Visiting wineries : Napa

Blue sky and nice sun shine; which is typical image of California. However there is four seasons a day in San Francisco, very breezy and sometimes shivering with cold even summer there. This cool air helps great quality of grapes in North Coast area which encompassed great wine production area such as Napa Sonoma, Russian River.

Napa Valley, an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, is located north of San Pablo Bay, its valley floor is flanked by the Mayacamas Mountain Range on the western side and the Vaca Mountains on eastern side.  Mount Veeder and Atlas Peak, the highest part of mountain range respectively are based on igneous rock which had been formed by magma explosion. The soil of Napa Valley consists various substance, the soil of slopes of valley are sterile and well drainaged, on the other hand it is fertile alluvial soil on the valley floor.

As you know Napa Valley is the most famous and prestigious wine region, and their quality of wines keep on developing. Napa wines are usually bold and full bodied with high alcohol, especially for chardonnay quite lots of wines are heavily oaked, but nowadays level of oak treatment tends to be restrained. For red wines, although wines can be drinkable and enjoyable in youth, producers also focus to keep for certain period for further ageing. It is one of the strong advantage point for consumers.

As compared to old classic wine region, Napa is relatively new and very innovative area.  Some of them like cult wine producers, really small boutique winery might not open for public, but majority of them are really warm welcome  for any visitors including non trade people. There are huge numbers of wineries in Napa, so it is quite difficult to choose which one you visit honestly.

The benefit of visiting wineries is that you can get more knowledge and understand more style of wines. The quality of grapes is vey big factor to determine to quality of wine, we can roughly say to make good wine as 80% of grape quality plus 20% of cellar technique. For this reason, in order to produce  great quality wine a lots of wineries focus on “sorting” even after picking grapes. Some wineries choose it by hand others use machine. At Opus One winery excess leafs are removed manually then grapes go through machine for sorting. This sorting machine is programmed by computer as set up accept level of grape condition like  colour, size, ripeness and so on. If berries are not up to its level, they are removed automatically. Its system works in Opus  successfully, on the other hand at Kenzo Estate they also used it as trial, however they could not find any benefit for them. It is quite interesting, isn’t it?  Besides both wineries produce great wines, the approach to make wines is somehow different and they always chose best way to produce best wines for themselves to seek for their own style.

In addition, I saw one more advanced machine which  is for removal of “small creature” from grapes at Opus. As you know it is normal practice that grapes are not washed  before making wine. Do you agree, don’t you? But Why not washing? Probably grapes would has high chance to be diluted or oxidised / damaged easily. It is similar situation grapes wet by rain  during harvest. Because of  avoiding such risk, producers would use un-washable grapes so that all grapes usually has high chance to be ferment together with some “small creature” – bugs like spiders, fly and lizard….Oh dear!! Opus concerned about its issue, so that they had installed a machine which blow them away by strong wind to collect only grapes. Wow, it is very innovative, and I have never seen it before.

If you join in winery tour, you can see those equipment, which is really good opportunity to know about wine making background. That’s why I fully recommend not only tasting wine but also joining winery / vineyard tour in winery.If you have those special information, needless to say tasting wines in winery might be more exciting and enjoyable.

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