Apr 292010

If you are a wine lover, there is nothing better than taking a tour of some of the Napa Valley wineries. For many wine lovers, a visit to Napa Valley can be the culmination of a lifetime dream. The breathtaking scenery and very pleasant climate make for a wonderful vacation.

Napa Valley is situated in Northern California. The soil and climate in Napa Valley have proven to be among the best in the world for growing wine grapes. As a result, this region has become one of the premier wine producing regions in the U.S. A number of different wines are featured through wineries in Napa Valley, including Caymus, Chandon and Frank Family.

Millions of tourists and visitors flock to Napa Valley each year in order to tour the many wineries in production there. In fact, Napa Valley has become one of the premier attractions in the entire state of California. Not only will you be able to enjoy breathtaking vistas during a trip to Napa Valley but your trip will also provide you with a once in a lifetime experience to enjoy numerous culinary pleasures as well. In the event you happen to dabble in your own winemaking at home, a trip to Napa Valley can certainly provide you with plenty of inspiration.

Historically, Napa Valley has always been strong; however, there have been times during history when it seemed as though this fertile and beautiful valley would almost cease to exist in terms of wine production. One of these times occurred during Prohibition, beginning in 1920. A root louse known as phylloxera also contributed to the destruction of numerous fine vines during this time period as well. As a result, a number of wineries in Napa Valley closed. Following World War II; however, they re-opened and Napa Valley once again became quite popular.

After the results of the Paris Wine Tasting were announced in 1976, at which time the Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were deemed to be better than many fine French labels, Napa Valley became quite popular. Today, Napa Valley has continued to grow and expand and is home to literally hundreds of wineries. Some of the best wineries in the world are located right in Napa Valley.

A trip to Napa Valley provides you with the opportunity to enjoy wine tours from morning until evening. Not only will you have the chance to enjoy a wide variety of fine wines but you can also see the process of making wine from the very first step to the very end. In addition, many wineries offer high quality wines at rates that are highly discounted.

When you first travel to Napa Valley you will discover that despite the fact that so many wineries are located in Napa, the valley itself is rather condensed. The entire valley is just 35 miles long. The advantage of this is that you can easily travel from one end of Napa Valley to the other in a very small amount of time. Provided that traffic is not heavy it takes only about half an hour to drive the entire distance of the valley. Highway 29 forms the main route for the wineries; which is where most of the larger wineries as well as the restaurants, shops and hotels are located. Highway 29 begins at the mouth of the Napa River, quite close to the end of San Francisco Bay. You can easily reach every winery in Napa Valley by traveling along Highway 29.

 Posted by at 12:45 pm
Apr 282010

The time between when it first dawns on you that you could start learning to brew your own beer at home and when you actually take a stab at it is often a long one. For one thing, it takes a pretty significant learning curve to even begin to visualize that it possible to make beer at home. Oh, you may have heard about home breweries but to think of doing it in your own home setting is a leap of understanding that takes some time to get through.

The internet is often a source of information that we go to start learning more about a new area of life like home brewing. Perhaps that is how you found this article and that’s good. That means you are off on the right foot and using free information from people who have already learned a few things about brewing at home to get your orientation to what it would take for you to learn to brew your own beer at home.

As often happens with any new area of interest, if your fascination with how to brew beer at home starts to get some momentum, it’s a good way to go to log on to the major home brewing web sites and begin to get oriented to the methods, the equipment and the process of brewing beer at home. Do be aware that some of these sites get very technical and it’s easy to get intimidated.

But if you can just get an understanding about the equipment and the ingredients and some basic ideas of how the process would go if you were the one doing the brewing, that is a good start. Because online articles and web sites mix expert knowledge with newcomers orientation, if you do stumble into a section of those sites that you don’t understand, just surf on to pages that are intended to help you where you are and understand that when you get to that level that that technical sophistication, you can always come back to these pages. Just build a good bookmark library because it will serve you well.

But to pick up speed on learning the real details of what brewing is all about, you don’t have to depend just on reading or books. Because brewing beer in your own home is more than just book knowledge, it is handling of equipment and ingredients, the more direct exposure you can get to the brewing process, the better. But it is also very likely that you developed your interest in home brewing while enjoying a good brew at your local brew pub. Most towns have brew pubs where home made beers are sold in just about every flavor, color ant texture. Many times these brew pubs grew up out of a home brewing hobby that just got bigger and bigger until it became an enterprise and a money making business

That is why most brew pub owners are more than happy to give tours and lessons in home brewing. This is probably some of the most value exposure you can get to how the process of home brewing works. By walking through a brewery where the beer you make is made, you can step through the process to get a feel for how you will proceed. You can see the boiling pots, how the strainers are used and the filters and fertilizers and everything that is needed to take beer from raw materials to the finished state of a fine brewed beer. In fact, with a little charm and by working for free, you may be able to apprentice in the brew pub making beer. This time will be tremendously valuable to you to help you learn the ropes of making your own beer.

