Napa Valley Day Trip Part One

I and three friends took the day off and did a wine tasting trip to Napa Valley yesterday. Between wine club memberships and friends we were able to try three wineries without paying any tasting fees. We do this every two or three months and so far haven’t paid for anything except lunch or gas. Eventually our luck will run out but we are going to enjoy it while it lasts.

We decided to visit three wineries, Sterling Vineyards, Beaulieu Vineyards and Cliff Lede. We had a little trouble getting there because of road construction, we just sat in traffic for a while waiting our turn. Eventually we made it, though. It was a beautiful sunny day until we got to our first stop, Sterling Vineyards, then it got cold and rained a little.

I had never been to Sterling Vineyards before but I certainly recommend the visit. Not only do they have excellent wine, they have a real nice experience, too. After you park, you go to the base of the hill and get a tram ticket, ours were free since one of us belongs to the wine club. You take the tram up the mountain, what a great view from the tram! Once at the top there is a self guided tour of the winery, just follow the signs and you will get to the first wine stop. You wouldn’t expect the tour to be dry would you? We were poured a glass of the 2010 Pinot Gris. This was an excellent Pinot Gris, huge fruit and floral nose, crisp acidity with great citrus and fruit flavor.

We took our glass of wine and started on the tour. You go through one of the barrel rooms, you can also go to an overlook for the crushers if you would like. There are beautiful views of the valley, pictures and a video screen. There was also a display of pieces of barrel showing the different chars. The second wine stop was above the barrel room where we were poured some of there 2009 Carneros Chardonnay from the Winery Lakes Vineyard. It didn’t seem to have much oak, which I appreciate, but it didn’t excite me either.

We wandered on out to the patio which overlooks the valley. Fantastic view and if it had been a nice day it would have been great to sit out there for a while. Unfortunately a county ordinance does not allow you to bring any food. We were poured a glass of the 2008 North Coast Petite Syrah while we were enjoying the view. Quite a nice Petite Syrah, huge fruit and huge tannins. I bet it really adds some character blended in with other grapes.

Those three wines by the way are only available at the winery. Next, we made our way to the main tasting room. They took the glass we had carried on the tour and gave us a larger glass with a pour of the 2006 Reserve Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. We were ushered into the cellar room and had a seat at a table reserved for us, what service!

Once we sat down we were given a list of all of their wines. Each of us was able to choose two we wanted and they were going to surprise us by choosing the third wine for each of us. I won’t list all the wines that the four of us tasted but I will say all were excellent. I will note the Cabernet Franc, however, I was understated but really excellent, almost addictive.

The third wine, the one they chose, was a Malvasia Bianca, probably the first I have ever had. It was a little sweet but clean. Very nice with what appeared to be a little effervescence. A very pleasant way to finish the tasting.

After that, we took the tram back down the hill where the wine we had purchased was waiting for us and headed for Beaulieu Vineyards with a stop along the way to get a sandwich at Dean and DeLucca. I think that is enough for now and later I’ll write about the other two wineries in part two of our trip.


  1. Pingback: Day Trip to the Napa Valley Part Two | Pull That Cork

  2. I’ve been to Sterling Vineyards and you’re right it is a great experience. The views are gorgeous and their wines are very good. I’m familiar with Beaulieu Vineyards’ wines and they too are very good. The experiences at both wineries are worth attending. However, I’ve never been to Cliff Lede and I’ll be looking forward to your assessment. I don’t believe I have tried any wine from Cliff Lede so this will be an experience.