Napa Valley

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August 8th 2006
Published: August 13th 2006
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This year's crop is beginning to mature - the harvest will be in September or early October

Day 4 - August 8, 2006

We decided to head to Napa Valley today. We drove to Rutherford Hill winery off of the Silverado Trail. Rutherford Hill was first established in 1974 by Pillsbury. They sold it a couple of years later (some said they ran out of dough), the latest owner buying it in 1996. He has pumped millions of dollars into the winery to help modernize it and keep the wine selling at a reasonable price. Making wine is an expensive proposition. Our tour guide, Bob, said that he has a couple of acres of vines which produce about 250 cases, 12 bottles per case. He just spent about $30,000 re-planting one of the acres. He explained he doesn't do it for profit, but for a hobby. My hobbies don't seem so expensive now. However, if you wish to produce your own bottle of wine with your own label, you can get a kit off the Internet for about $50 (I saw it in a catalog once).

Rutherford Hill was the first winery in the valley to use caves for wine cask storage. Construction for the man-made caves started in 1984 and took 2-3 years to complete. They

Napa valley is actually very small, accounting for only 4% of all the wine produced in California
are in a parabolic shape (to help them withstand earthquakes) and are coated on the inside with gunite (same material that goes into many swimming pools today). These caves keep the wine casks at an optimal temperature of 60 degrees and humidity of approximately 95%. Additionally, the wine casks only have to be topped off once every 8 weeks versus every 4 weeks for other wineries who store in non-cavernous facilities such as temperature-controlled warehouses. (If one doesn't top off, then the air in the cask spoils the wine).

Scott and I also got to taste several wines, including a dessert wine. We ended up buying a bottle of the 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, which, due to the abrupt change in airline carry-on regulations, is on its way home via ground delivery. (Thank you Patricia for checking for our packages, don't drink the whole bottle without me!)

Rutherford Hill also has olive trees (some of which are approximately 100 years old) and produces its own olive oil. The valley climate is very much like the Mediterranean (even though I have never been there, one can just imagine Anthony Quinn coming out of the vineyards). We all enjoyed a taste of the chocolate wine sauce.

On the way back to Fremont, we stopped and ate at the Cheesecake Factory. It was a great place to eat and we each talked about weird or embarrassing dreams that we have had (sorry, no details). The mushroom soup was out of this world; Robert and I both had some. We took a piece of cheesecake and chocolate cake home with us. The portions were so large that we never finished them.

After dinner, we stopped by Golden Gate Park and took some pictures. The moon was full, and the view was even more fantastic after the sun went down. But it was extremely windy and cold! Even though we're from Michigan, it was hard to handle after being in sunny, warm Napa all day.

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