Vines, Wines & Caves

By: Jude Wiesner

Image Credit: Wine Folly

Passport in hand, I enjoy winding my way through the Minnesota countryside in the summer looking for those south facing hills covered in rows of lush green vines. They signal an alert that a winery is close at hand. My mouth waters in anticipation. But it hardly prepared me for the mile after mile, mountainside after mountainside of vines that cover Napa and Sonoma, California.

The Napa and Sonoma valleys border each other and are a mix of many mountain regions. The Napa Valley floor is flanked by the Mayacamas Mountain Range on the western and northern viticultural area. East of the city is mostly an alluvial fan of the Vaca Mountains. The specific location of each vineyard within a range determine the grapes grown.

Current regulations dictate whether a reservation has to be made for a tasting or it is one of the vineyards that you can drop in on. Either way there are a preponderance of wineries to fill your afternoon and evening. Two days of picking and choosing a broad sampling kept my husband and I in wine.

Stags Leap Wine Cellars provided a beautiful casual patio with a charming guide for our sampling. We relaxed looking out over the valley. V Sattui Winery was an easy favorite with it’s castle like structures, fantastic delicatessen to choose sandwiches and salads to compliment our wine purchase. A picnic on the grounds and vineyard dating back to 1885 was the perfect lunch break.

Wineries of Napa. Image Credit: Wine Folly, “10 best Napa wineries to visit in 2017”

We couldn’t resist stopping at Beringer, its vast gardens and acres of vineyards quite impressive, the perfect contrast to the much smaller Spring Mountain, an appointment only winery. It is tucked away in the mountain, so beautiful and quiet I felt as though I should whisper when we talked about their lovely wines.

The real treat of the trip was a special invitation to visit THE CAVES  at Soda Canyon. This is a commercial facility run by Ryan Waugh, owner of Waugh Family Wines. I met him earlier this year at the Cold Climate Grape Conference. It’s not usual to have a Napa vintner at the conference but Ryan was there as a consultant to 7 Vines Vineyard, a new winery that will open soon in Dellwood, MN.

Winding our way up Soda Canyon road to the top of the rugged rocky mountains we arrived at THE CAVES door dug into the side of the mountain. This facility processes and stores wines for four wineries at this time and has plenty room in its labyrinth of caves to add more clients over the years. Walking through the caves felt a bit like going back in time. The perfect cool air, romantic lighting and tasting stations made me want to linger for hours. My thanks goes out to Ryan Waugh for the personal guided tour and amazing wine.

Vines, vines everywhere, even in Murphys, a small historic town with more wine tasting choices than I’ve ever seen in one place. It was the perfect overnight stay in the lower elevations of the Sierras. Exceptional dining, fine wine, and Sequoia trees. A trip just doesn’t get better than that.

Image Credit: The CAVES

Image Credit: The CAVES

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