With over 5 million visitors a year, Napa Valley provides foodies and oneophiles on every level, a fun, informative and entertaining experience. However, with over 400 wineries to choose from, where does one start? For those of us wanting a truly unique and special wine tasting experience, trying to belly our way to the bar through the touristy crowds is not an option. In addition to crowds at popular wineries, searching for the perfect wine might mean there are a lot of frogs to kiss and wine poured into the spit bucket before we find a prince that we would actually like to take home!
Never fear, help is here! Most have no idea that you can schedule ultra luxe, private wine tastings and tours at some of the most sought after, exclusive vineyards in the area, such as Lokoya, Harlan, Promontory, Continuum, Hall, Schramsberg and more. Any of the concierges in the valley worth their salt, can help you schedule one of these amazing, “by appointment only” tasting experiences. While these appointment only excursions come with a pricier tasting tag, it’s well worth it, not only in terms of a luxurious experience, but also because your tasting fees are applied to the cost of any wines you select for purchase. However, the biggest plus is that there are no frogs at these exclusively higher end wineries, so every sip of these brilliant wines seems to be better than the last. Usually held in the most gorgeous private estates, many of these tastings even come with wine paired lunches and dinners, but consider booking your tasting at least two months in advance.
Getting to know the rich history of Schramsberg and their 125-year-old caves might just be a bucket list item. This private tour will introduce you to the classic method of producing sparkling wine. And yes it does end with a tasting that will amaze you. Perhaps Harlan is your favorite? After all they do grace the list of the most expensive wines in the area. Their tastings are usually invitation only so if you are ever offered one be sure to invite me along! A trip to Promontory is off the beaten path but oh so worth it! The architecture will take your breath away and the wine is well worth the trip. Continuum continues to be a favorite with a private tasting often including lunch with the owners. Don’t miss the 2005 and 2008 vintage while you are there.
On a recent trip to Napa for a Girls’ Weekend, my bestie, Viv and I chose Lokoya, one of the most beautiful wineries in the valley and home of four distinct Cabernet Sauvignons from four of Napa’s most celebrated mountain appellations: Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain and Diamond Mountain. These limited production wines, are as delectable as they are elusive, and when the current vineyard allocation is closed, that, as they say, is all folks!
On a misty day in May we arrived on the grounds of this spectacular winery. Even in less than perfect weather, Lokoya’s grounds are breathtaking.
José Tenorio, our incredibly knowledgeable estate host, welcomed us with a glass of delicious Ruinart Champagne, a luxurious welcome to kick off a lovely wine tasting afternoon.
As we sipped our champagne, we took in the beauty of wine maker Christopher Carpenter’s recent renovation of the winery. The architecture and the views are to die for! Cathedral ceilings, stone walls and welcoming design. It’s truly gorgeous. The wine library, with its view of the dining room, houses the four Cabs from the four different mountain vineyards.
As any wine aficionado will tell you, soil, rain, sun, temperature – all affect the wine and we were happy to learn more about these heavenly wines.
José had a beautiful tasting prepared for us and reminded us of the “Five S’s” when it comes to wine appreciation: Sight, Smell, Swirl, Smell (again), Sip (Aaaaahhh!!!)
After sampling each of these delectable wines, we nibbled on delish small bites, and went through the tasting again, noting the differences and deciding on our favorites.
I was partial to the Howell Mountain Cabernet, whereas Viv declared the Cab from Mount Veeder to be her soul-mate and we both added a bottle or two to our personal wine collections. An unbelievable afternoon for any wine enthusiast!