You combine this hands on knowledge with what you are learning on line and from other training sources along with what you can learn by networking with other experienced home brewers and you have a powerful source of knowledge that will pay you well when you start making your home beer yourself. And that knowledge will result in some great tasting beers from your kitchen so you will be glad you took the time to learn all you can before taking the plunge.

 Posted by at 6:04 pm
Apr 232010

Traditionally, Champagne has always a way to celebrate milestones or toast the bride and groom on their marriage. Considered to be a flexible beverage, Champagne can be served with a meal or with dessert. For many years, this truly refreshing and exotic drink has been used as a way of celebration and just enjoying the times that lie ahead.

Champagne comes from the vineyards of the French region. If you get a bottle and notice Champagne imprinted on the label, you can rest assured that the bottle was produced in the vineyards of France. If you don’t get Champagne that was produced in the infamous French regions, you are pretty much just buying the standard sparkling wine. You should also make sure that the bottle is spelled “Champagne”, with a capital C. French manufacturers are very protective of this very name, and therefore are the only ones that are authorized to use it.

Champagne is made using three different types of grape – Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Noir and Meunier are types of black grapes, while the well known Chardonnay is a type of white grape. The label on the bottle will signify what type of Champagne you are buying, so you’ll know what flavor to expect. There are also types of this wine that are a blend of different grapes, providing quite an exquisite taste to say the least.

Much like sparkling wine, Champagne is very common with celebrations and such. Although it is actually considered to be a type of sparkling wine, Champagne is much better. You have to be careful where you buy it though, as a lot of manufacturers like to use cheaper grapes, which don’t taste the same. If you have ever tasted this wine before – you’ll know first hand what quality tastes like.

A lot of people prefer Champagne because of the bubbles that are known to spew forth once a bottle has been uncorked. The bubbles that spew from this wine are the result of tiny drops of liquid that are disturbed by the carbonic acid gas. Once the liquid is disturbed, the bubbles form and short out of the bottle. This is a natural reaction of the double fermentation process that can only be found with a bottle of Champagne.

The next time you have a celebration and need something to make the celebration a bit more interesting, you should grab a bottle of Champagne. Few things compliment a celebration like the bursting bubbles of a fine bottle. You can find quality Champagne at ABC stores or other stores that sell alcoholic beverages. Even though it may cost you a bit of money – when you pop the top you’ll be glad you bought it.

 Posted by at 5:48 pm
Apr 142010

When you first decide to visit Napa Valley you may well find that the most difficult decision is which winery or wineries you want to visit. This is because there are literally hundreds of wineries in Napa Valley, scattered throughout a 35 mile area that can be broken down into several different regions within that area.

Napa Valley, located in Napa County, is just one of the many wine regions in the wine country of Northern California; however, it is certainly one of the most well known. In fact, Napa Valley is thought to be one of the most vital wine growing regions in the entire United States. Some of the most well known wineries in Napa Valley include Chateau Montelena, Beringer and Charles Krug Winery; however, there are many, many other wineries located throughout Napa Valley as well. While wine production in Napa Valley did suffer during Prohibition; following World War II, the wine industry in Napa Valley began to experience an upsurge.

Today, Napa Valley is home to more than 200 wineries. While you might find it difficult to visit all of the wineries in Napa Valley you can certain visit many by taking one of the numerous wine tours that operate throughout Napa Valley. Through these wine tours you will gain an opportunity to view and taste the many different varietals that are produced in Napa Valley including Chardonnay, Zinfandel, merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and many more.

There are fifteen different regions within Napa Valley. Carneros is considered to be one of the best regions in Napa Valley and is home to numerous quality wineries. On the north end of Napa Valley, you will find Oak Knoll. Oak Knoll is considered to be quite versatile and was finally granted AVA status in 2004.

Coombsville, located to the east, is also occasionally referred to as Tulocay. This region has not yet been established as an AVA region; however, you will still find numerous excellent wineries in this region.

Most of the wineries in Napa Valley are located on Highway 29; however, there are a number that are located just off Highway 29. The Yountville AVA is one of those areas. In the past twenty years this region has changed significantly. In this region you will find that the wineries are somewhat warmer. Slightly north to the region, the Yountville Mounts are situated, which help to block the fog coming in from San Pablo Bay as well as the wind.

Rutherford, Oakville and St. Helena, three of the most well known wine regions in Napa Valley, are located quite close to one another. The wineries in these regions have become well known for producing high quality Cabernet Sauvignon.

A row of hills running north to south separates the Napa Valley floor from the Stags Leap AVA region. Due to the fact that these hills tend to act as a sort of funnel for wind, the Stags Leap region can be somewhat cool and breezy; even when other areas in Napa Valley are warm.

