Wine Tasting In Napa

While it is true that I am a lover of Gold Country wines, and that I enjoy exploring the wines of lesser known California wine regions, that doesn’t mean that I don’t go to Napa on occasion.

Last weekend, we joined two friends for a jaunt to Napa. We met at Pizzeria Tra Vigna for lunch. Lunch was good and a good value. The atmosphere was casual and comfortable and it set a good tone for the rest of the day.

Markham Vineyards, Napa

Markham Vineyards winery. Photo copyright 2014 David Locicero

Our first stop was Markham Vineyards, just north on 29 from St. Helena. The facilities here are remarkable. The entry court is beautiful and creates the impression of old world balance and grandeur. The tasting room itself is very large and well appointed.

We each did the full tasting flight. Had our friends not been members of the Markham wine club, each tasting would have cost $25. I was particularly partial to their Cabernet Franc and the Cabernet Sauvignon they call The Philanthropist.

Grgich Hills, Napa

Grgich Hills Estate. Photo copyright 2014 David Locicero

At that point our friends had had enough wine, there were 8 wines in the flight including a side by side comparison of their 2009 and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignons (I preferred the 2010, my companions preferred the 2009). The continued on with there day and my partner and I moved on to Grgich Hills Estate, which is South of St. Helena.

While Markham claims to be one of the oldest wineries in the Napa Valley with roots going back to the 1870’s, Grgich is one of the oldest modern wineries in Napa Valley, having been established in 1977.

The contrast between the two wineries couldn’t be greater. While Markham goes to great lengths to create an old world, high class wine experience, Grgich Hills is much more a down to earth California winery, with a rustic tasting room opening up directly into the winery itself.

Here my partner and I did the first of their wine tasting flights. It cost $20 and included a souvenir glass (!). Here we really enjoyed the 2009 Fume Blanc, a Cabernet Sauvignon and their Merlot.

At this point we called it a day and headed back to the Bay Area. It had been a couple of years since we had ventured into Napa specifically for wine tasting. What I found was that the wine is tasty, though more expensive than I am accustomed to spending. Having said that, I think that the wines we purchased was money well spent.

However, the cost of the tastings was far more expensive than I would want to pay were I not in the business of writing about wine. I understand the reasons wineries charge for tastings, and why they charge as much as they do in Napa. It is more money than I would spend just to taste. Had our foursome tasted at both wineries, and not benefited from the winery club membership, it would have cost $180 to taste at only two wineries, plus the cost of the bottles we purchased.

That’s expensive. Maybe I’m just cheap. But I am looking forward to drinking those bottles I bought.

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About dslocicero

David is an author and architect living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He writes about wine, food and travel. His first book is Pour Me Another: An Opinionated Guide to Gold Country Wines, now one of the highest rated books about California Wines.