* the above must be said with a soft, charming italian accent, e.g., “aaah, hen-ayyyyes!”
napa was lovely. Chris was a little overwhelmed with the bride’s large and boisterous italian family, but it feels nice & comfy to those of us who’ve met up with a few of this troop before.
the big sightseeing event for the weekend was saturday’s bus tour of 3 wineries. this may have had something to do with Chris’ amazement, since what i’d thought was going to be a smallish bus trip of maybe 10 people turned out instead to be a busload of 35 (mostly) east-coasters chattering in 2 languages excitedly about their wine. as always, the bride’s dad, Mario, was delightfully entertaining – he’s the kind of guy who has to continuously check on everybody to make sure we’re all having as fabulous a time as he is – and every new development was met with a hearty, “how nice!” promptly chorused by half the guys we were with.
first stop was domaine carneros, a sparkling wine producer launched by the french champagne house tattinger. this one was a full-stop winery tour, where we walked through parts of the production facility, saw the machines that load the traditional champagne-style corks, the whole nine yards. we tasted 3 very different sparklers and a nice pinot, and got to keep our cute little souvenir glass etched with the chateau’s logo on the way out.
next, we stopped in at viansa, which specializes in italian varietals and had the added attraction of a marketplace/deli to acquire lunch from. this one was a little more perfunctory of a tour – we simply gathered beneath a tent to try 2 or 3 things before rushing off to lunch, instead of looking at the production of the stuff – but the grounds and hilltop views were plenty to look at. the wines were decent, the food was pricey but very good (neither Chris nor i is equipped with the ability to deny a gourmet mixed cheese plate), the weather was flawless, and a live band played familiar mid-tempo tunes in the courtyard. all in all, pretty fantastic.
the final winery, buena vista, has the distinction of being one of the oldest in the state. while its tasting was the most generous – i think we sampled 4 or 5 things while relaxing at covered tables with pitchers of ice water to sip in between sips – the wines themselves were only ok. but it was a nice way to relax & unwind at the end of the trip.
sunday morning, we slept in wonderfully late, which then sort of made the decision for us as to where we were going that day. with only a few hours before needing to get ready for the wedding, we went with the excursion that was closest of the 3 we’d picked the night before (bonny doon winery, the muir woods, or gloria ferrer). Chris had noticed that GF’s dot on the napa/sonoma map he picked up in the hotel lobby was marked with the designation ‘gloria ferrer winery & champagne caves‘. since the champagnerie of the previous day was the clear winner, this was the obvious choice to check out. and wow, did that ever turn out to be the right answer. i’ve seen their stuff routinely in the sparkler section of the local wine stores, but there’s something about the bland 70s-styled label that’s never manged to talk me into a purchase. i can now report that this is just silly; go ahead & buy now. their entry-tier stuff isn’t crazy expensive at all, but it is crazy good. though they were crafted in a similar style, a side-by-side comparison of the nonvintage blanc de blanc and the top-flight carneros cuvee led to Chris’ declaration that the latter was an amazing wine…clearly, my intent to turn him into a wino is indeed working well! samples of several of the still wines led me to believe that their rosé might be the perfect pink wine – 2 bottles of it went home with us.
that evening, we headed off to the auberge du soleil, where the wedding took place out on the back patio overlooking an incredible view of the deeply sloping hillsides. though the locale was spectacular and quite exclusive (valet parking! whee! yes, i am that easily impressed.), the whole thing was so heartfelt and unpretentious. the ceremony was brief and very classy, a pretty perfect wedding, followed by a wonderful dinner. i’m still waiting on Melissa to forward me her list of the wines we were drinking with each course, since they were each really really good.
so, much congrats & a long life to the lovely couple! and a good glass of wine to everyone, too.