I had heard so much about the Napa Valley in California that it’s been a must-see item on my list for quite some time. With over 500 wineries nestled in a number of picturesque towns within the valley, one is spoilt for choice. Still, if you want to pick the best winery tour it is advisable to make reservations in advance.
I was lucky enough to get reservations for the Signature Wine Tour at the Robert Mondavi Winery which was one of the first wineries in the area to offer education tours, allowing guests a peek into the world of wine making and tasting.
At the entrance is a huge sculpture of St. Francis Xavier by 20th century Italian artist Benjamino Bufano. There are other sculptures on the premises by the same artist, giving an inspired ambiance to the winery grounds.
Our tour guide was so welcoming and gracious, making this “journey from grape to glass” (his words) interesting and informative for the whole group.
We started with an introductory meet- up with others who had signed up for the tour and were briefed a bit about the legendary Robert Mondavi , who started the winery in 1966 and inspired scores of other winemakers to open up wineries in the Napa Valley. Then we were given a tour of the vineyards where our guide explained to us the process of growing the grapes at just the right temperature and the right environment (weather, climate, soil) to produce the desired blend, color and taste.
We toured the inside of the winery and saw the fermenting rooms where the wine barrels made of wood are stored for aging. Quite an impressive sight! This winery not only follows traditional methods of winemaking, but they are up to date with technical advances as well.
At the end of the tour we had a wine tasting session. I could tell this was the favorite part for everyone in the group:) I’m no wine snob, but I do enjoy the occasional Merlot or Cabernet. I’m not even sure there were any wine connoisseurs among the group that day, but all of us did make a show of swirling our glasses, inhaling the bouquet (okayyy, the aroma) and sipping delicately. Oh well.
The gift shop located inside the premises offering some select Mondavi wines, gourmet cheese, souvenirs, gift baskets, cutlery, wine glasses etc made for a fun impromptu shopping session and I ended up indulging in a set of small painted plates and some olive oil in a really beautiful bottle that was shaped like a bunch of green grapes.
I hope to return some day to continue my wine exploration as there are over 400 wineries in the Napa area and 600 more if you include the neighboring Sonoma area. Until then, here’s to aging like a fine wine, Cheers!
The winery contact:
Robert Mondavi Wines
7801 St. Helena Highway
Oakville, CA 94562