Mondavi winery and Napa
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The winery was about 10 minutes out of Napa, driving on 29. It has two big arches and lots of Spanish olive trees, which we learned were placed there 40 years ago to welcome people in like the Spanish missions welcomed people. :) The courtyard in front of the building had a beautiful fountain and flowering almond trees - so pretty!
It was $25/person for the tour, and I was skeptical of whether it would be worth the money or not, but we paid it anyway and walked around while waiting for the 2:00 tour.
Anyway, the tour started a little before 2, and there were 12 people in our group, all around our age in general. Our tour guide, Gary, started us off in an "orientation room" with maps, and taught us about the geography of the vineyards, etc in Napa and across California, the weather that makes the vineyards so great, and the importance of reading the label. If the label has a certain vineyard name, 95% of the grapes used in that wine are required to be from that vineyard, whereas if it just has an area's name, 85% of the grapes have to be from that area. This is to prevent wineries from buying cheapo grapes, making cheapo wine, and selling it for a fortune by using the famous winery name.
We also got to hear a lot about Robert (Bob) Mondavi himself, who apparently started the winery in his fifties (forty years ago) and sold it just last year for a billion dollars or so. Pretty good for a ninety-something-year-old! =P
We got to walk through a little of the vineyards as Gary told us about the growing process. I finally got to ask what all the yellow flowers are under the vineyards that we've seen, and Gary told us it was 'mustard', only not the real mustard plant. It's more like a weed/groundcover to keep erosion at bay. We also learned that the winery makes little 'houses' for hawks and other birds of prey to come and live in the vineyards as natural pest control. :)
Then we got to see the actual winery cellars, kept at 58 degrees F and 80% humidity to keep the wine barrels in good condition.
At the end of the tour we tasted 3 wines and learned about the 'right' way to do it, like sniffing, swirling, swishing and all the other things you might see uppity people doing. :) The wines were very good, but I'm still not sure if I could taste the difference between a $10 bottle and a $150 bottle.
We hung around the grounds for a little while because it was so pretty, and practiced reading the labels in the gift shop. Then we headed back down 29 to our hotel, the Best Western Elm House Inn, which was adorable - much more like a bed and breakfast than a hotel, and certainly better than any Best Western we've ever stayed in!
We ate at a little restaurant downtown after driving around the same one-way blocks about 8 times to try to find a supposedly obvious pizza place, which was definitely not there at all! But I got a delicious salad and Jesse had a great chicken sandwich, so we were satisfied anyway.
Tomorrow we're headed back home, but we get to visit V. Sattui winery for lunch first!