A long weekend in Napa

I moved to the US 5 years ago, and I have been annoying people about my love for wine for about as long. A question I always get is “Have you been to Napa?” And my answer was always “No”, quickly followed up by “Not yet.”, followed by “But I’ve been to Oregon”, followed by crushing waves of self-loathing as my inadequacy as a wine lover becomes obvious. My point is, when you think wine + US, Napa pops up, it’s the flagship region for the US industry, so I need to get my butt there. Also, my point is, I have crushing self-doubt.

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As of last week one of these issues has been fixed, I have visited Napa Valley, and Sonoma too for good measure. I still have crushing self doubt but that’s ok, there was wine in Napa and Sonoma.

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Right off the bat a few thoughts on the general experience, I’ll give details on some particular wineries in subsequent posts. I had a great time. A good friend of wine actually works at a Napa winery and she was able to take us on some visits that we definitely would have missed otherwise and it made me realize a few things :

  • Takeaway number one : It’s easy to miss some awesome spots if you don’t have an insider to help guide you along.

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  • Takeaway number 2 : it’s easy to end up at wineries that remind me of Disneyland rather than wine country.

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  • Takeaway number 3 : Even in the most Disneylandy wineries, everything is still beautiful. I mean, villas, sprawling grounds, lovely tasting rooms, everything is built to be pretty, which I guess weirded me out after more casual tasting experiences in Europe.

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  • Takeaway number 4 : People say Sonoma is more chill than Napa. Well, people are right, Sonoma feels more chill than Napa.

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  • Takeaway number 5 : Napa wines are expensive given their quality and I’m not a huge fan of the wine club approach. It seems exploitative at the very least.

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  • Takeaway number 6 : Generally speaking, I’m not that into Napa wines. The price points compared to quality are part of it, but a bigger component is stylistic approach. With some exceptions (Hello Fume Blanc), I’m not a huge fan of the Napa style

I know most of these takeaways sound negative, but I have to say that my overall impression was still positive. Napa is beautiful, it is the closest we have to a wine themed amusement park, and who doesn’t like a good amusement park ?

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Maybe it’s my formative years when a winery visit took place in damp cellars between agricultural equipment and industrial quantities of cobwebs that makes the “family-friendly” look hard to process. Maybe I’m just a French snob. I just know that I look forward to going back.

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