Earlier this summer we received an invitation to visit the historic Giordano winery and to tour the famed Piedmont wine region of northwest Italy. For those who read Bacchus and Beery, you know what fans we are of Giordano wines, their high quality and value. Our Giordano journey started in the quaint town of Alba, whose roots date back to pre-Roman times.
It’s peculiar the songs that pop into your head and when they choose to take up residence. In this case the tune was an 80’s British pop dance hit I never really liked. But as you will see the song may have been more prophetic than I ever would have imagined.
On the fifth day of our 2013 Italian adventure, we drove five hours from the quaint town of Alba in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy to the renaissance era Tuscan town, Gaiole in Chianti, deep in the heart of Tuscan wine country. The route was mostly along the Autostrade (Italian highways) so the driving was easy in our rented blue Peugeot, even though I had been warned by many about driving in Italy. The only real challenge came as we approached picturesque Gaiole. Both our GPS and Goggle Maps kept routing us along dirt roads across the Tuscan hillsides in a 10 mile loop, never being able to locate our B&B.
Guest Post By Erica Kritt, The Cruise Web Team
It’s amazing that two great things can combine to equal one extraordinary thing. Take for instance grilled cheese and tomato soup or Oreos and milk. Together these combinations are unbeatable. The same is true of combining wine and cruising, two great things that are truly greater than the sum of their parts.
Cruise lines are now offering special itineraries that feature large selections of wine and experts to educate their guests on everything from pairing to how the grapes are grown in various regions of the world. These cruises can include wine events onboard, wine-themed shore excursions, talks with wine experts, and special wine tastings.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to lead a group of long-time friends on a one day tour of Napa Valley wineries. I wanted to share examples of the many wine experiences Napa has to offer, but in just one day. It was a tall order with so many wine-derful choices. Here’s the strategy.
Napa wineries can be put in many categories, so these are the ones I chose. Old and unpretentious Napa, cutting-edge winemaking Napa, multi-generational winemaking Napa, and money is no object for my dream winery Napa. For good measure I tossed in lunch at one of Napa Valley’s top restaurants and a harvest party with an experienced winemaker with a new project. It was a lot for one day. This group may be grey, even so we were up to the wine-stained task.
Our day started in San Francisco on a clear crisp Friday morning. Knowing we’d be drinking sampling a lot of great wine, we employed a driver. Tom Cilluffo of Napa Valley Limousine Services arrived about 20 minutes before our scheduled 8am hotel pick-up in a brand new SUV, perfect for the five of us. We rode across the Golden Gate Bridge and through the Sonoma Carneros wine growing region before hitting Napa. Tom, born and raised in Napa Valley, had a lot to offer about the history and people of Napa and Sonoma. The day was off to a great start.
Our first stop was a step back to 1970’s Napa at Smith-Madrone Winery after a narrow and winding yet picturesque drive up Spring Mountain. Napa Valley was not always the glitz and glamour statement it is today and Smith-Madrone is 1970’s Napa all the way. Nothing fancy, in fact the entire winemaking facility is housed in an old red barn. Stu and Charlie Smith founded the winery in 1971 on what is now a 200 acre vineyard/ranch, high above the valley floor. Curly, the winery spaniel, was the first to greet us. Then as we approached the barn door Charlie Smith, in his trimmed Santa Claus beard, stepped out and guided us to the crushpad showing off the pregnant vineyards, only yards away.
In 1960, John Steinbeck set out to reconnect with America accompanied by one companion, an “intuitive” standard poodle named Charley. The tale was recounted in the now classic book “Travels with Charley.” Steinbeck met the idea of the expedition with both excitement and trepidation. In July of 2012, I set out with my daughter, Whitney, to reconnect with the teenager turned young woman who had so matured, since leaving home for college three years earlier. My stated objectives were to celebrate her 21st birthday and introduce Whitney to the wonders of wine country. This father/daughter excursion was one I met, much like Steinbeck, with both excitement and trepidation.