California, Napa Valley
Napa Valley, California. March 2014
California has a fantastic energy! I always liked the mixture of sophistication with informality. Here people of means rub elbows with working class people without an air of superiority. California is a big state in the USA – almost as big as Spain – and Napa Valley is located an hour north of San Francisco, one of the most liberal cities of the United States. It goes without saying that to come here in style one has to arrive in a convertible!
Napa Valley consists of several towns connected by a single road. On both sides of the road there are wineries nonstop and they all have their own tasting rooms. I heard that there are more than five hundred wineries – too many for me. We chose to visit only one that happened to be one of the oldest and most expensive. The tasting cost $65 per person and we were lucky to find availability despite making the reservation three weeks in advance.
Far Niente is not located directly on the main road but tucked a bit out of the way. The property has a rural charm with views of the mountains and the fields. The main building is imposing and the gardens magnificent. It is mid march and the lilacs and tulips are in bloom. After an introduction to the philosophy of the wine making of this family and a tour in the caves under the house, we had the actual tasting, with tasty bits of a variety of cheeses to accompany two white wines and two reds.
The wines were good but nothing amazing, especially considering the prices, around $70 and $65 for the Chardonnay, and $185 and $135 for the Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wine that got me excited was the one that they brought at the end; a dessert wine called Dolce ($170 per bottle of 75 Cl.). It is not very sweet but has surprising favors that keep changing as they flow in the mouth. The first impression is of bitter flowers but suddenly it changes to pineapple and pear notes, to finish with a smooth honey and vanilla finish. Very complex and satisfying.
Our final stop in Napa Valley was a three Michelin Star restaurant called The Restaurant at Meadowood. The prix-fixe menu inspired by the famous restaurant El Bulli was outstanding and very creative. However, as we have never before visited a restaurant of this caliber, it is not possible for us to make a comparison with others of such high quality. Having said that, our impression was like attending great theatre.
Everything was choreographed for a sybaritic experience. Here we had a wine from the neighboring Sonoma Valley: Anthill Farms Pinot Noir 2012 (about $40 a bottle of 75 Cl.). This wine made, as well as its name, from the Pinot Noir grape variety, had an unimpressive color and the smell did not impress me either. But the flavor was very well balanced and complemented and enhanced each of the delectable courses.
I’m sure there is much more to explore in Napa Valley regarding wines without getting drunk, but in order to enjoy the convertible I did not want to get to that point.
Falk & Marques