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Untangled Vine

An attempt to sort through all things wine. Specifically of, and about, but not limited to: Food and Wine in Toledo, Ohio. Plus the day to day musings of a Wine Distributor...

How I spent my wine vacation...

How I spent my Wine Vacation…

Napa Valley Posted by Picasa
Summertime is upon us. Time to load up the family truckster and head off to Wallyworld! May I suggest a slightly more civilized vacation? How about a wine tour? You can spend the afternoon in gorgeous, lush hillsides, sipping some of the most interesting hand-crafted wines. At night, you can dine on Wine Country Cuisine, an experience worthy of the trip itself. Before I tell you where to go, let me impose some advice upon you. If heeded, these pointers should elevate the experience of your next wine trip.
A) Tasting small amounts doesn’t mean you can retain your sobriety; in fact, tasting many small portions of wine over a short period of time will intoxicate you faster than sipping poolside all day long. Plan accordingly. This includes transportation. An alternative is to do as the pros do, and spit. Every winery has spittoons in their tasting rooms, and this will help you to keep your head about you. It’s not as gross as you think, and it’s a very common sight at most tasting rooms.
B) Don’t overextend yourself. 3 wineries a day is probably enough. You will wear out your palate if nothing else.
C) Stay hydrated, keep bottles of water on you at all times, and this will help you to avoid the “4:00 sober hangover”, an ugly side effect of staying dehydrated and slightly buzzed all day.
D) Take time to discover wineries you’ve never heard of before. The wine will be better, the tasting room staff will be friendlier, and you will avoid large corporate wineries (again, everything that is wrong in the world of wine).
E) Take a notebook, and write down the wines you taste, and which ones you like. After returning home, you will be amazed how much you remember from referencing your notes.
F) Buy a wine map- Location is the most important factor to the quality of wine, and many people will develop an affinity for a particular sub-region. This can often be a reliable indicator of your personal wine preference.

We are blessed in this country to have the ability to grow wine grapes in all 50 U.S. States. However, like cloning, the capacity to do it does not mean that we should do it! Avoid your local wineries; mediocrity in close proximity is still mediocrity. Selecting a destination can be a little overwhelming. A good rule of thumb, is usually, go to the West Coast (although, The Finger Lakes is respectable as well).
Napa Valley always has been, and always will be the King of U.S wine vacations. The amount and quality of wineries is unparalleled in this country. For the uninitiated wine drinker this trip can often be the epiphany of wine tours. That singular moment when you feel that all at once “you get it”. Napa is also a very tourist oriented region, with plenty of lodging, transportation, and amazing restaurants. If you’ve been there, done that, Sonoma is a little more Rustic and diverse. Napa and Sonoma are next door neighbors, so there’s no reason to not combine both regions on your plans. Sonoma is slightly more sprawled, and has a real diversity of wines, as well as geography.
Heading down the California Coast are 3 equally fantastic wine regions that can each involve a daily visit to the beach. Monterey, San Luis Obispo County (including Paso Robles & Edna Valley) and finally, closest to my heart, Santa Barbara. All 3 are populated by artisan winemakers and growers. This is truly some of the most breathtaking land in this country. The climate is often cooler in these coastal regions, and Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah are often the varietals of choice. The wines are all stellar, and worth the trip. Washington State, similarly, has much to offer with some first-rate producers, and gorgeous scenery. The great gem, however, is Willamette Valley in Oregon. 60 miles South of Portland lines Pinot Noir Heaven. Spend some time in Portland as well; it’s a very progressive city with a vibrant downtown foodie scene.
No matter where you go, plan some visits, and leave partial days for spontaneous happenings, you never know where the wine route will take you.
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