Atlas Peak is situated high in the hills. This area was once home to many Sanviovese vineyards; however, today many of the wineries in this region are focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon.

Historically, the Mount Veeder AVA has been considered to be one of the best in the area. This is because they have typically produced grapes that are high-quality as well as scarce. On the mountain slopes in the area, Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are commonly planted.

Diamond Mountain as well as Spring Mountain are situated in the north. The wineries in this region are known for a specific type of Cabernet Sauvignon that tends to be produced in very small quantities.

In the northeastern hills, you will find Howell Mountain. A number of well known wineries are located in this area and tend to do quite well because of the sunny weather.

Chiles Valley is one of the premier Zinfandel regions in the state of California. The isolation of this AVA region has allowed this vineyard to survive the problems that have historically destroyed many other vineyards.

One of the most recent additions to Napa Valley is Wild Horse Valley. This region is situated in the southeastern hills. The windy, cool climate is perfect for producing Chardonnay as well as Pinot Noir.

 Posted by at 10:09 am
Apr 132010

Just off Silverado Trail you will find the main road that winds its way through Stags Leap. This is where the great majority of the wineries in Stags Leap are located. Although the area is located off Highway 29, the main thoroughfare of Napa Valley, tourists find that the wineries in this area are quite welcoming. The rather interesting name of the region can be attributed to a legend which indicates a stag leapt from the palisades in order to escape from a group of hunters.

Much of the popularity of the Stags Leap wine region can be attributed to the climate as well as the terrain in the area. The volcanic soil of the Stags Leap area is particularly well suited for the growth of Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabs produced in the Stags Leap area tend to be more restrained than many of the Cabernets grown in other regions, especially those grown in the warm northern regions.

The moderate climate of Stags Leap is due to the row of hills that run along the western border. The wind from San Pablo Bay is thus drawn up in a sort of funnel. The region is cooled as a result, permitting the acidity in the grapes to develop more fully. Interestingly enough; however, the great majority of the vineyards in Stags Leap are situated on slopes that face the west. Due to this they receive a fair amount of afternoon sun. The fruit in this region is perfectly ripened as a result, featuring clearly developed tannins. This is a characteristic that has become widely associated with the wineries in Stags Leap.

While Stags Leap, like most of the other regions in Napa Valley, struggled to gain prominence throughout the middle of the 20th century, the 1976 Paris Blind Tasting proved to be a critical turning point for Stags Leap. In fact, it has been argued that this event was the most important event in the establishment of Stags Leap wineries. Stags Leap Wine Cellars managed to achieve international acclaim when their Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon received first place and beat out numerous premier red wines from the Bordeaux region.

The Cabernet Sauvignon produced in Stags Leap has developed the nickname of the Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove. It is believed that the volcanic terrain in the region is responsible for the unique characteristics of the wines in the Stags Leap area.

The terrain in the local area can be subdivided into two distinct areas. They are the lowlands and the hills. The soils in the hills tend to be far more volcanic and are ideally suited to the growth of Cabernet Sauvignon as well as other red Bordeaux varietals such as Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Petit Verdot also do quite well here. The fruit in this particular region tend to be grown in somewhat low quantities as a result of the well drained soil; however, it is quite intense.

Near the Napa River, the soil is well drained as well. In contrast to the hillside soil; however, the soil near the River is mainly made up of clay and silt. The vineyards in this region contain a high degree of alluvial volcanic sediment that has been washed down from the hills over a period of many years. As a result of this, the soils here tend to be very fertile. White varietals tend to do very well in this area including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon.

Guide to Stags Leap Wineries in Napa Valley
As you travel through Stags Leap, you will notice that there are numerous notable wineries in this region. As with most regions in Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon rules here; although, you will find some wineries that experiment with other types as well including Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. This is one of the premier regions in the area, consisting of a number of well known wineries as well as family owned and operated wineries.

Clos du Val-Originally established in 1972 by John Goelet and Bernard Portet, this is one of the most expansive winery operations in the region as vineyards are also owned by Clos du Val in Carneros as well as Stags Leap.

Shafer Vineyards-A larger number of wineries in this region are quite excellent; however, Shafer Vineyards is considered to be a premier winery. The Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon is widely regarded to be one of the best produced throughout the Napa Valley region.

Regusci Winery-The Regusci Family has been making wine since 1932. Today; Angelo and his son produce Merlot as well as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chimney Rock Winery-You will find Chimney Rock off Silverado Trail. This winery specializes in Bordeaux varietals, particularly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Petit Verdot.

Quixote Winery-Only a limited amount of Petite Sirah and Cabenet Sauvignon is produced by Quixote winery; although Quixote does also produce under the Panza label as well.

