2013 “Top 10″ Napa Valley Wineries

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by Patricia Stone, a travel writer and consultant with www.GlobalAdventuress.com

There are over 400 wine producers in Napa Valley, and we have selected the Global Adventuress “Top 10″ picks for 2013.

Good to note:  we will be adding more to this list, but in case you’re headed to Napa Valley for the 2013 Harvest, we want to share these notes for reference.  To get updates on our recommendations, add your name to the mailing list at www.GlobalAdventuress.com and click “like” on the Facebook icon.

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Top 10 Napa Valley Wineries of 2013

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1.  RSV – Robert Sinskey Vineyards, www.robertsinskey.com Our guide Holly Jones shared the story behind RSV – over the past 25 years, Robert has grown this “…100% organic and Biodynamic certified winegrowing operation to over 200 acres of premium vineyards in the Carneros and Stags Leap districts of Napa and Sonoma Valleys.”  

Robert & Maria Sinskey are a great team!  Robert is the Vintner and Maria, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy, is the Chief Cook & Bottle Washer.  Together they make the wine tastings, and Farm to Table & Cave Raider Tours extra special.

I joined Nuno and Clarissa, honeymooners from Sao Paulo, on the RSV Garden Tour.  Maria’s “right hand Chef”, David Maryan, led us through the enchanting garden of pink pearl apples, fairy tale pumpkins, heirloom tomato sanctuary, tromboncino squash, brown turkey figs, pardon peppers, and green apple eggplant.

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2.  Quintessa, www.Quintessa.com – Angelica gave us a tour through the surrounding property, vineyards, tunnels of barrels, and wine tasting room.  She shared the inspiring story of Valeria and Agustin Huneeus’ “dream of the Quintessential Wine Estate, one vineyard that produces one singular estate wine, was realized with the opening of the winery at Quintessa in 2002.  Quintessa is comprised of a total of 280 acres of which 170 acres are planted to the classic Bordeaux grape varieties in 26 vineyard blocks.  The estate includes a valley, a lake, a river; five hills, four microclimates, and many soil types, as well as rich flora and fauna. The diversity of exposure, elevation, and microclimate and soil type produces 40 very different wines lots from the 26 different vineyard blocks. We believe the diversity of the property (Valleys, Terraces, Hilltops, Foothills and Riverside) contribute to the high quality and uniqueness of the fruit.”

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3.  Joseph Phelps, www.JosephPhelps.com – the setting for Joseph Phelps winery provides vistas of vineyards, and walkways, courtyards throughout the property.  A perfect setting for tasting Joseph Phelps wines.  Our guide shared with us Joseph’s story,  “In the late 60s, Joseph Phelps was running one of the largest construction companies in the U.S.  Enamored with the beautiful Napa Valley and contemplating a career change, in 1973 he bought the 600-acre Connolly cattle ranch in Spring Valley, and began planting vineyards. The winery was completed in 1974 and that same year the first Syrah was made, the first grapes were crushed at the new facility and the first Insignia was produced. It was a period of unparalleled activity, creativity, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and risk-taking and it put Joe Phelps on the map of top Napa Valley wine producers.”

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4.  Castello di Amorossa, www.castellodiamorosa.com – Yes, a 13th century Medieval Wine Fortress in Calistoga.  North of Napa, just off North Saint Helena Highway, this unique winery produces hand-crafted Italian style wines.  Castle owner Dario Sattui, of the Sattui pioneer vintner family, opened the drawbridge in 2007 to the public. 

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His incredible replica of an Italian Castle has a drawbridge & a moat!  Beware of dungeon – head straight to the private wine tasting rooms.   Few other features to take note:

  •  Authentically-styled and built, 13th century medieval Tuscan-style castle
  • 14 years under construction
  • Medieval designs and construction methods were employed to create the Castle
  • 121,000 sq. ft. castle / winery
  • 5 defensive towers with battlements
  • 1,000 pound hand-hewn doors from Italy
  • 107 Rooms (95 devoted to winemaking)
  • 8  levels (4 levels underground and 4 above)
  • Great Hall with a coffered ceiling (22 ft. high), featuring hand-painted frescoes inspired by Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s “Buon Governo” (Good Government) in Siena, Italy.
  • 12,000 sq. ft. Grand Barrel Room featuring 40 Roman cross-vaulted brick ceilings
  • Italian handmade state-of-the-art triple-jacketed fermentation tanks
  • All ironwork hand-forged by Italian artisans over open flame
  • Over 170 containers of handmade antique bricks and tiles brought over from Europe
  • Additional authentic features include a Church, Drawbridge, Courtyard, Watch Tower, Torture Chamber, Loggia, Deep-Well, Secret Passage Ways, and Outdoor Oven

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Castello di Amorosa is host to “Festival del Sole.” Offers Food and Wine
Pairing Tour, Reserve Wine Pairing with Chocolate, Hiking vineyard Tour

Phone: (707) 967-6272
Email: info@castellodiamorosa.com

Tasting Room Open Daily Mar–Oct 9:30–6; Nov–Feb 9:30–5

Castle Secret:  before you leave, stop by the ladies restroom and see the murals on the stall doors.  This restroom was voted as one of the top 10 best restrooms in the U.S. by Cintas!

