Are We in Napa or Disney Land?
July 18, 2008
Wine touring has become one of America’s favorite activities and rightfully so.
It sounds like a pretty good time: travel around some of the most beautiful places in the world seeking out that little family winery that produces the most unbelievable wines that nobody has ever heard of.
You drive down a long dirt road that winds through the hills of lush green countryside because from the main road in a quaint town you could see a sign sloppily hand painted on a board that say’s "Whoever’s Family Vineyards."
At the end of the road you come onto a rolling vineyard with a quaint house in the middle and a barn converted into a winery.
The winemaker is hard at work nervously watching the temperature of fermenting vats of bright purple juice. He manages to pull himself away to show you his winery and offers a simple lunch where you taste every vintage he produced for the last 10 years.
You chat about the climate and which grape varieties work best in his vineyard and he explains his wholly unique perspective on winemaking and how it relates to life in general.
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He agrees to sell you a case of the ’98 and you feel like you have found the greatest secret in the world and every bottle you drink will remind you of that vineyard and the people that produced it.
I hate to say it, but in most of America’s wine regions those days are long gone. A trip through Napa Valley is characterized by gigantic wineries and tasting rooms run by people that have never clipped a vine or pumped over a vat of wine in their lives. You’ll get a tour of Opus One for example that, for $35, proves the enormous profits of industrial wine production and provides you with a small taste of the present vintage currently being sold on the market.
I know that it costs money to operate the wine rooms and allow people to taste through the wine but I often feel when in Napa that I am being paraded around a shopping mall of big brand wineries and my wallet is being pecked at as I drive north on Highway 29.
This idea of wine touring has spread through many of the world’s wine regions and I think to the detriment of the tourists the concept has lost a considerable amount of roots.
If, of course, you are willing to get off the beaten path and take the chance of running into some bad wines, lost time, and getting a little lost, there are still great wine scouting trips to be had. Find the wineries without tasting rooms and call and ask if you can swing by.
Ask your local wine guy for some suggestions of hidden wineries and what areas to travel to. Get creative. There are still guys out there with their hands in the dirt. You just have to look harder to find them.