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It was due time for the Virginia Wine Know to stir things up a bit and head out West for a weekend in California wine country. Last week I joined a group of the most fabulous friends to celebrate my cousin’s 40th birthday in Napa Valley. This trip has been in the plans for months and I was so happy to finally board the plane (even though I hate flying) and head out to a little bit of heaven on earth.

We all arrived in San Francisco at various times on November 1st, but all joined up to catch our shuttle to downtown Napa. The ladies were on our way! Upon arriving at our hotel – the luxurious Andaz – we checked in, changed clothes and began our first little adventure checking out the various wine tasting bars along the main strip.

We spent most of our evening at the tasting room for Ceja Vineyards. We had a few whites and a few reds, but the one I fell for was Vino De Casa Red Blend. As a matter of fact we purchased several bottles to take back to our hotel for the rest of the evening.

Day two included a Napa wine tour conducted by Platypus Tours. We had our own private bus that shuffled us to a variety of vineyards – large and small – throughout Napa. We visited The Hess Collection, Hopper Creek Winery, Hagafen Cellars, and finally a birthday celebration with lots of bubbly at Chandon. They each had great wine, customer service and unique qualities to offer. The history of Hess was intriguing and quite educational with art throughout. Hopper Creek was, as our tour guide suggested, like a “frat house”. We had the most fun there pushing grapes and enjoying a picnic lunch. Hagafen, small and family-owned, reminded me of the many wineries we have here in Virginia. And, of course you can’t go wrong with a little bubbly. It was nice to visit one “commercial” vineyard to have that unique experience.

Day three was all about Sonoma. Again, we commissioned the service of Platypus and ventured out to a

variety of vineyards and tasting rooms. Our first stop was Deerfield Ranch Winery where we sipped on savouring wines in their larger than life cave-like cellar. My favorite at Deerfield was the DRX meritage blend. Their wines are all “clean” meaning low histamines and sulfites – perfect for me since I have every known allergy to man. And, then we went to Loxton – a very small family-owned winery with a history of winemaking from Australia. We received a great lesson in winemaking and vineyard operations from the winemaker, Chris. I fancied the Syrah so we purchased a bottle to enjoy with our picnic lunch right there in the vineyard.

From the vineyards of Sonoma we ventured onto the main strip of never ending wine tasting rooms. Muscardini Cellars is all about big, robust reds. I could not get enough of their collection, but the 2008 Sangiovese was my favorite (sold out also, I might add). Our last stop was Paradise Ridge where we enjoyed everything from sparkling wine to rose and bold reds while also tasting fresh and flavorful herbs. Who would have thought herbs and wine?! (well, I suppose that’s I do at the holidays with my mulled wine).

As our excursion came to a close, we visited an olive oil shop to taste various flavors that I never even knew existed. It was a nice, alcohol-free way to end the day!

Without a doubt, I will have to plan another trip to Califorina to visit many more wineries. I’d like to visit at least one or two of the national brand ones – like Mondavi or Cakebread. But, it is truly priceless visiting the local vineyards because it’s not like I can run up to Wegmans and pick up a bottle on any given day. Most of the wines can be purchased online from their websites. So, check out the links I’ve included and maybe give them a try.

Next stop, winery TBD in Virginia. There’s more to come from my never-ending winery adventures.

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