It's August and we are in the middle of our annual week in the Napa Valley.
Even though we live close enough to drive up here for a meal or a day trip, for us, it is the ultimate luxury to stay in the Valley.
We taste wine, we eat good food, we explore, and we relax.
Rather than dashing around to taste at several wineries in one day, we pace ourselves and usually taste at only one winery on any given day.
A trend we've noticed in Napa Valley wine tasting is to taste at tasting rooms. There certainly are an abundance of them right in town in Napa, Yountville, and St. Helena.
It's an easy way to do your tasting without trekking to the many wineries in the area. But, we prefer the experience of visiting the winery and actually seeing where the wine is made and, often, meeting the people who make it.
Of course, there are some wineries that are so remote and/or small that they cannot accommodate visitors on site. Having their wines in a tasting room provides a way to let people sample and buy their wines.
I will also add, in defense of Napa Valley tasting rooms, that most of the tasting rooms here are staffed by knowledgeable people so you will learn about the wines as well as get to taste them.
So far, we've tasted at two wineries both of whose wines were unfamiliar to us.
HILL WINE COMPANY
What attracted me to Hill Wine Company in St. Helena, which just opned this year, was an article about it in one of the free publications about the area that are distributed in hotels and other tourist areas.
This family-owned winery features its Black Dog series of wines at the winery. The inspiration in this wine label is proprietor Jeff Hill's black lab who recently passed away. The good dog news for the Hill family is that they have a new black lab puppy who, at this time, makes occasional visits to the winery.
A percentage of each Black Dog bottle sold is donated to the ASCPA. Hill also donates a portion of revenues to environmental causes.
The cost to taste at least 4 wines at Hill Wine Company is $20 per person for the Black Dog series wines, $45 for a reserve and barrel tasting. The tasting fee is usually waived with the purchase of a certain amount of wine.
We also got to taste their excellent olive oil.
We purchased their Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, both of which we found special.
Reservations to taste are advised.
Hill Wine is both picnic and dog- friendly. So bring the pooch, pack a picnic, or even have them cater a picnic for you, and enjoy the day sipping Hill wines.
HONIG VINEYARD & WINERY
It was our tasting room host at Hill Wine who suggested that we would enjoy tasting at Honig Vineyard & Winery in Rutherford.
Honig was started in 1984. This was our first time to try their wines.
Reservations are required to taste at Honig. Each group has its own table and tasting host. There is seating outdoors on their beautiful patio and also indoors.
The tasting lasts about 45 minutes. the fee is $15 per person and is waived for each $35 purchase.
At Honig, we splurged on their 2006 Cabernet and are already planning a special diner with our cooking group, in honor of the wine. We also purchased a Rose of Cabernet that we enjoyed tasting.
Honig has a small area with picnic tables in a corner of their property.