Robert Sinskey Vineyards-Owner Robert Sinskey has been an important part of Carneros for a number of years before beginning production in Stags Leap. Today, his Merlot and Pinot Noir wines are well regarded. The winery produces some 25,000 cases of wine each year. If you are in the area, this winery is worth stopping by.

Stags Leap Wine Cellars-Originally founded in 1972, this winery went on to receive critical acclaim and help to move Napa Valley onto the map at the 1976 Blind Tasting in Paris. The wines of Stags Leap Wine Cellars managed to edge out competition from some of the premier Bordeaux red wines.

Steltzner Vineyards-One of many family wineries in the region, Steltzner is one of the most highly regarded wineries in the area. Founder and owner Richard Steltzner began establishing his vineyards in the area as far back as 1965.

Cliff Lede Vineyards-This breathtaking 60 acre estate is one of the most spectacular in the Stags Leap region. The Poetry Inn as well as an art gallery are also located on the property.

Hartwell Vineyards-Established in 1986, today Hartwell Vineyards produces nearly 4,000 cases of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon every year.

Baldacci Family Vineyards-Although this is a small vineyard, you will find that some of the best wines in the region hail from it including some exceptional Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer wines.

Silverado Vineyards-For more than two decades, Silverado Vineyards has been producing wines in Stags Leap. The wines from this vineyard are primarily produced using estate grown grapes. Silverado Vineyards produces Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Sangiovese wines that are all considered to be exceptional.

Reynolds Family Winery-During the time he lived in German as a youth, Steve Reynolds dreamed of the day he would start his own winery. Today he has made that dream come true with the establishment of Reynolds Family Winery.

William Hill Estate-Founded in 1978, this winery produces a wide variety of wines included Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Pine Ridge Winery-Five different AVAs within the Napa Valley contribute fruit to the Pine Ridge wine; making it truly unique. You will find a lovely Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay as well as blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier.

Stags Leap Winery-Originally established in the late 19th century, this winery has become one of the most prominent in the region today, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.

Pillar Rock Vineyard-This 23 acre estate was purchased by Ron and Teri Kuhn in 1995. Win production today is handled by highly acclaimed Cary Gott.

 Posted by at 10:46 am
Apr 122010

The weather in Mount Veeder tends to be rainier than the rest of Napa Valley. This is because of the Redwood and Round Creek watersheds. The great majority of the vineyards in Mount Veeder are situated near either Round Creek or Redwood Creek. Due to the abundance of large redwood and oak trees, in this region it is one of the most picturesque in Napa Valley.

The startling elevation of the Mount Veeder AVA also contributes to its stunning beauty. The mountainside slopes of Mount Veeder ranges between 400 feet above sea le vel to 2,600 feet above sea level. While a number of regions in Napa Valley receive some protection from the winds of San Pablo Bay, Mount Veeder is more exposed to the winds. As a result, the afternoons tend to be very breezy and far cooler than other areas. This lends well to a long growing season.

When you tour the wineries in Mount Veeder you will discover that a very small percentage of the land in Mount Veeder is planted with grape vines. The actual area of Mount Veeder covers some 25 square miles; however. Still, the area that is planted is ideal for the growth of mountain grapes that are rustic in nature. The roots of the vines in this are are able to extend deeply into the ground.

The terrain and climate of Mount Veeder is particularly well suited for Rhone varietals. Jade Mountain became the first winery in the area to take advantage of these elements for the production of Rhone varietals. The Paras Vineyard Syrah is considered to be one of the best Rhone varietal wines produced in Mount Veeder.

In addition to Rhone varietals, you will also find that a number of red Bordeaux varietals are also planted in Mount Veeder including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Many vineyards in the area produce grapes in low quantities. Most of these grapes are thick skinned and have an intense flavor concentration. In fact, the wines produced from Mount Veeder are known to be among the most flavorful wines in the entire Napa Valley region. As a result, most of the vintners in Mount Veeder find it necessary to balance that flavor with other elements.

Historically, the vintners in this area have been able to achieve this with remarkable aplomb. A significant portion of the development of Mount Veeder as a wine region is due to European mountain vineyard production. The first wines were produced in Mount Veeder as early as the 1860s. By the 1870s, German immigrants had begun to settle in the area and by the end of 1889 Mayacamas Vineyards had been firmly established. The owner of the vineyard had a broad range of commercial interests; however, and he went bankrupt at the turn of the century. Rumors persist that while other vineyards in Napa Valley were shut down during Prohibition, Mayacamas was used by bootleggers. Regardless, the vineyards were eventually purchased and restored in the late 1960s.

The modern day Hess Collection Winery was established after the turn of the century by Colonel Thomas Gier. Eventually, he found it necessary to sell the property as a result of the Depression. The vineyards were purchased by the Christian Brothers, who used it for the production of sacramental wine throughout Prohibition. Today, the production facilities that were used by the Christian Brothers are leased to Donald Hess; where an extensive art collection is also housed.

