May 092011

Spring is upon us and nature has provided another excuse to spend a day or a weekend in Wine Country. Napa Valley is so beautiful in the spring and summer that often we’d rather taste outdoors immersed in the vineyards and terrior while we enjoy a glass or two from the winery. There are any number of wineries offering outdoor wine tasting or drinking opportunities so I thought I’d share with a few of our favorites, V. Sattui, Mumm Napa and Alpha Omega Winery. So sit back and imagine an 85 degree cloudless day in Napa Valley and we’ll head out to spend a leisurely afternoon at three of our favorite spots.

V Sattui Marketplace

If we are going to spend the afternoon drinking great wine, it makes sense to start at a winery that offers some great food in addition to their great wines. If you read Bacchus and Beery Wine Blog often, you know we like to stick with smaller wineries but sometimes it’s good to break the rules. Our first stop is V. Sattui Winery, 38 acres off Hwy 29 near St. Helena. The Sattui family has been making wine in California since 1885! Don’t be scared off by the big parking lot and tour buses. This is a great winery that sells only to winery customers and club members. The tasting room is nearly always bustling and offers a real tasting value ($5 and $10). The $10 tasting pours six single-vineyard and limited production wines.

V. Sattui boasts a European style marketplace and deli that offers a stunning and delicious array of gourmet sandwiches, cheeses, meats and a myriad of other delicacies. Outside on the 2.5 acres of beautifully tended grounds are picnic tables waiting for you to take a seat and enjoy a sandwich and a bottle of V. Sattui award winning wine. Personally I’m partial to their Zinfandels which regularly receive scores in the 90’s and often cost less than $35. On our last trip we had the tri-tip steak sandwich and a turkey Panini, hearty salads and some amazing deserts.

If your day of outdoor tasting is on a Saturday or Sunday you’re really in luck because the grills are firedup, cranking out salmon, BBQ, chicken wings, pizza, sausage, oysters and more. Picnic on the V. Sattui grounds or let the deli fix the perfect wine country picnic basket for you and your friends to take to your own special spot. My vote is we sit under one of the big trees and share a V. Sattui Crown Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel (WE-95 $33) with some fare fresh off the grill.

Now that we’re full and satisfied from our wine country picnic and barbeque, let’s fancy it up a bit and relax with a stem of sparkling wine on the terrace and patio of Mumm Napa. It’s a short drive over to Silverado Trail and down to Rutherford where we find Mumm Napa. We reviewed Mumm Napa sparkling wines for the holiday season. Not only were the ones we tried delicious (our scores 4.5/5), they also offered a great value at around $20. If you limit your sparkling wines to holidays and celebrations, you are missing out.

Once at Mumm Napa (now certified Napa Green Winery) you’ll find some interesting and unique ways to fill your afternoon. Tours are available three times a day (11, 1 & 3) and offer some great insights into the making and blending of sparkling wines. A bit out of the ordinary and a personal favorite is the Fine Art Photography Gallery featuring an ever changing array of artists. However, the exhibit that really got my attention was the 27 original photographs by famed photographer Ansel Adams. This collection is on loan from the artist’s grandson, Matthew Adams and alone is worth the trip.

Mumm Napa - Tasting with a View!

Well enough indoors, let’s head outside to a little wine tasting. In addition to their stunning line-up of sparklers, Mumm Napa also offers still wines (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) from the same vineyards used to make their sparklers. Mumm Napa has two outdoor seating areas, both with expansive vineyard views. The patio offers table service and tasting options that range in price from $7 to $25. Since we’re enjoying sparkling wine on this beautiful day, let’s step up the ambiance. The Oak Terrace Tasting (appointment only…and well worth it!) offers a leisurely paced experience while enjoying 2 flutes of Mumm Napa’s rare library wines, just yards away from the vineyards. Tastings are offered with ($65) and without ($40) a special selection of artisan cheeses and fruit. The wine shop offers many wines available only to wine club members and winery guests. A personal favorite was the sparkling Pinot Noir; rich full bodied and elegantly complex.

To finish up our afternoon of tasting we will head back to Hwy 29 but stay near Rutherford. Alpha Omega Wineryis a small production operation that sells only to wine club members, winery guests and on the internet. This rustic farm-style winery has outdoor couch and chair seating overlooking fountains and vineyards. Alpha Omega was recommended to us a couple of years ago and we’ve been fans ever since. The tasting room is bright an airy, but let’s sit out on the covered porch and watch the late afternoon sun streak across the vineyards. Alpha Omega offers two Chardonnays (oaked and unoaked) and a variety of Cabernets and Bordeaux blends. Accolades and 90+ scores follow these wines every year. I’ll settle in with a glass of the A-O Proprietary Red (WE 93-95).

A-O Winemaker Jean Hoefliger

If you are lucky enough to run into Jean Hoefliger, A-O’s passionate young winemaker, you’ll really get a sense of what these wines are all about. Jean, formerly the winemaker at Newton, employs a number of uncommon winemaking techniques that make his wines distinctive and extraordinary. Take your time with A-O wines. They will command your attention and reward your palate with complex and intriguing flavors. A-O is one of the few tasting rooms open until 6PM so there is no need to rush your experience.

Three great wineries with three distinctive styles, all with memorable outdoor experiences… what a way to spend a day! Where should we go for dinner?

Wine Blog

  4 Responses to “An Afternoon of Outdoor Wine Tasting in Napa Valley”

  1. My daughter wants to go wine tasting for her 25th birthday in September, and your article above sounds like the perfect outing. I’ve never been “wine tasting” before and was wondering about timing, how much time should we plan to spend at each winery (we don’t plan on going on the tours). We thought we’d end the day with dinner at Rutherfords Grill around 4:00 p.m. This will be on a Saturday. Thanks for any tips/suggestions.

  2. Sattui is always our first stop too….;) loved this article!

  3. A great read! So excited for the great weather and for my $ there’s nothing better than driving around and visiting the great vineyards of wine country!

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