We couldn’t be in California without visiting some vineyards! That’s why we decided to go on a wine country tour with San Francisco Comprehensive Shuttle Tours.
We got up early in the morning, took the BART and joined our guide around 8:00 at the Ferry Building to catch our shuttle. We did a very interesting city tour on our way to get on the Golden Gate Bridge and then we had a one-hour drive to the beautiful Napa Valley. During this country road, our guide explained us almost everything we have to know about wine, like how to grow vines and how to make wine, what it takes to become a winemaker as well as the history of the region. That guy was like a real wine encyclopedia!
First stop: Robert Mondavi Winery. We were nicely welcomed with a glass of chilled white wine. It was 9:15 after all! A guide of the winery took us on a facility tour and we visited the various aging wine rooms. The view of the vines was just gorgeous with the blue sky and we learned even more about vinification.
Did you know that red and white wines are made from the same grapes? In fact, it’s the grape skins that give the color to the wine. For red wine, the skins are left in barrels for several weeks or even months. In the case of a rosé, the skins stay in the liquid from 24 up to 48 hours. And, you guessed it, there are no skins at all in the white wine barrels.
After stopping at the winery shop, we took the bus towards the vineyard of the former Italian racing driver Mario Andretti. Smaller than Robert Mondavi’s, Andretti Winery is a lovely family vineyard that produces smaller quantities. It was founded in 1996, so it’s still very recent. Again, the scenery was breathtaking, I literally felt like I was in Italy! We tasted three wines and even had the chance to taste one that was still aging in a barrel.
Roses are often planted at the end of the rows of vines. In addition to being very pretty, the roses will indicate to the winemaker the presence of a disease. In fact, roses are susceptible to the same diseases as the vines, but are usually attacked earlier, allowing the winemaker to treat the vines in time.
We had lunch on the terrace. It would be so romantic to have dinner there!
After lunch, we went to Ménage à Trois – Folie à Deux Winery. In my opinion, this visit was the least interesting because the winemakers there do not grow their own grapes, they buy them from a producer. That maybe can explain why we didn’t have any presentation about their wines like the ones we had at the two previous wineries. We had three wines to try (red, white and rosé) and we enjoyed them outside. Of course, the scenery was beautiful there too. In fact, it was so amazingly gorgeous everywhere around us, I think the images speak for themselves!
The last stop of the wine tour, but not least, was at the Franciscan Estate Winery. Of all the vineyards we visited that day, this is the one that makes the largest production. Again, we tasted three wines including the one we believe was the best of the day. JF has even brought some back home! And since we were a small group that day (about 15 people), we had the chance to look behind the closed doors!
Contrary to what we had seen at Robert Mondavi Winery, the barrels at Franciscan Estate Winery are made of metal instead of wood.
The wine tasting took place in the beautiful wine library.
To return to San Francisco at the end of the day, we took a 50-minute ferry cruise across the bay from Napa Valley to the Ferry Building. The wine tour with San Francisco Comprehensive Shuttle Tours is an activity that I highly recommend if, like us, you like to enjoy life with a glass of wine in hand. We learned a lot throughout the whole day and our guide was awesome. However, I advise you to bring several layers of clothing as the temperature in Napa Valley is not the same as in San Francisco (it was hotter as the day went and there’s no Wind!) and the return in ferry was rather cold! The cost of the day is $117 per person. This includes the shuttle and lunch, the return in ferry and the wine tasting at Robert Mondavi Winery. It is therefore necessary to provide cash for the wine tastings at the three other wineries (about $25 per person for all).