wine tasting

Wine tasting, Italian-style in Vesuvio, Italy: Haute Travel, Haute Eats

wine tasting at the base of Mt. Vesuvio

wine tasting at the base of Mt. Vesuvio

Wine in Italy may seem common enough, but embarking on a wine tasting journey to Campania, Italy can take you to the base of the circle of life itself.

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Napa Valley and Sonoma County Wineries to Note: Haute Travel, The Haute List

paradise among the vines in Napa

paradise among the vines in Napa

Happy Friday!  Friday calls for some wine (maybe other days of the week do too), and I love my wine.  But in case you didn’t know, for the past 4 years I have been writing about wine and wine-related fun for Examiner.com as Boston Budget Wine Examiner and NY Budget Wine Examiner. When I started doing this, it was because as my interest and experience in wine grew, so did the number of people asking me for wine input.  As a result, I have kept this haute list of my top Napa and Sonoma wineries in my gmail for years, sending it to whomever asks, and now I am sharing it with you (complete with my obscure starring system). Enjoy!
wine hills in Napa

wine hills in Napa

Sonoma Wineries I love: (stars mean I really, really love them)
I need to explore Sonoma more, but this is an initial list to get you started!
  • *Cline – (this is a regular at any wine shop, but worth buying and visiting if you have a chance.  I love the smooth, fruity and easy drinking nature of all Cline wines.
  • Jacuzzi  – yep you read right – Jacuzzi is named for the family who invented the Jacuzzi, and this winery is right across the way from Cline.  They had some nice smooth reds which we really enjoyed, and a name I will never forget!
  • Longshadow Ranch – This is a get, relaxed winery which lends well to bringing your picnic to enjoy with a great bottle.  We grabbed an Outlaw Red for our lunchtime stop, and enjoyed some great country music while we ate and drank!

dc napa

Napa Wineries I love: (again, stars mean I really, really love them)

  • *Domain Chandon (especially nice on a nice day) – Sparkling Wine, enough said.  But great varieties and an amazing setting.  Etoile, the on-site restaurant, is not bad either if you like 4 stars and fancy.  I love most of the wines from Chandon, but especially the Blancs de Noirs, and the Sparkling Red (actually, obsessed with the Sparkling Red).
  • *Joseph Phelps (serene setting and you can picnic there, though you need a reservation) – When I did a tour of 15 wineries in 5 days, Joseph Phelps had all positive notes in my tasting book.  Their Insignia is divine, and their Viognier is the first and best I have had yet. ($25 per tasting session)
  • Frank Family– great still and sparkling wine, great laid back ranch feel.
  • Swanson – very cool, intimate, and exclusive still wine and cheese tasting.  Starts at $25 and you need a reservation.
  • *V. Sattui – Expansive place with really budegt-friendly and tasty wines, inexpensive tasting fees, and a huge deli to buy food to picnic.  This is a stop for many tourists in Napa, so prepare for a bit of friendly food chaos. The wines are great table wines, and they even have some nice dessert wines.  I like the Off-Dry Riesling for a fruity, sweet treat and the Madeira for soaking berries in for dessert.
  • *Domain Carneros – Good sparkling wine, even better views…the scenery and mansion that is the Domain Carneros tasting room is one to be admired.   Enjoying a glass of wine here is a great treat for any special occasion.

domain carneros

  • Sterling – not my favorite wine, but a favorite Napa wine stop – Sterling is a household name, and has a huge estate to prove it.  They offer a gondola ride to their winery, which has really cool views.
  • Cosentino – Good intro Napa wines, Cosentino was my first Napa winery. They have a bit more earthy reds, but they suite the style of the region.
  • *Miner Family – Delicious Pinot Noir and Cabernet are what I remember best about Miner Family.  A must do, hough they sell out of the good stuff quickly, so buy your bottles early in the season.
  • *Schramsburg – another Sparkling wine favorite, you need a reservation for their awesome wine cave tour, but it is totally recommended. I like their Cremant, cause it’s a smooth celebratory wine (smooth as creme).
  • Rubicon Estates – the Copola family of movie fame owns this estate, and make some of my favorite wine shop wines, the Sofia line!  Had to stop here and say hello, and grab a quick tasting with some seriously famous people.
  • Mumm Napa – Awesome patio, decent sparkling wine.  I have other favorites, so I stick to those, but this is a great tasting environment when in Napa on a sunny day.

There is my list so far, and I hope to see it grow on my next few visits to the lovely valley.  Hope these recommendations make your next trip to Napa a haute one!