When I was in my early 20’s a few girlfriends and I piled in my car and we drove from Seattle, Washington to San Francisco, California on a whim. We had a laundry list of sights to see and things to do in the course of a weekend and Napa was on the top of the list. We were young, careers starting out and lived pretty much paycheck to paycheck. Despite, at the time, our financial woes we made it work and had a fabulous time in San Francisco. We toured several wineries, sipped wine that (looking back) we didn’t really appreciate and took several bottles home. I had such fond memories of Napa with my girlfriends.
When my 2nd wedding anniversary was coming up my husband and I weren’t going to do anything aside from a dinner. We got an email with flight deals and the cost to go to San Francisco was ridiculously cheap so we decided to go on a spur of the moment trip. My husband had never been to Napa and I couldn’t help but gush how much fun I had the last (and only) time I had been.
I live in Washington State and I truly believe that we are spoiled when it comes to wine. We have a plethora of wineries to choose from all over the state. The wine is great, the prices are ideal, the tasting fee is minimal and the experience is fun. One of my favorite things to do is go on a spontaneous day trip to a winery. Who doesn’t like a spur of the moment wine trip? If you do – don’t go to Napa then!
Our first stop was promising. My husband and I stumbled upon Heitz Wine Cellars. The tasting was free and the wine was great! How wonderful! We picked another winery at random and drove 30 minutes up a mountain to get there. The scenery was beautiful, but the winery was by appointment only. Bummer! We tried another winery but it was by appointment only. So we then began calling wineries to ask if they accept walk-ins. Most did not and if they did – their tasting fee was $35 or more! You would think if you bought a bottle it would be waived, but most replied only a small portion. It boggled my mind how different Napa was now compared to when I was in my early 20’s.
Napa is pretentious. I said it and will say it again: Napa is pretentious! Washington wine can easily go head-to-head with Napa Valley and win. When you pay those ridiculous tasting fees you are only paying to feed the egos of the wineries and for the “pleasure” to say “I drank wine in Napa!” It’s so trivial to me that you have this location that sticks its nose up in the air for those who want to have a fun, spontaneous trip and turn them away. Wine should be shared.
I was discourage and in disbelief. We decided to park in town and walk around the storefronts so the drive from San Francisco to Napa wasn’t a complete loss. That’s when we found Orin Swift Cellars. They were welcoming, reasonable and laid back. All things most of the others in that area weren’t. To top that – their wines were amazing! We stood and talked awhile with the host and told him our gripes with Napa so far and how disappointed we were. He then took the time to write out several other wineries to try that wouldn’t disappoint and would be what we were searching for when we came to Napa.
Tank Garage Winery was our next stop and is one of my favorite wineries to date. In fact I shipped several bottles home to Washington. They specialize in blends and never make the same blend twice which I feel adds and enriches the experience. After Tank we felt we had our fill of the Napa Wine experience and headed back to San Francisco. Those two wineries salvaged our day and the only two reasons I left with good memories of Napa.