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Wine Tasting in Carneros

Because of its proximity to the San Pablo bay, the day time temperature is moderated by wind and fog from this body of water. This makes for brilliant conditions for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Subsequently, some of the best American sparkling wine producers are located in the AVA.

You do not have to be a wine expert to delight in tasting in Carneros. But since Carneros was awarded AVA status in 1980, the number of resident wineries in has greatly increased. So with limited time and budget, which ones do you visit?

No matter how prestigious the area is, no wine is guaranteed to be excellent. There are so many factors that go into viticulture and winemaking, choosing a wine based solely on the region is basically a shot in the dark. The same can be said for deciding which wineries to visit on a wine tour.

When plotting a wine tasting tour, consider wineries that produce the varietals you delight in or want to experience. For example, if you want to taste Champagne style Sparkling Wines, Domaine Carneros should be at the top of your list. This winery is owned Taittinger Champagne House. Their stunning Chateau has become a Carneros Landmark, and is among the most gorgeous wineries in Napa County. Domaine also offers a thirty minute tour of their facilities, which culminates in their tasting room with spectacular views of their vineyards.

For Pinot Noir aficionados, you cannot go incorrect with Acacia Winery. If you choose to visit Acacia, I would advise tasting the 2002 Beckstoffer Pinot Noir; you will not be disappointed.

If you want to taste a wider range of varietals, visit Artesa Winery. They have produced several wines made with several different grapes that have received 90 points from major wine ratings. This, along with their winery’s recent 10 million dollar renovation has made Artesa a premier destination in Carneros.

Cline Cellars is also a pleasure to visit. Their tasting room is a restored 1850’s farmhouse, and they have a picnic site on the premises that overlooks their 350 acre vineyard. This makes Cline Cellars a fantastic place to taste wine and delight in your lunch.

Aside from the wine itself, other pleasing aspects of tasting experience lie in the beauty of the tasting room, winery and surrounding landscape. Although it does not take a gorgeous setting to delight in a fantastic wine, it certainly adds to the experience.

The taster’s overall experience is by far the most vital part of wine tasting. Most wineries in Carneros realize this, and offer whatever they can to make your trip more enjoyable. Many tastings will be hosted by a member of the winemaking team, so they can answer questions and clarify the subtleties of the wines. Whichever wineries you visit, make sure to bring your tasting room etiquette.

First of all, it is not advisable to bring children into the tasting room. As far as the actual tasting is concerned, white wines are generally poured first, followed by reds, and finally desert wines. Within each of these, the lighter bodied wines precede fuller bodied ones. Between each wine, it is common practice to eat a cracker to cleanse your palate.

It is not necessary to end each wine you taste; it is really discouraged, especially if you are plotting to taste many different wines. Wineries will provide jars to dispose of any excess wine. Additionally, do not feel obligated to try every wine that is offered.

If you question for a second tasting, it is in excellent taste to buy a bottle of wine. It is by no means necessary to buy wine when tasting, but if you make an appointment with a smaller winery, it is customary to make a buy.

If you are thinking about visiting the Napa Valley, Carneros is an brilliant place to start your journey into what many people describe as “heaven on earth.”

Ben Bicais lives in the Napa Valley and has written several articles about Carneros Wineries.

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