Brother Timothy, in particular, is believed to have been one of the most instrumental individuals in the development of Mount Veeder as a leading wine region. Both he and Brother John proved to have an important role in the development of Mount Veeder as an AVA. The region was granted AVA status in 1990. Prior to 1935, the region was known as Napa Redwoods. Of course, today it has gained a sterling reputation in its own right. More than a dozen wineries are located on Mount Veeder.

 Posted by at 10:42 am
Apr 122010

In the eastern part of Napa Valley, you will find Carneros. While Napa Valley has certainly become famous around the world in the last thirty years, Carneros has become decidedly unique. While you will certainly find plenty of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Carneros, you will also find plenty of Syrah and Merlot as well.

Some of the most well known wineries in Carneros include Talisman Cellars, Etude and Truchard Vineyards. One of the reasons that the wineries in the Carneros region have become so successful is widely attributed to the cooling by the fog and the wind from the San Pablo Bay. Still, you will typically find that compared to numerous other wine regions in California, the weather in Carneros is still rather warm. On the Napa side of Carneros, the weather tends to be warmer than on the Sonoma side.

The rolling, low hills of the terrain in the Carneros region have also contributed significantly to the way in which vineyards are developed in this region. Due to the fact that the soil in this area is quite shallow, the vineyards tend to grow at a slower rate. As a result, you will typically find that the vineyards will only measure two or three inches in diameter even when they are more than ten years old.

The Carneros region was originally developed from both Mexican and Spanish land grants. The rugged pioneers in this region were determined to develop the area despite the unfertile soil. The great majority of the Carneros region in Napa Valley was granted to Jacob Lease in 1840. The thousands of acres that were received by Jacob Leese, as well as Nicholas Higuera, were then subdivided and sold. Grapes have been grown in this particular region for more than 150 years; however, it was not until the middle of the 19th century that this part of the Napa Valley became involved in winemaking. Jacob Leese is credited with planting the first vineyards in this region on Rancho Huichica, an 18,000 acre parcel of land. Several years later, Higuera sold a portion of his land to Nathan Coombs. The land was then surveyed by Coombs and the town of Napa was established.

During the 1850s a good portion of Leese’s land was purchased by William H. Winter. Winter Winery was then established during the early 1870s. For a long time San Francisco served as the primary market for the wines produced in this region. Beginning in the 1880s the Phylloxera Louse devastated many of the vineyards in the Carneros region.

The Winter Winery was purchased in 1881 by James Simonton and it was renamed Talcoa Vineyards. This winery became the first to experiment with a specific type of rootstocks that were resistant to Phylloxera. A significant amount of damage had already been done to the vineyard; however. By the time Prohibition was enacted, it seemed as though the Carneros region was doomed. In fact, the region might very well have ended if it had not been for the commitment of several people.

John Garnetto constructed the first winery in the region following Prohibition in 1935. Louis M. Martini purchased more than 200 acres in the region in 1942 and began to experiment with a number of varietals that were suited for cool weather. By 1983, Carneros had become established as an AVA.

 Posted by at 10:39 am
Apr 122010

The wineries of Atlas Peak in Napa Valley are situated along the eastern hills. This region has become revered for red grapes that are full-bodied such as Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. Within Atlas Peak, you will find a number of premier wineries including Cobblestone Vineyards, Dominari, Ardente Winery and Atlas Peak Vineyards.

The sunny, elevated climate of Atlas Peak has allowed the wineries in this region to be less affected by the morning fog that is quite common to the valley floor. The cool winds that come in from the Bay ensure that the acidity in the grapes in Atlas Peak is high. When visiting the area, you will find that the temperatures in Atlas Peak are somewhat cooler than on the floor of the valley. This is due to the southern location and elevation of Atlas Peak. As a result, Atlas Peak wineries are able to enjoy an extended growing season. Compared to other regions in Napa Valley, harvest time in Atlas Peak can be as much as two weeks later.

Still, in spite of the cooler temperatures in Atlas Peak, the vineyards are still treated to plenty of sunshine. The Italian varietals planted here, in particular, soak up the sunshine; especially the Sangiovese vineyards. Atlas Peak Vineyards, owned and operated by Piero Antinori of Tuscany, is by far the largest vineyard in the Atlas Peak region.

During the afternoons fog frequently rolls into the southern region; however, the elevation of Atlas Peak shelters it from most of the fog. The evenings can still be quite cool compared to the days; however, which is beneficial to the vines.

More so than in many other sub-regions in Napa Valley, the influence of volcanic activity is quite apparent in Atlas Peak. The soil here is perfect for the growth of Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a variety of other red grapes.

