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Published: December 13th 2015
R: Our next plan was to head to Yosemite national park - but it wasn't to be, the national weather service reported a winter storm coming in with several feet of snow forecast overnight the night we were planning to stay, so we decided to make a tactical detour and stay near the coast.
From Fresno we headed to Napa - we were going to come here anyway, but decided to extend our stay. Napa is wine country, so we headed for the wine welcome centre to discover more. From there you can buy a pass which you can use for a tasting in 12 winery shops in downtown Napa, which ranged from a single taster, up to 6 different pours - and the size of these depended on the generosity of the bar tender. So we merrily wondered about from place to place drinking wine and getting slowly more sozzled. Napa is primarily Chardonnay country, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but they also have some pretty decent blended wines here. It's also got a decent climate for Pinot Noir so, being my favourite, we indulged, but also made new favourites. Cate still preferred the NZ Sauvignons. None of the wines were
revolutionary but we have enjoyed tasting a number of different ones. One of the more fun aspects, particularly in off-season when we were the only people in there is chatting to the bar owners / bar tenders. Most of them were extremely interested in why there were still UK tourists in Napa at this time of year. But as I often find with Americans, they have some heritage in the UK or Europe that they love to tell you about. We met people who had met their wives in Birmingham, lived in Clacton on sea and supported Liverpool FC.
Napa is a nice town. It's got a nice downtown and is full of wine bars and restaurants. It's a bit on the pricy side when you are travelling for 6 months - there was a lot of great places we had to turn down. On our wine wanderings we did get some excellent BBQ food and some great fish tacos. We achieved 10/12 of the tastings we were entitled to on our pass. The other two closed too early...
The next day we headed into the valley where there are hundreds of wineries vying for your attention. We
stopped at a few, but were attracted to the Sterling winery due to its hilltop location and (overpriced) gondola ride to get there. It had a good outlook over the Napa valley and came with 4 tastings. We took a trip round the valley, and also visited the Castell de Amarosa, a bizarre recreation if a Tuscan castle, set in Vineyards. A good try, it even had a moat and a drawbridge. The owner apparently wanted to recreate the "authenticity" of Tuscany In Napa. In truth, most of the buildings and villages here could remind you of southern France or northern Italy.
Reading the stories of the vineyard owners, you can see it's a rich persons paradise, the dream being to own a strip of land, build a villa on it, plant a few vines and retire on the product. However the current droughts here seem to be making it harder.
Well, according to the weather forecast, tomorrow we won't believe there is a drought...
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