Touring the Napa Valley
Napa Wine Country with the Watsons -- April 26-29, 2001

(Posted April 30, 2001 © Herbert E. Lindberg)

After the Wine Train we returned to the Ink House just in time to enjoy snacks by our innkeeper Diane and wine tasting presented by Richard from the Frank Family Vineyards. Then we drove into St. Helena just to wander the town. I took several snaps of Mary and Sandy peering into windows of closed (good planning!) stores, but the picture below best captures the mood of the town.

All the appealing restaurants on Main Street were full, and after three hours of drinking and eating on the Wine Train, plus snacks at the Ink House, we didn't want anything special. I drove up a side road to a small Safeway shopping area and spotted a local pizza/sandwich gathering place that was just perfect.

Picturesque spot in St. Helena.

Saturday morning we drove to the Charles Krug winery to see this oldest winery in the Napa Valley. There wasn't much to recommend spending time there, but, while driving out their access road back to Route 29, I looked up to see a breathtaking view of the Culinary Institute with a flower-filled field in the foreground. I hopped out of the car with my camera and Val soon followed. Here he is shooting the scene:

Val is a great shot while he takes one.

Meanwhile, I was also taking pictures. The picture below is similar to what Val was taking, but I liked the composition better from a standing position.

Sandy and Mary view the Culinary Institute from Charles Krug flower field.

Then we turned right onto Route 29 and headed north toward Calistoga, looking for the Kornell Winery on Larkmead Lane. This is now the Frank Family Vineyards, but their champagne and the very small sign on Route 29 still bears the Kornell label. We hadn't gone far before I stopped the car again when the view below appeared northeast of the highway.

We saw many awesome views of vineyards and hills like this.

We were motivated to stop at the Frank Family Vineyards because of the wine tasting with Richard. Diane had made arrangements for tasting from three different vineyards, one on each night of our stay. This is one of the best features of her inn, and she works at bringing in excellent wine makers.

We bought a couple bottles of wine and champagne from Richard after re-tasting them. While we chatted he told us of another small vineyard not too far up the road via Silverado Trail. We were intrigued because most of their tasting was right from the barrel, as you see in the picture below:

Wine tasting from the barrel at Vincent Arroyo winery.

I thought the wine at Vincent Arroyo was among the best I tasted and sorely wanted to buy some. However, the vineyard is so small and popular that they sell out their wine a year in advance of bottling. That's why you taste it from the barrel. I would have ordered a case of their 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon but wasn't sure we wanted to be tied to the 5-hour round trip from Lake Wildwood to pick it up this fall. Also, at $20 a bottle we can get similar quality wine in the Nevada City area.

Sandy among the roses at Vincent Arroyo winery.

As we were driving a cross road over to Silverado Trail on the way to Vincent Arroyo, Val spotted the Sterling winery on top of a hill. So our next stop was there, to take the tram up the hill and view the valley. We all hopped onto a gondola and were merrily on our way. When we got to the top there were three girls who we thought were going to hold the gondola as we got out. Instead, they were there to make sure we didn't get off, because the area was closed. I was impressed that they would keep the tram going anyway, and will surely plan to visit Sterling again when they're open.

View of an up-going gondola as ours glided down from the temporarily-closed Sterling winery.

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