Both vineyards were recommended by my sister Danielle, who spent a weekend in Napa with her husband AJ a few years ago. They turned out to be phenomenal, but I'll get into the details below.
California is three hours behind the east coast, so we had no trouble getting up early and arriving on time. Barnett is located at the top of Spring Mountain and the drive up involved a few miles of steep and windy roads. We arrived 20 minutes early and had to call the house from the gate.
|Gated entrance to Barnett Vineyards|
After calling a few times, someone finally answered and let us in. We drove up another hill and parked next to a row of vines full of succulent grapes. We found a path to the winery and a few moments later our host greeted us. She (do not remember her name), was very sweet and we felt immediately at ease. I was glad we arrived early because it allowed time for extra pictures.
|Vines full of grapes that we parked next to|
|Entrance to the wine cave, and the location of our tasting|
|View upon entering the cave|
|I love looking at the barrels. The text and design at each vineyard is so unique|
|Another cave shot|
|Our personal table for the tasting couldn't be more serene|
|The details of our tasting. We joined the Distinctly Red Collection club|
|This vineyard is harvested by hand because the 35 degree slope isn't conducive to any normal farm equipment|
|The fog lifted rather quickly|
|What a view!|
|Stunning view to enjoy during our wine tasting|
We both used the restroom and I took a bunch of photos before the the other couple arrived. We each had our own table with a view of the valley. Our host had such a nice personality and we enjoyed her thorough descriptions as she lead us through a tasting of six wines. This winery produces approximately 8,000 cases/year, which is pretty small, but the quality of their wine is superb.
They produce a Merlot, which isn't common in Napa, but our group unanimously agreed it was great. The other couple said they generally don't like Merlot, but this was unique and very good! Barnett is famous for their Rattlesnake Cabernet which is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and after tasting we could see why. It's hard to tell if it's worth the hefty price-tag of $175/bottle, but the grapes are grown in the most optimal conditions and the flavors were incredible. Eric and I never drink Cabernet at home, but I have a feeling that is going to change after this trip!
We chatted with the other couple and learned that they were from Jersey City and on their honeymoon. I think they were our age, maybe a few years older.
Each wine pour was conservative, so by the time we left, Eric was fine to drive. My only complaint is that crackers were not provided to cleanse the pallet after each taste, but I'm sure they would have accommodated if we asked.
|All smiles after our first tasting|
|What a great way to start our trip :)|
|I feel so lucky to be here!|
|Looking good like always Eric!|
|Walking back to the car|
Overall, our experience was excellent and felt special. If you'd like more information about Barnett, refer to their website here Barnett Vineyards.
We wondered how Sabina would compare, but would soon find out. Twenty minutes later, we arrived at our next destination.
|I got out of the car to take pictures as we drove up to Sabina|
|This is a shot of Sabina Vineyards and the owner's home, which is where we were headed for our tasting|
We pulled into the driveway and were greeted immediately by a man named Allen, who introduced himself as a close friend of the owner. Jennifer is the lady who generally hosts the tastings, but she was on maternity leave.
For a man in his late 60's or early 70's (guessing), Allen had a spunky and energetic personality that we were immediately drawn to. He welcomed us and we started our personal tour of the property. Sabina is a private vineyard, meaning they are not open to the public. If you'd like to visit, you must contact them to arrange a private tasting in advance. Allen later confirmed that most people know of Sabina only through word of mouth.
He lead us into their wine-making facility which is quite small in comparison to most. The only two wines they produce are Cabernet Sauvignon (which all of Napa is best known for) and Pinot Noir. He explained the grapes for the Pinot Noir are imported from Willamette Valley in Oregon, which is an area famous for Pinot Noirs. I guess the owner's wife loves Pinot and insisted they make it, and so they did! Happy Wife Happy Life.
|They age their wine in brand new barrels only. Most other vineyards reuse their barrels 2-3 times which can compromise the flavor infused into the wine from the barrel while aging|
|Eric and Allen chatting up a storm|
|Like most rich people, the owners have a deep appreciation for art which was decorated all over the property|
|Piece of equipment that presses the grapes|
|More barrels in the production facility|
|Next we headed upstairs to the main house. This was their front porch with views for days|
|View from the porch. Can you imagine this being your home?|
|Of course they had trees growing kumquats. Why wouldn't they?|
|Vineyard right next to the house|
At the conclusion of our tour we headed to the backyard which is where our tasting would take place (pictures below).
The property was surreal and I found out the owners lived there full time, which is kind of neat.
|I can only dream|
|Not your average backyard|
|WOW. The pool with large olive trees and vast vineyards in the background|
|The table under the awning was set up for our tasting|
Allen was full of personality and we really enjoyed his tour so far. I believe he lived in Napa most of his life, and spent the majority of his career as a superintendent in the Napa school district. Needless to say, he knew EVERYthing about Napa and our conversation flew effortlessly.
Allen arranged three full bottles of wine and a nice charcuterie board dedicated for our tasting. He kept the pours coming and we were able to sit back, relax, and sip on each wine for almost THREE hours while enjoying each others company. It was PERFECTION.
|Charcuterie board provided was very tasty|
|Couldn't dream up a better atmosphere|
|Enjoying all three at once - pictures of the bottles below.|
|Interestingly enough, Danielle is a huge fan of the Pinot Noir, but we're not. It was definitely very good, but we weren't crazy about it|
|We thought the Cabernet was to die for|
|Heaven in a bottle. We didn't finish this bottle and Allen let us take it home :)|
If it's not obvious already, we had a phenomenal time at Sabina. People like to stereotype Napa and refer to it as "Wine Disney Land." Does our experience wine tasting today sound like "Wine Disney Land"? I don't think so. As with anywhere in the world, your experience is what you make of it. And of course, always do your research!
We joined the "100 Reserve Wine Club" which includes an annual shipment of 12 bottles and 1 Magnum of their reserve Cabernet. It arrived a few weeks after returning to Boston, and we certainly don't regret the purchase. As I currently type, we indulged in two bottles thus far and the reserve is EXCELLENT. It's definitely one of my favorite wines of all time now.
At this point we clearly needed a meal, and Allen had recommended we drive to Brasswood which is a restaurant right next door. On the way, I texted Danielle a million times thanking her profusely for recommending Sabina. If she hadn't hooked us up, we would have missed out on what turned out to be our favorite experience of the trip.
When we arrived I could tell Allen was eager to please, and I wanted him to know he succeeded in providing an excellent experience. As we were leaving, I shook his hand and told him we had the BEST time. He BEAMED and looked quite flattered. Haha
If you are interested in more information - Sabina Website
|Exterior of the restaurant|
|Just chillin' in my bomber jacket feelin' no pain|
|Having a grand ole time|
|The tomatoes in Napa were in season and exceptional everywhere we ate|
|Allen told us to ask for this appetizer which isn't on the menu. It's burrata on toast and they were happy to make it for us. This picture makes me want a bite so bad...|
|Arancini hit the spot|
|We ordered one braised short rib bolognese and they split it into two portions for us. It was exceptional and I need to learn how to make this!|
|Strawberry shortcake - Nom Nom|
|Chocolate Torte - we ate every bit of all the food|
It felt great to eat a nice hearty meal after all that wine. On the way home we pulled over to take photos in front of the famous Napa sign!
|Look at me fist pumping - LOL|
|Vineyards everywhere you look|
|Best Day Ever!|
|I conquered Napa today!|
The weather was perfect when we got back to Solage, so we changed into our bathing suits and hit the pool. We swam and played in the pool for hours, before finally showering and retiring to bed. So far the trip was turning into a great success!