Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | January 1, 2019

Sunshine and Wine, Two-Zero-One-Nine: Entry #2

Happy New Year, readers! I hope you ended the year as well as I did, and that this coming year brings you much joy. I’d originally planned to post last night, but after a day of wineries (and wine at each!) and with a full belly, I was more than ready to crawl into bed by nine o’clock. So that’s what I did!

I’d booked myself with Dynamic Wine Tours by Beau, and my pickup time was close to 9:30, so I tried to get up early enough to be ready for breakfast at the hotel before heading out. I usually am not ready to eat for nearly two hours after I wake up, and I was pushing it, but I didn’t want to start wine tasting on an empty stomach. I ate at Table 29 again and chose their Healthy Breakfast, a bran muffin, yogurt and homemade granola with a banana. I also had several cups of coffee. It’s lovely when they leave you the thermos pot at your table, and I took advantage!


The beautiful view of the vines.

Once I was done breakfast, the chauffeur/tour guide, Jay, was already there to pick me up, so I got to climb into the back of the limo and ride solo for the twenty minutes to Napa, where the other people taking the tour were all staying. I felt very fancy! Once in Napa, we picked up Angela and Dre, then Kevin and Lisa, the two couples booked on the same tour, and Jay poured us our starter drink, a lovely champagne. As a group, we all clicked instantly, and I just feel so lucky to have been with people who were interesting and nice and fun. There was so much laughter and good conversation throughout the day, it would have been amazing even if the wine had all been terrible. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. Not even close.

Wine pouring

The table was ready for us at Judd’s Hill! The wine in the back are different “personal” bottles, labeled with fun names like “No Idea” and “Foreplay” (a kiss on a golf ball for the image!).

The first stop on the trip was at a smaller family winery, Judd’s Hill Wine.  They don’t produce widely, preferring to keep to an intimate size of 3000 cases a year, and they do this neat thing where you can come bottle your own and do your own fun labels. This was by far winery with the most attentive and educational pourer, a woman named CJ who’d been in the business for 19 years and with Judd’s Hill for eight of those. It was a great way to start the tasting because I learned more about how to taste and what to do change the taste of the wine, such as ways to reduce the tannins such as using food flavoured with salt. CJ even poured us each a little salt so we could experiment and taste the difference.  She also does a food pairing and tasting course, which I think would be amazing to take. CJ was a riot, too, and the group had a lot of fun.  Angela and Dre ended up purchasing a membership to their wine club, which meant that our group’s tasting was free (they waive the $35US for members and up to five guests), which was pretty awesome. I might even have joined myself, but they don’t ship to Canada so it wasn’t an option.

Next, it was onto the Rutherford estate, where the wine was good, but after CJ’s attention, the new pourer was, to put it mildly, a bit disappointing. There was a wine and cheese option, which Angela, Dre, Kevin, and I chose, while Lisa did a wine and chocolate pairing. The platter of cheeses, nuts, chocolate and dried fruit was delivered to us, but it didn’t come with an explanation of which cheese was which, why certain things might pair, or any details whatsoever. We got a little detail about each wine before the pourer disappeared, and they were good wines, but no better than any other.  For $50US, I felt there should have been more effort made, and after how amazing CJ was, the level of service was strikingly different. They did let us eat our picnic lunch inside, since it was windy enough we would have blown away, so that was nice. Jay served us delicious potato salad, orzo salad, and sandwiches, and I had an amazing portobello mushroom one with goat’s cheese and roasted veggies. There was also yummy dessert!

Our next stop was Ballentine, where we had another $35US tasting, but this time with a much more present pourer, though CJ still sparkled as the star pourer of the day. The wines were really good, and I bought a bottle of white, since I enjoyed it and have been feeling more into whites lately – which is a bit funny, because Napa Valley is more of a red grape growing place, so I had a day of mostly reds! I like those two, so it was all good.


The manor house where the Inglenook Estate does their tastings.

We had a little extra time in our day, so Jay took us to an extra stop, the Inglenook estate. We were not there for a tasting, as you have to book well in advance, but you can wander the beautiful manor home that reminded me of my year in Edinburgh. It’s owned by Francis Ford Coppola, and you can even see an old fashioned car that featured in one of his movies! I think it was called Tempest. Jay told us, but after three wineries, all I can really remember is the movie started with a “T”! Dre bought Angela and I lattes at the coffee shop (seriously, everyone on my tour was so lovely, we’re already Facebook friends), which warmed us up nicely and got us ready for our final stop of the day.

Dre and Angela

The lovely – and photogenic! – Dre and Angela at Inglenook estate. I was very excite that there were lemons and oranges growing in the little group of trees!

The last winery was called Black Stallion, and it was buzzing with busyness.  The pourers were less attentive as a result, but you could at least see they were trying. I was delighted to find they had a white tasting for $20US, and I ended up liking the white blend so much, I bought three bottles ($22US each) because it meant my fee was waived. I’m going to have to drink two of the bottles before I go home, though, so I don’t have to pay to import a third! I have a few days left so I think I can manage. Lisa had a fancy red tasting, and let us all try, and the Transcendent bottle was AMAZING. Of course, at $150US, I wasn’t bringing one home! There was a glass of wine and cheese plate option, but they apparently only do that on the weekend, which was too bad. Instead, we got little crackers that were slightly sweet but mostly tasteless, and yet I couldn’t stop eating them! Our tasting done, it was time to go back to the limo and let Jay take us home, our purchases in hand. Kevin also apparently has Jedi powers, because he managed to sweet talk our pourer into letting him buy a bottle of member’s only wine without buying a membership. It is apparently his superpower, and we were all very impressed.


I could get used to the limo life!

After dropping off Lisa and Kevin to get ready for their New Year’s Eve wine train dinner and Angela and Dre for their Rutherford Grill dinner (unrelated to the winery, as far as we could tell), I once again had the limo to myself for the drive back where my own plans were waiting – a nice, hot bath then dinner alone in my room in my pyjamas, with a glass of the wine I brought back!

I had no desire to venture out in the hubbub, and my burger was delicious and it was nice to just kick back. I thought I’d stay up until midnight, and start the new year writing or dancing, but instead I decided I was going to start the day with a good rest.

I regret nothing.


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