Playing Hooky in Napa

I don't often play hooky. There's just an endless amount of work to get done around here and nonstop responsibilities that are always pressing. Besides when I get a day off I'd rather spend it with my kids and family.

But I recently joined my out of town cousins for a day of winery hopping in Napa. I forgot how fun it is to taste wine, hear the stories, and visit the unique properties so reflective of their owners. Plus I figured it was an ideal opportunity to do some spying on the competition!

Pride click to enlargeMountain Winery is a beautiful drive up Spring Mountain Road outside the town of St. Helena. Open only by appointment, we were treated to a tour and tasting in their caves and tasting salon overlooking the vineyards that span the Mayacama Mountains. Of course, none of this came cheaply; the fee was $75 per person. But then again, that's Napa for you. The wines were delicious albeit very expensive. I still can't believe I plunked down an astounding $130 for a Cabernet. Our host was superb, passionate about wine, and extremely knowledgeable overall. Nothing was canned or rehearsed, and she made us feel like old friends of hers in no time. She gets an A+ in my book.

I was planning to go back to work after our picnic lunch, but suddenly decided we should visit Raymond Vineyards. This is one of the wineries that Jean Charles Boisset has purchased, adding to his growing stable of California wineries. He's been getting a lot of press as the "new Robert Mondavi of our generation" and so I was dying to see what he had done to the venerable Raymond family estate. Good grief. It's hard to describe but I'd say it's a cross between a "Napa Valley Night Club" and "Alice in click to enlargeWonderland." Talk about over the top. From the bizarre hall of senses to the crystal cellar with mirrored tanks and scantily clad mannequins hanging from the rafters, I felt like I was in a high end strip club (I've never actually been to one, but this is what I imagine if I had!). While the wines were nice, the most striking observation was how five generations of Raymond family efforts have been wiped clean from the visitor experience. There was simply no connection to the heritage of the family or mention of the history of the winery. I felt sad and somewhat baffled since it seems like there must have been something relevant the new owners could salvage from the past. It also was a bold reminder of the importance of authenticity. And that's where Dry Creek Vineyard shines. There's nothing contrived or overtly "forced" here. We don't put on airs and we don't try to be something we're not. A visit to Dry Creek Vineyard should ALWAYS include the story of our past along with the innovative changes we've made that have resulted in the superb quality of our wines today. It should NEVER be about form and ALWAYS be about substance. In a nutshell, it's about wines that express the nuances of their appellation and the people who work so hard to create them. No mannequins, no crystal chandeliers, no fluff.

And if that's not the case, then, please, please, please I want to hear about it. Ok? 

| | Comments (3)


BIllS. Author Profile Page said:
September 30, 2012 10:55 AM

Kim..Next time you play hooky in Napa Valley, go to Cade Winery on Howell Mountain Road, a "green" eco winery that is part of the Plumpjack Group. It looks back over the Valley, and its architecture, though minimalist, is stunning, particularly the tasting room. Also by appointment only...their Howell Mountain Cab is superb. See you at the holiday dinner in December. Linda and Bill Swain, Princeton NJ

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
October 4, 2012 12:33 PM

Hi Bill,
Thanks for the recommendation-I intend to play hooky more often so I hope to visit Cade sometime in the future. See you in December!

JohnLopresti Author Profile Page said:
October 8, 2012 11:00 AM

Rarely in my life have I bought a new car. But I did in 2002, and promptly took a wrong turn on Memory Lane, believing a former professor's vineyard was on Diamond Mtn., in Napa. It turned out the only winery I visited declared they had not heard of the prof's place. On the way home, I remembered as I drove down that dangerous one-lane road near the top of the mtn that his place was on Spring Mtn. His website is kind of boring, though the winery site is quite professional. For graphics he likes to picture himself on dirt terraces looking like some sourdough turned vineyardist. But I know better. His enology notes were among the most nuanced reference materials I studied for many years. Next time, explore farther up Spring Mtn. There's a treasure up there; and they make whites.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Kim published on September 27, 2012 12:24 PM.

Snooth People's Voice Awards was the previous entry in this blog.

Chateau La-Di-Da is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


This is a blog about what it's really like to be in the wine sit back, take a sip and enjoy!

about me

our wines

our winery

our events

contact me

privacy statement

favorite posts

A Lifetime in Wine

Top 10 Traits of the Successful Family Winery

The Dreaded Family Meeting

Board Meeting Jitters

Is the Future of the Winery in Danger?

The Case of the Overweight Bottle

Wine and Dementia

Wanted: Talented (Normal) Individual for Family Owned Winery

A Sea of Wine

The Heroes of Our Industry

monthly archives


Hopes & Dreams

Owning a Coastal Cottage

Sailing for 6 Months

Getting a 100 Point Score

Favorite Haunts

Coast of Maine

Dry Creek General Store

Dry Creek Kitchen

Healdsburg Bar & Grill


Sonoma Country Antiques

Baci Cafe & Wine Bar

The Farmhouse

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

Bad Ass Coffee

Bistro Ralph

Bits of Press

Food & Wine Magazine

The Wine News

Wine Enthusiast

Wine Spectator

Press Democrat

Sunset Magazine

Connoisseurs' Guide

Dan Berger's Vintage Experiences

Cruising World Magazine

Oprah Magazine

The Washington Post

Coastal Living Magazine

Wine & Spirits Magazine

People Magazine

SAG Awards Magazine

Forbes Magazine

Favorite Magazines

Coastal Living

Down East


Country Living

Quarterly Review of Wines

Wines & Vines

Wine Spectator

Wine Enthusiast

California Grapevine

Connoisseurs' Guide

Practical Winery & Vineyard


Vineyard & Winery Mgmt

Blog Buddy List


Hip Tastes

Pinot Blogger

All The Best

Julia Flynn Siler


Winery Web Site Report

The Pour - Eric Asimov

Dr Vino

Steve Heimoff

Start Up Ladies

Good Wine Under $20

Blind Muscat

The Wineroad Blog

Gabe's View

Wine Peeps

Vici Vino

Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk

Uncork Life

WineVine-Imports Blog

The Wine Witch


Honorable Mentions

Wilma Hits The World of Blogs
Most Intriguing New Wine Blogs of 2008
Midwest Wine Guy
Winery of the Month
Julia Flynn Siler
Meritage wines - and a fascinating glimpse into family business
Winery Web Site Report
New Winery Blog: Wilma's Wine World
Start Up Ladies
Insider's View of Family Owned Dry Creek Vineyard
The Glue that Keeps the Whole Thing Going
Atlanta Dish
Blog of the Week
Blind Muscat
The Merits of Meritage
Boston Wine Expo exhibitors, and the reason why winemakers are so darn happy