As much as I love the peace and rejuvenation effects of the tropics, such as Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Maui and Borneo, I also thrive on the excitement of big cities. In nature, I relax, breathe deeply, sleep well. But cities get me going — yes, my heart races, I talk too fast, and I am often out of breath. But all of that inner turmoil is where my world changes. I lived in New York City for five years and often miss walking outside of my apartment to run off to the next party, dinner with friends, or a run along the water. I am less of a homebody in the city, because of how easy it is to simply step out into a world where anything could happen. Recently, on my way to the wineries in Napa, I woke up in a friend’s gorgeous San Francisco apartment and took in this view. The endless buildings reaching the horizon? It’s all a blur, isn’t it… I can see what’s right in front of me, but have no idea what awaits farther out. There is something big out there for me, I’m sure. Leaps of faith are difficult, but you can’t discover new ground without losing sight of the land behind you.
My most recent trip to wine country turned out to be life-changing… but more on that later. (That’s a pretty evil way to begin, I know.) Our first stop: Robert Mondavi, one of the wineries in Napa I had long wanted to go to. I have always admired the guts and smarts it takes to be a pioneer, and that’s what Mondavi was. He brought world-wide recognition to Napa, then a fledgling little slice of wine country, before he died in Yountville in 2008 at the age of 94. (He had been forced to sell his beloved winery to Constellation Brands four years prior, after a public offering led to financial strain and then the takeover.) Mondavi is most well known for creating the Fume Blanc style of Sauvignon Blanc and his partnership with Baron Philippe de Rothschild, which led to the famous Opus One. But he also brought higher-density plantings (to make the vines work harder, producing heartier grapes) and French oak barrels to Napa, among many other technical improvements. He is considered by many to be the single-most influential winemaker in Napa’s history.
When you live in the desert, you develop a certain appreciation for endless rolling green hills like these, at Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma. Seven siblings, one winery — what’s not to love? As if that wasn’t enough, Benziger is Demeter-certified Biodynamic, the highest level of organic farming. My friend Tiffany and I had an amazing time during our visit, riding around on a golf cart with the youngest sibling, Kathy. Each grasping a glass of crisp chardonnay, we toured the gorgeous property, basking in the sun (it had been a little cloudy in at the wineries in Napa that morning). We had such a great time at our official tasting back at the main house and purchased several delicious bottles of cabernet and pinot noir, as well as some snacks for our ride back to Napa.
Don’t I look right at home in a vineyard? (Yeah, right — I look so awkward. Plus, I was freezing!) Oh, it was so gorgeous though. I could have stayed out there all afternoon. Alas, delicious wines awaited inside… And did I mention the castle? Built by a wealthy medieval architecture nut named Dario Sattui, Castello di Amarosa opened in 2007, 121,000 square feet of sprawling antique brick and cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sangiovese and primitivo vineyards. The tour of this unique property was fascinating, and the wines impressive. Whatever your opinions on this “different” project, I highly recommend going. I had never heard of anything like it! It was definitely one of the most interesting wineries in Napa, that’s for sure.
As I enter into a really busy Las Vegas weekend, I needed to escape for just a little bit. My tour through some of the beautiful wineries in Napa is about to come to an end, but I wanted throw up just a little taste before I do my final post. Napa really is my favorite escape, because its rolling green hills and lush nature make everything seem to slow down, and worries and stress from city life disappear. I bet people who live there sleep better at night than I do, just like I slept so well in the dense jungles of Costa Rica. This photo was taken at Castello di Amarosa, which you’ll see more of soon. It was a gray cloudy day, and my little camera didn’t capture the gorgeous grounds how I would have liked. But I would give anything to rejuvenate there for an hour before my weekend! And I love how the beautiful castle peaks out from the top right corner.
One of my very favorite wineries on my recent wine-tasting trip to Sonoma and Napa was Round Pond Estate, because it offered such a relaxing, homey atmosphere. To be fair, the weather also warmed up for us that day, and we got to sit around on the estate’s gorgeous patio, soaking up the sun and trying delicious wine. It was meant to be! The owners were friendly and hospitable, bringing out trays of delicious eats to compliment our wines. Every detail was perfect, as if we had wandered into a well-curated dinner party. We were all so happy there that I must declare this one of my favorite wineries in Napa Valley.