Napa & Sonoma 2015: save water drink wine

pretty neat
I spotted this sign (and a few more) at Chez Napolèon on 365 W 50th St., @ 9th Ave in New York, back in 2008. California is in its 4th year drought, so I thought this would be an appropriate title for this winery trip.

If there’s one thing I take away from this trip, it’s the American wine have honestly arrived, without adding sugar, like the old master Europeans.

This USA news top 10 wine tour rated Napa and Sonoma 2 and 3 respectively (#1: Tuscany).
A few vineyards, all with limited productions we visited:


  1. Wolf Family Vineyards
  2. Bressler Vineyards
  3. Tamber Bey Vineyards



  1. Rochioli Vineyards
  2. Martinelli Vineyards
  3. Limerick Lanes Vineyards
  4. Macrostie Vineyards
  5. William Selyem Vineyards
  6. Robert Young Vineyards
  7. Lynmar Estate Vineyards

Restaurants in the wine country:

  1. Torc, in Napa
  2. Farmstead
  3. The Girl & The Fig in Sonoma
  4. Valette Restaurant
  5. El Dorado Kitchen

Wine consumption has really taken off in USA for the past few decades. North Fork in Long Island has become an destination from its infancy. Napa and Sonoma are on the super stars. I remembered my first taste of Zinfandel in 1986. It’s light like sweet juice.

All the vineyards we visited are small, annual production measure in hundred cases (one case contains 12 750-ml bottles). The commercial giant Kendal-Jackson churns out 1.3 million cases Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay alone.

Most tastings don’t provide snacks. However, they pour generously, I’d say more than 1 oz. And often saying: “please don’t feel bad to dump it …” I wondered, for the type of wine when they produce as little as 200 cases a year, it’s 2,400 750-ml bottles, would they have enough wine left to sell?

IMG_1905French oak is predominately used here. Silver Oak Cellar uses American oak tho. Many vineyards spend millions to buy new oak barrels, using them for 3-4 years and sell for a penny. Each barrel, that holds about 60 gallons cost US$1,600. One vineyard said they sell for US$400 and another one said $200. Some vineyards age their wine with used barrels.

it is during this trip, I was bit shocked to learn adding sugar to the wine isn’t the Chinese invention. It actually the old trick employed by the Europeans. Cheating comes to mind. The wine guide said, Americans have far more rules governs the wine making, every step of the in the long process (they do in many other fields as well – such as finance. In long or short term, it serves USA well.)

imageWe flew into SFO, and spent two nights in Monterey and Carmel. Then moved north to Napa (2 nights) and then Sonoma (3 nights). The gang left home on Saturday. I stayed for two more nights in Oakland.

The wineries we visited, needing reservations, some were private. These small vineyards have very limited production, some make as few as 200 cases a year (1 kind of wine) where commercial giant like Kendall-Jackson, they churn out 1.2 million cases of Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay a year. (Reserv seems being abused here.)

Shipping, is expensive. In general, it cost $35 and up. The vineyards usually avoid sending in the heat of summer and dead cold winter time.

imageI’ve known how crazy the wine connoisseurs would do to take care of their babies, but it’s the first time I’ve learned that European wine makers are allowed to add sugar. Are you kidding me? This is cheating. US, the new kid on the block, has always more regulations (think finances …)  than the sissy Europeans.

One learns something new every day. The joy of travel, and joy of living.

In spite of two cancellations from AirBnB – we only made three -:), we had a wonderful trip.

Google map and CA 1.


  1. Sat, MontereyLovers Point; Monterey Bay Aquaium; Bistro Moulin
  2. Sun 9.27, Point Lobos; Bixbycamp/picnicBig SurCarmel & dinner
  3. Mom, Napa: Moss Landing; Karen @ Wolf; Bressler; Torc; Benicia
  4. Tue 9.29, Tamber Bay ; Farmstead
  5. Wed, Sonoma: Rochioli; MartinelliThe Girl & The Fig
  6. Thur 10.1, town square Limerick, MacRostie (lunch); William SelyemHealdsburg; Valette
  7. Fri, Robert Young; LynmarEl Dorado Kitchen
  8. Sat, Oakland, Golden Gate bridge at SF
  9. Sun 10.4, PleasantonAndrás Schiff: men are vain
  10. Mon, the cross; flight lands early

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