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.