Enjoying our tour of Napa Valley wineries.

Enjoying our tour of Napa Valley wineries.

Recently I met five friends in Napa Valley, which is less than a 2 hour drive from the south Bay Area, for a full day of wine tasting. For this particular trip I enlisted the services of Bill Boerum of California Wine Services to be our tour guide for the day. If you haven’t had the luxury of having your own driver for the day, you are definitely missing out. He chose the wineries we visited (five in all) while I provided the transportation and a gourmet picnic lunch. Bill was our time-keeper; he kept us on schedule and allowed 1.5 hours at each location. Since there are so many wineries to choose from, my goal was to try smaller wineries for a more intimate experience or ones that I might not have found on my own. Bill certainly delivered in this regard and exceeded our expectations.

Our trip certainly exceeded our expectations.

Our trip certainly exceeded our expectations.

Be forewarned: all this luxury does come at a price. In addition to the price we paid our driver, several of the wineries we visited did charge a per-person tasting fee of $30. Thankfully, if you make a purchase at the end of your visit, the tasting fee could be waived and is at the discretion of the winery, so your experience may be somewhat different than ours. What you get in return for making a reservation as we did, at the very least, is an attentive, dedicated staff member for your party at each location, which may include a private tasting area, barrel tasting, cave visit or even a winery tour. You’ll appreciate this special treatment by mid-afternoon on any given weekend as this time of year the wine bar is completely packed and visitors are often left trying to the get the attention of a harried staff member (at least that’s been my experience at some of the larger Napa Valley wineries).

Three of my friends enjoying the tour with me.

Three of my friends enjoying the tour with me.

Our 8-hour day began and ended in St. Helena, CA. During that time we visited 5 wineries in 4 different Napa Valley American Viticultural Areas (AVAs):

  1. Diamond Mountain
  2. Calistoga
  3. Howell Mountain
  4. Rutherford

I was quite surprised to learn that there are now 16 of these wine areas within the Napa region (see the full Napa AVA wine map here). Keep in mind that Sonoma and Alexander Valley are two other popular and completely separate wine regions in the area that we were not able to visit this time.

Want more details about Napa Valley? Stay tuned for my next post, which will include where we went and what we thought of each stop on our tour, including von Strasser Winery, Alpha Omega Winery & J Vineyards and Winery.

Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: Dinner-Diva.com for more info.