kind of T-Shirts with a variety of Designs and fabrics so you should have many choices, again prices vary but it can be as cheap as $ 10.99 up to $ 24.99 so take your pick and proudly wear then as a reminder.
There are many kinds of souvenirs that you can buy in Napa Valley area like post cards, postage stamps, wine cork opener, wine bottles, wine glass, refrigerator magnets, shot glass, assorted maps of the region and more. But one of the more interesting souvenir items of Napa are these Mini-shirts, which are perfect as gifts or just let it hang in your room as a nice piece of decoration. and these mini shirts costs $ 5.99 each and are available everywhere.
Thnik about it and buy these Napa Mini Shirts hehehe.
These assorted fold up maps contains artistic and detailed maps of Napa, Sonoma, Calistoga, Yountville, Vacaville, etc. with the assorted wineries and places to see clearly marked in the maps. You can buy them everywhere in the gift shops of any winery or at the souvenir shops around Napa and Sonoma and Carneros Areas if you are a map collecter other than the staid Rand Mc Nally Maps. again these maps are available everywhere and costs $ 9.99. But if you are a cheapskate, then don't buy them since in this age of the GPS Navigation, Fold Up maps are becoming obsolete like the way of the dodo.
Magnetic Post It's or Refrigerator Magnets are my tip of souvenir item for a place. So post its are good for souvenirs, available in different configurations like bottle openers, screw caps, magnetic paperweights, symbols and more. Available everywhere and cost $ 5.99 to $ 9.99 (depends on the type). This kind of refrigerator magnets are my kind of collectibles when I travel besides the shot glasses and you can buy these refrigerator magnets anywhere at Napa Valley and Sonoma areas at the Souvenir Shops of the Wineries like V. Sattui, Domaine Chandon, Sterling Vinyards, Robert Mondavi, Charles Krug and more.