Saturday, August 4, 2007

Tiny bubbles, in my wine . . .


This was one of my favorite wineries. It's in Calistoga, which is in the northern Napa Valley. They make wine and sparkling wine, and their sparkling wine has been used at the White House for special dinners since the 70s.

We had a fabulous tour guide who was obviously very knowledgeable and funny, but not pretentious (or at least, he was pretentious in a way that was very inclusive to those of us who don't know anything about wine, if that makes sense). Anyway, he showed us the "cave" which is an underground storage area where the wine is kept and allowed to age.

Most of the wineries we visited had a cave, and most of them were sealed with concrete. They don't have to control the climate in the caves because the underground nature of them keeps the wine at the perfect temperature. Such an energy saver!

At Schramsberg, the cave isn't sealed with concrete, so there is a healthy coating of lichen on the walls. It lent the cave a totally fabulous eerie-ness that I loved.

The whole experience was amazing, we walked through the cave and learned all about the process of sparkling wine-making, then we had a creepy candle-lit tasting in the cave at the end.

The tastes were generous too, so I got my fill of sparkling wine that day. My wonderful parents also bought me a bottle, which I plan on opening for my 25th birthday in September. A quarter-of-a-century sparkling wine.

Benziger Family Winery

I loved this winery because it had gorgeous "insectory" gardens that were a source of beneficial insects.

They practice "biodynamic farming" which is basically organic farming (no pesticides, no fertilizers), plus an emphasis on other parts of the natural ecosystem, such as animals and insects.

The insectories host insects that are the natural predators of the grape pests. They also have lots of solar power, biodeisel-powered vehicles, and extensive recycling programs. It's interesting and exciting, though the farming method also claims to "emphasize a closed, self-sustaining ecosystem" which is a laugh because there is no such thing as a closed ecosystem. Things are leaving and entering the system all the time, so I'm not sure how they can claim to have a closed system. Despite that, I approve of the ideas of biodynamics.

The machinery they use to process the grapes was also quite impressive, simply because of it's huge white-ness.

Finally, they had peacocks on the grounds and I snapped this bright picture that I couldn't help sharing with you.

So those are the highlights of the Napa and Sonoma Valley tour 2007. We visited about 5 wineries in all and ate amazing food the whole time too. I came home with quite a few bottles of wine, most of which are already gone, I will sheepishly admit. But that bottle of champagne, that one I am saving.

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