CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY
Continued (page 9 of 13)
DEL DOTTO VINEYARDS
Del Dotto Caves
1055 Atlas Peak Rd.
Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves
1445 St. Helena Highway
If you want to taste wine amid marble columns, Venetian chandeliers and vaulted ceilings, visit the new bar at this over-the-top winery. Make a reservation for a private visit to the caves, hand-dug in 1885, where you can taste from the barrels and nibble on Parmesan. There is nothing else like this in the Napa Valley—or anywhere for that matter. The estate's grand entry hall can be rented for private parties, if you have the wardrobe to match it.
DI ROSA PRESERVE: ARTS & NATURE
5200 Carneros Highway
Of several noteworthy places to view art in the Wine Country (see also Artesa, above, and the Hess Collection, below), this is perhaps the most stunning. Rene di Rosa was a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper before he decided to move to the country and buy several hundred acres of Carneros land. He grew grapes for a few decades, but after selling his vines to Seagram he concentrated on collecting contemporary works by Northern California artists. Stop by anytime to visit the large Gatehouse Gallery, but you can only see the full—wildly diverse—permanent collection on guided tours for which reservations are required on Saturdays and recommended during the week. Guides also conduct nature walks through the 121-acre preserve, which is across from Domaine Carneros (see below).
DON'T CALL IT CHAMPAGNE
Though they can’t call it champagne, many California sparkling-wine makers use the classic methode champenoise. Two palatial stops in the Sonoma Valley are Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyard (23555 Carneros Highway, Sonoma; 707-996-7256; gloriaferrer.com), one of the few wineries that hosts weddings, and J Vineyards and Winery (11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg; 707-431-3646; jwine.com) known for its J Sparkling Brut. The venerable French house of Moët & Chandon branched out to the Napa Valley with its Domaine Chandon (1 California Dr., Yountville; 707-944-2280; chandon.com). The outdoor tables look out over a lawn and huge oak trees. Equally pretty views can be had from the striking château of Domaine Carneros (1240 Duhig Rd., Napa; 707-257-3020; domainecarneros.com), the domestic partner of France's Taittinger champagne house.
GRGICH HILLS ESTATE
1829 St. Helena Highway
While working at another Napa Valley winery in the mid-1970s, Croatian-born winemaker Mike Grgich gained international attention at a now-notorious Paris tasting session when his chardonnay received a higher rating than all the competing French white burgundies. Shortly thereafter, he started his own winery, whose wines are simple, clean and consistent. His chardonnay doesn’t undergo the malolactic fermentation that creates the butter and oak notes that have been so popular for so long. Instead, you taste the fruit and its natural acidity in a well-balanced blend. Come to the unpretentious tasting room for a bit of the Wine Country the way it used to be, with the added benefit that Grgich is now following the wonderful trend in California of growing his grapes biodynamically and organically.