You will note when touring the vineyards in Atlas Peak that the majority are grown on mountain slopes that are decidedly rugged. The elevation in Atlas Peak varies considerably, ranging from 1,200 feet above sea level to 2,600 feet above sea level. Vintners in the region have discovered that this rough, rugged terrain is somewhat difficult as well as expensive in terms of development. In addition, a significant portion of the soil in Atlas Peak is shallow, unfertile and unable to retain irrigation. As a result, Atlas Peak is not as developed as many other regions. Although the region is comprised of more than 11,000 acres only a small portion is actually planted with vineyards. While only 1,500 acres are actually planted with vineyards in Atlas Peak, the small area that is planted produces outstanding wine.

The first grapes in Atlas Peak were planted more than one hundred years ago by Italian immigrants. This was the beginning of a long and successful wine industry in the area. Most of the vintners during this early time period were attracted to the local region because it so closely resembled their hillside vineyards back in the Old Country. Considering the lack of modern technology at the time, the successful planting of these rugged slopes is even more amazing. Today, Atlas Peak is home to approximately 1,500 acres of planted vineyards. Most of those vineyards are planted in Bordeaux, Rhone and Italian varietals; all of which do quite well here.

 Posted by at 10:36 am
Apr 122010

St. Helena has become known not only for producing fine wines but also for being the business center in Napa Valley. If you are traveling to the area and looking for accommodations, this area is certainly worth considering. The picturesque town is home to some 6,000 residents and features some of the most beautiful wine country in the area. In addition, you will have the opportunity to tour some of the most prestigious wineries in the entire state of California.

The warm climate in St. Helena has contributed to its development as a premier wine region. Most of the wineries in St. Helena produce wines that are Cabernet Sauvignon based and do so with tremendous success. Some of the most well known wineries in St. Helena include Charles Krug, Beringer and Vineyard 29.

As a result of the warm and sunny climate in St. Helena, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, in particular, do quite well. The wines produced in St. Helena tend to posses a full body than the wines you will find in the southern regions, which are cooler. Due to robustness of the wines of St. Helena, the region has become a favorite with tourists who are interested in tastings and wine tours.

As is the case with many of the sub-regions of the Napa Valley, you will find that the terrain of St. Helena is somewhat different than even areas that are located quite close by. The soils in this region tend be comprised of volcanic and alluvial debris. At one time the San Pablo Bay covered a number of the AVAs in Napa Valley; however, interestingly enough, it did not ever extend so far north as St. Helena.

In comparison to the southern regions of Napa Valley, St. Helena tends to be warmer. The valley tends to curve somewhat to the west, dispersing even the small amounts of fog and wind that slide past the Yountville Mounts. In the afternoon; however, the climate tends to become cooler as the breeze makes its way through Knights Valley and Chalk Hill. As evening draws near, the temperatures drop even further. This provides the opportunity for the grapes in St. Helena to retain their acidity.

St. Helena also receives more rainfall on average than the remainder of the southern valley. Up to 38 inches of rain falls per year in St. Helena, compared to a mere 32 inches in the rest of the valley.

The terrain of St. Helena has also led to the development of this region as a premier wine production area. Here, the soil tends to be primarily sedimentary and alluvial. A small amount of volcanic influence can also be found in the soil. As a result, some of the most widely planted varieties in the region include Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Zinfandel also tends to do well here, as evidenced by the success of Buehler Vineyards.

Due to the fact that the vines in the valley are able to extend up to 400 feet, Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are all able to thrive in the local area.

You will find as you travel south of St. Helena that Valley tends to narrow quite a bit. North of town, adjacent to Highway 29, is the Bench. Beringer Vineyards, one of the most well known vineyards in the country, is situated on the Northern Bench. As the oldest continually operated winery in the Valley, Beringer has developed quite a reputation.

The exceptional climate and terrain in St. Helena has led to the development of several renowned wineries and vineyards. Vineyard 29 is just one of the many examples that have become known throughout the world as a result of the superb local climate and terrain. The vineyard was founded in 1989 by Teresa Norton and Tom Paine. Cuttings from Grace Family Vineyard were used to establish the vineyard.

While there is no doubt that St. Helena has become well established as a commercial center in the Valley, the production of exceptional wines is still quite strong here. The quaint town in the heart of the St. Helena region serves as an attractive draw for tourists every year.

The History and Development of the St. Helena Wine Region

St. Helena was the focal point of early commercial wine production in the Napa Valley region. As a result of the production of wine in this region, the entire wine industry in California was shaped.

The town of St. Helena was established in 1855. Several years later, in 1861, the first winery was established in the Valley by a German immigrant. His name was Charles Krug. A number of other German immigrants soon followed in his steps, including the Schrams and the Beringers. Krug went on to become one of the first major vintners in Napa Valley. Born in 1825 in Prussia, Krug had been a political radical as a youth. Later he moved to Alto, California and became a neighbor of Agoston Haraszthy, who became Krug’s mentor regarding the production of grapes and wine. Before long, Krug began producing wine for others. One of his first clients was George Yount, of Yountville fame.

