A trip to Los Angeles isn’t complete without a visit to at least one of the Hollywood neighborhoods to see homes of the stars. “Look–Lucille Ball’s former home! Wow, Jack Benny was right next door!” You get the idea. . . .
A trip to Napa Valley is much the same to wine lovers. Drive up California highway 29 and you’ll be calling out the names of the Napa stars: Mondavi, Coppola, Inglenook, Beaulieu, Sutter Home–the list goes on and on. In fact, there are 450 wineries just in Napa Valley, alone.
The vineyards are everywhere, all in perfect order, with geometric precision, up hillsides, down valleys, cradled within mountains. The huge eucalyptus trees tower over the vineyards, adding their amazing fragrance to the already fresh air. The tasting rooms are restored villas, or in the case of the Sattui family’s Castello di Amorosa winery, a 13th century Tuscan castle.
The gardens are gorgeous–roses grow prolifically under these conditions and the geraniums trail down the large terra cotta urns. Bougainvillea climbs up the stone walls, covering them in shades of pink. The tasting rooms and cellars are humming with happy tourists.
Most of the wineries offer tours and tastings, and some require reservations. With so many wineries, you may want to do research beforehand, so you find the right wineries for your style. Prices vary and there are sometimes coupons and Internet specials to be found.
My husband and I had just a short visit, THIS time, but will be back as often as possible. If you haven’t been to this Heaven on Earth, be sure to add it to your bucket list–it’s a visit to the stars!
More on Napa to come….
Unless you live in Placitas, New Mexico, you are a tourist when you go there. Placitas, a bit north of Albuquerque, is a Spanish land-grant village started around 1765, though the Anasazi were farming its lava-based fields at least 800 years ago and probably before that. Today it is quaint mix of multi-million-dollar homes and curious hippie-era structures both of which are surrounded by orchards and some of which shelter a few vineyards.
Yes, vineyards in the high desert. But don’t think Napa or even Creek Bend in Monroe County, Indiana. These vines trail around Jim Fish’s eclectic home and art studio and provide grapes for the fruit that makes Anasazi Fields Winery unique. Of course there’s something unique about every winery, but this winery’s uniqueness is really unique.
As Assistant Manager Gerard Rollins puts it, ” we make dry non-grape wines.” He would have been content to let things stand there as he pulled out bottle after bottle for us to sample. But after having tasted some two dozen non-grape sweet wines at the Indiana Wine Fair a week or so ago, I was not going to let that explanation stand. I was quite accustomed to peach and apple and cherry and plum and apricot and raspberry wines being unctuous and beautiful with ice cream and rich desserts, and I had even dissed my English friends’ contention that if it isn’t made from grapes, it’s not wine.
But stone fruit and berries, cherries and apples making dry wines? Clear brandies in the Rhine Valley, yes, but dry wines? At Azanasi Fields they even ferment wild cherries (choke cherries back in Indiana) into wine. Gerard poured a couple of their best sellers: A New Mexico Blanco Seco, a blend of Chardonnay and Apricot, and a New Mexico Rojo Seco, a blend of Syrah from their own grapes and Wild Cherry. He stressed that the Chardonnay was harvested in 2009, the Apricots in 2002, the Wild Cherry in 2008. “These wines have extra-ordinary longetivity,” he said, and proved it a few minutes later with a pouring of some “library” wines, including a 2000 Apple Wine and a 1996 Lilith Peach Wine.
Gerard explained that all their wines are produced by slow, cool “sugar-starved fermentation of the whole fruit.” It can take months to separate the wine from the fruit after which it is then aged in oak. There is no doubting the age. Colors are deep, chocolaty and/or rusty, the flavor suggestive of Sherry and Madeira, the finish lingering. As we talked, a young couple asked for a taste of American Cranberry Wine, which caused Gerard to admit they do not grow cranberries in their orchards. “We get them from Ocean Spray.”
He wasn’t surprised that this was my first experience with dry non-grape or fruit wines. “We are unique,” he said, “but when Jim started the winery in 1995, he did it so that all this good fruit wouldn’t go to waste.” When we left, he was explaining to some other visitors how they add fresh whole fruit to fermenting wine to assure continuing contact with pips and skins. “It helps the wines to age,” he told them.
I felt I had completed my devotion to National Wine Tourism Day.
Although F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby ends tragically, the book is brilliant and describes a time period that was so lively and yet, decadent. The relief at the end of World War II, the rise in the status of women, the influences of Black culture, and the effects of European travel all created a revision of fashion, art, and music.
These elements make the era so compelling for weddings and parties, since it gives people a “style” to emulate. This is a great recipe to use, since it combines the drinks actually referred to in the novel, combined in a creative way, using Fitzgerald’s love of symbolism!
Recipe courtesy of Jim Meehan, managing partner, PDT, New York City, created exclusively for The Plaza
Champagne flows like water at Jay Gatsby’s mansion. For this riff on a Champagne cocktail, mixologist Jim Meehan of New York City’s PDT soaks a sugar cube in Green Chartreuse, rendering a drink whose hue symbolizes Gatsby’s obsessions: the green light visible at the end of Daisy’s dock, and Daisy herself.
1 sugar cube
¼ ounce Green Chartreuse
5 ounce Moët Imperial Champagne
Spiral lime twist, for garish
Place the sugar cube at the bottom of a chilled flute, and soak it with the Green Chartreuse. Top it with chilled Champagne, and garnish with a lime twist.
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