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5.  Schramsberg, www.Schramsberg.com – Schramsberg Vineyards  Estate is a registered historic landmark, located just south of Calistoga on dense forested slopes of Diamond Mountain.  It’s home to the oldest hillside vineyards in Napa with 43 acres planted to vines of the total 218 acres.  Our guide & wine educator, Kari Zepeda, shared with us that, “The Estate has been passed down through family generations from Jacob Schram, to the Davies Family, and is now in the hands of their youngest son, Hugh, now President and CEO of the 40-year old sparkling wine house in 2005.”  Schramsberg is the first American producer to follow the traditional French Champagne method, , our wine educator, led us through the 2 miles of tunnels where 3 million bottles of sparkling wine are carefully watched over, and bottles are hand turned following the French Champagne method.  Only a few other wineries follow the traditional method in Napa Valley.

Kari highlighted that “Schramsberg has also played a role in world history. The Blanc de Blancs was used for President Nixon’s 1972 “Toast to Peace” with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai. Schramsberg’s sparkling wines have been served at official State functions by every U.S. Presidential administration since.”

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6.  Anomaly, www.anomalyvineyards.com – our Chaffeur Mike arranged for us to meet Seth Goldfarb, GM of Anomaly Vineyards, one of the two smallest wine producers in Napa Valley.

Important to note:  you need an appointment, so contact #707-948-6877 to arrange a date and time.

Seth gave us a private tour of the Anomaly tasting room, and shared the story behind Anomaly.  His folks flew out from the East Coast to “retire” in Napa Valley, made some bottles of wine and everyone convinced them to start their own winery.  Their tagline “Trust Your Palette” is stamped on the corks.  Anomaly also sells the family olive oil, imported from their uncle’s olive farm in Cortona, Italy.  The Olive trees are 600 yrs old.  You can also visit their “visit us” page on their site for more details.

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7.  Cliff Lede - we are heading back for Harvest time!

8.  Palmaz – we are heading back for Harvest time!

9.  Venge – we are heading back for Harvest time!

10.  Duckhorn – we are heading back for Harvest time!

11.  Viader (ok too hard to keep the list to 10, just a couple more!)

12.  Artesa – we are heading back for Harvest time!

13.  Domaine Carneros - we are heading back for Harvest time!

How to Get Around?

Napa Valley Tours & Transportation (NVTT) www.nvtt.net:  Napa Valley Tours & Transportation delivers the red carpet & white glove service!  For 15 years, President Michael Graham has operated a family-owned company that provides full transportation service.  His fleet of hundreds of vehicles are available to suit your needs from town cars to buses.  Mike raises the bar for Chauffeurs - professional, prompt, and shares local knowledge and insights that are invaluable.  NVTT’s concierge service helps you to plan your trip and make the most efficient use of your time.  Elaine’s thorough planning and preparation ensured a wonderful experience for us.  For reservations, call #707.251.9463 or #888.946.3859

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Bicycle:  we explored the Napa Valley by bike and a car service – recommend both!

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If you enjoyed this article, you’ll also like this one, click here: Harvest Time in Napa

Thank you to Schramsberg, Castello di Amorosa, Quintessa, Joseph Phelps, Anomaly, Robert Sinskey Wineries for hosting us on your tours!

And thank you to NVTT – Napa Valley Tours & Transportation for hosting us during our stay!

Napa Valley Tours & Transportation (NVTT) www.nvtt.net:  Napa Valley Tours & Transportation delivers the red carpet & white glove service!  For 15 years, President Michael Graham has operated a family-owned company that provides full transportation service.  His fleet of hundreds of vehicles are available to suit your needs from town cars to buses.

Fleet glove  Photo Credits:  NVTT

Mike raises the bar for Chauffeurs -  professional, prompt, and his local knowledge and insights are invaluable.  NVTT’s concierge service helps you to plan your trip and make the most efficient use of your time.  Elaine’s thorough planning and preparation ensured a wonderful experience for us.  For reservations, call #707.251.9463 or #888.946.3859

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