Krug established his first commercial winery at the age of 27. Quickly, he became well known for his use of a cider press in order to extract juice from his grapes. Krug also became associated with a number of other innovations for the production of white wine as well. These methods included aging as well as fermentation techniques. Considering the era, Krug was quite careful in his selection of varietals and rootstocks.

Throughout the next thirty years, Krug continued the development of his winery and vineyards. He was not able to escape the ravages of the pest phylloxera; however, and he was eventually forced to declare bankruptcy as a result. Krug died in 1892 and the following year his winery was purchased by James Moffitt. In 1943, the winery was sold once again; this time to Cesare Mondavi.

Without any hesitation, Mondavi began to renovate the vineyards as well as the production facilities. Mondavi was assisted by his sons, Peter and Robert, in the operation of the winery. The Mondavi family continues to operate the winery.

Beringer Vineyards has also earned quite a reputation. The vineyard was established in 1876 by Frederick and Jacob Beringer. That same year local vintners established the St. Helena Viticultural Club. The Beringer brothers had been attracted to the region because the growing conditions were quite similar to that of their home region in the Rhine Valley of France. At the time, the task of developing the vineyard was arduous due to the fact that brothers had to literally carve caves into the hills that were situated directly behind their winery. The work was completed by Chinese laborers and upon completion the caves proved to be the ideal place for the aging of Beringer wines. Today, those same caves are still in use.

Beringer Vineyards produces a number of different wines; many of which are produced with grapes that are actually sourced from different regions. Although other vineyards in St. Helena are just as well known as Beringer, Beringer Vineyards has the sole claim to being the oldest winery in Napa Valley that has been continuously operated.

The flagship wine of the winery is the Beringer 1999 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Only the best fruit from numerous AVAs in Napa Valley are used in the production of the wine. They are all aged separately, using French Oak, and then blended together later. This extremely complex wine is considered a premier wine of the region.

The development of the St. Helena wine region has certainly been greatly assisted by the Krug and Beringer wineries; however, they are certainly not the only wineries in the region. As early as the 1880s there were nearly 3,000 acres of vineyards planted in St. Helena and more than a dozen wineries in operation. Unfortunately; however, the combination of Prohibition and phylloxera almost completely decimated the region.

Even some of the oldest wineries in St. Helena eventually went out of business as a result of Prohibition. During this time period, the acreage was converted to the growth of other products.

In the 1940s; however, the venerable Krug winery began to return from the ashes after it was purchased by the Mondavi family. Today, the Krug winery is still one of the most respected in the state.

 Posted by at 10:29 am
Apr 122010

On the western side of Napa Valley, on the Mayacamas Mountains, you will find the Spring Mountain wineries. There are approximately two dozen vineyards and about 20 wineries located in this region. The dramatic landscape of this region is the perfect backdrop for wine tours.

One of the most interesting aspects of Spring Mountain is its unique microclimate. In fact, the climate in Spring Mountain is quite different from what you will find on the floor of the valley. The marine breezes blowing in frequently help to cool the area throughout the day, creating a blend of acidity and tannins that are quite remarkable. While fog frequently settles on the floor of the valley during the night, this is less of a problem in Spring Mountain. As a result, the nights are often warmer; leading to the production of red grapes which are fuller bodied.
Red grapes are planted over about 80% of the vineyards here. The Cabernet Sauvignon hailing from this region is well known for its softer tannins as well as an acidity level that is somewhat lower than in other areas. For the most part, the majority of the wineries in this region are constructed on the hillside terrain. Generally, the vineyards here are smaller in scale than other wineries throughout Napa Valley. As a result, they are able to approach the production of grapes and wines with a highly unique style.

While grapes were first planted in other regions in Napa Valley as early as the mid-19th century; the history of Spring Mountain as a wine region did not begin until 1873. At this time, Charles Lemme planted what would become the first vineyard in the area.

That vineyard was comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon. Eventually, he also established La Perla Cellar. The name Beringer came to Spring Mountain in 1885 when Jacob and Frederick Beringer planted a vineyard over sixty acres. Today, that particular vineyard is called Beringer Flat.

Another of the early vintners of Spring Mountain was Tiburico Parrot. After arriving in the area during the 1890s, he set about producing some of the finest wines in the region. In fact, several of his wines won national as well as international awards.

A very impressive winery, Chateau Chevalier, was constructed in 1891 by Fortune Chevalier. Today that winery is owned by Jacob Safra and continues to produce noteworthy wines. In addition, a significant amount of acreage was owned by Peter Conradi toward the end of the 19th century. His vineyards focused on Syrah and Zinfandel.

