As you may know, the Vancouver International Wine Festival theme region is California, and the most well-known region within California is Napa Valley. After you attend the Festival and taste some of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay that come from Napa, you may want to go there to visit the tasting rooms and experience more of what Napa has to offer. I did a quick check on Expedia for return flights to San Francisco from Vancouver. The trip in April, one-way, is just a little over 4 hours flying time, and the cost is around $340++ per person. You would then need to drive up to Napa.
I recently spoke with Karen Rowley from Curated Journeys, who offers private wine tours in Napa Valley and asked her a few questions about the tours and what to expect. Enjoy.
My Interview with Karen Rowley
How are private wine tastings different from your typical wine tasting?
It can be a lot of fun driving up and down highway 29 or Silverado Trail tasting wine at a number of wineries. You check in with the host, take a seat or hit that bar area, and start drinking wine. Sometimes you get a short description of the wine from the “educator” but mostly they are running from group to group pouring lots of wine. There will be a few different options for tastings that include only white, red or a combination. The rooms can be large or small, but can get quite crowded and frenetic, not to mention loud. It’s like a big party on busy Saturdays or Sundays. That’s typical tasting at an open winery.
Private tastings offer an elevated experience that requires a reservation and usually gated access to a stunning tasting location. Many times, your group is the only one there or the groups are spread out in different tasting rooms. Often, the winemaker or the owner pours the wines and talks about the vineyards, history, process and conducts tours of the property. If it’s a wine educator, they are handpicked to know just as much about the wine, vineyards, process, and history. Estate homes, caves, terraces, barrel rooms and a variety of intimate locations are the settings, where the pace is unhurried and the wine usually comes paired with bites, cheese, charcuterie or even chocolate to compliment the wine. Savoring the wine, the setting, the moment and the experience really distinguish private tastings from typical tastings.
What are the culinary trends in Wine Country?
- Quality products with local ingredients keep trending from the best restaurants to the food trucks that line Soscal Avenue
- Here in Napa Valley the trend has become much more inclusive with hyper-local ingredients frequently grown at the restaurant’s or chef’s own garden and prepared as it is harvested.
- Plant forward food that emphasizes fruits and vegetables in traditional and new cuisine. Sneak in those veggies!
- The big emphasis on food at wineries with new kitchens opening up at a brisk pace and wineries like B Cellar that are completely focused on pairing food and wine
- A resurgence in quality restaurants in downtown Napa
- The Oxbow area has become a culinary haven
- New hotel builds with celebrity chefs like Las Alcobas in Saint Helena with Chris Cosentino’s acclaimed Acacia.
What’s trending in Napa Valley wine appellations?
- Preservation of heritage vineyards,1-2 acre single clone vineyards planted in different appellations by the same estate for blending or single vineyard tastings
- The emergence of Coombsville as a major appellation because of its microclimates and ability to grow valley, mountain, and coastal grapes
- The way winemakers are letting the terroir of an appellation speak in their wines
How is the Napa experience different at a small-production vineyard?
In my experience, small production vineyards tend to be the ones behind locked gates, off the beaten paths, and owned by families that do it all. Dedication to their land, grapes and wine quality set them apart from the mass producers. I have visited many of the tiny ones and the pride they take in their business shows in the quality of the wine, as well as the authentic experience at their wineries. You get a sense of place that you can feel without the glitz of some of the more famous ones.
About Curated Journeys
Leave the crowds and clichés behind on exceptionally curated private experiences discovering what the locals and insiders love about Napa Valley. Delectable food and wine produced by award-winning chefs and winemakers, served in the most stunning settings imaginable; this is the Napa you will find on our journeys. This is Curated Journeys Napa Valley. Indulge your senses in luxury experiences with insider-only access to private homes, stunning wineries, kitchens, and culinary temples.
Get to know a side of Napa Valley beyond Highway 29 and Silverado Trail, curated by a company with deep roots in the area. Curated Journeys will acquaint you with the hidden charm that only locals get to see, taste and experience. Come enjoy complete immersion into Napa Valley and learn the secrets of Napa’s celebrated food and wine.