As was the case with most other vineyards throughout Napa Valley, Spring Mountain suffered at the hands of both phylloxera and Prohibition. The wine production in this area was all but destroyed. Fred and Eleanor McCrea set about reviving the area during the 1940s after purchasing Stony Hill Vineyard. Later, during the 1960s and 1970s, a number of other wineries were established which went on to achieve critical acclaim. One of those was Smith Madrone Vineyards and Winery, which was established in 1971 by Stuart Smith. In 1977, the Frias Family purchased 100 acres and planted their first vineyards eight years later. Although the vintners in the region certainly face a number of challenges presented by slopes that are almost inaccessible, they seem to have faced up to these challenges with tremendous success. Their dedication and resourcefulness in growing grapes on Spring Mountain have paid off well. By 1991, Spring Mountain had been able to achieve AVA status.

A Guide to Spring Mountain Wineries in Napa Valley

Spring Mountain wineries are situated in the northwestern hills of Napa Valley, directly above St. Helena. Some of the most notable producers in the area include Smith Madrone, Cain Vineyard and Paloma Vineyard.
Fantesca Estate-This is a small winery that was originally established in 2002. The winery produces a Chardonnay originating from Carneros and a Cabernet Sauvignon that hails from Spring Mountain.

Pride Mountain Vineyards-Established in 1990, by Jim and Carolyn Pride, this family based vineyard has begun what will certainly continue to be a notable family operation.

Kongsgaard-This winery is considered to be a specialist when it comes to Chardonnay. The winery also produces a very small amount of Roussanne, Viognier and Syrah. Their 2003 Napa Valley Chardonnay reached the #8 spot on the 2006 top 100 list.

Newton Vineyard-Newton Vineyard is home to a group of exceptional terraced wines.

Spring Mountain Vineyard-Spanning 226 acres, this vineyard is quite diverse with elevations ranging from a mere 400 feet above sea level to some 1,450 feet above sea level. If you are in the area, it is truly something to see.

Robert Keenan Vineyards-The land that comprises this winery was originally planted in the late 19th century. Robert Kennan purchased the property in 1974 and since that time has been able to tap the potential of this property; producing wines that are known for their bold flavors.

St. Clement-West of Highway 29, you will find St. Clement. Like many properties in the local area, St. Clement has been planted since the late 19th century with grape vines. You will find the tasting room located in a breathtaking hillside building.

Frias Family Winery-It was Manny Frias Sr.’s dream to one day retire to this beautiful region. Today his son produces a limited amount of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sherwin Family Vineyards-You will find a superb Estate Cabernet Sauvignon produced at this winery. The grapes used in the wine are all grown on the vineyard.

Smith Madrone-This winery is considered today to be one of the premier wineries in the entire Napa Valley region. The winery was originally established in 1971 by Stuart Smith.

Cain Vineyard-Established in 1989 by the Cain family, today the Cain Vineyard is well known for its Cain Five blend, which consists of a variety of traditional red Bordeaux varietals including Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Vineyard 7 & 8-When this vineyard was established it was with the goal of producing the absolute best Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon that was conceivable. Situated at an elevation of more than 2,000 feet above sea level; it is entirely possible they have reached their goal. Stop by and find out for yourself.

Stony Hill Vineyard-The 160 acres that comprise this vineyard in the northwestern hills of Napa Valley were originally purchased in 1943 by Fred and Eleanor McCrea. Four years later they began planting Chardonnay vines. This was certainly a forward looking action as only 200 acres of Chardonnay were planted throughout the entire state of California at the time.

Hollywood & Vine-Doug Barr, a former actor and director, relocated from Hollywood during the 1990s to this picturesque location.

Atchley Vineyard-In 1968, 20 acres of this lovely region were purchased by Marvin Atchley. This was the beginning of Atchley vineyard, situated on the old location of Moding Winery.

Terra Valentine-The focus of this excellent winery is a mountain grown Cabernet Sauvignon.

Barnett Vineyards-This vineyard is worth stopping by if for no other reason than the breathtaking views you can see of the valley floor. As if that were not enough; however, Barnett Vineyards, produces an excellent and intense Cabernet Sauvignon.

On ThEdge Winery-When you visit this winery, you will quickly understand its rather unique name. The winery is situated on a ridge that serves as a separation between Sonoma and Napa Valley counties.

Domaine Charbay-This winery is frequently referred to as The Still on the Hill. The family that owns the winery has been distilling liquor in Europe since the mid-18th century. Today Domaine Charbay produces rum, brandy, vodka and wine.

Paloma Vineyard-Definitely one of the most historic vineyards in the area. The land that comprises Paloma was originally planted more than 100 years ago. Although the original vineyard was neglected and abandoned for a number of years, many of the century old Zinfandel vines have survived.


 Posted by at 10:22 am