enRoute magazine (© ©2009 Spafax Canada Inc.)
Updated: January 31, 2013 | By Andrew Braithwaite, enRoute magazine

How the Sommeliers Do Napa



Where to Stay:  The Poetry Inn

“The inn is very private and romantic,” says master sommelier Jennifer Huether, who runs the wine program for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in Toronto. Located on the famous Stags Leap hillside on the eastern edge of Napa Valley, this home away from home is owned by Edmontonian Cliff Lede. Set among the cabernet sauvignon vines of his eponymous winery, each of Poetry Inn’s five rooms features a private balcony with outdoor rain shower, wood-burning fireplace and original artwork on the walls. But for Huether, who visits Napa several times a year, it’s chef Lynn Vita’s three-course, in-suite breakfast – think cornmeal pancakes with fresh blueberries – that gives reason enough to decamp to the intimate spot. “It’s the perfect beginning to a long day of tasting,” she says.

6380 Silverado Tr., Napa

Where to Taste:  1313 Main

To get a good sense of a region’s oenological diversity, pull up a seat at a wine bar, suggests Matt Stamp, program director of the Guild of Sommeliers, who recommends downtown Napa staple 1313 Main. Tell the barkeep the types of wine you tend to like, and he might point you toward a light California pinot noir, a full-bodied vintage port or something in between. The menu also includes tasting flights organized around particular grapes or styles (Bubble Trouble, Sweeter by the Minute). Jordanian-born owner Al Jabarin, a pioneer in the online wine-retailing world (he’s been in the biz for two decades), pours some two-dozen wines by the glass, served in a candlelit space alongside spreads (hummus and tapenade) and cheeses from places like Oregon and Wisconsin.

1313 Main St., Napa

Where to Hike:  Mount Veeder

The Napa Valley is split between two mountain ranges – the Vacas to the east and the Mayacamas to the west. Nick Daddona, wine director at Boston bistro Les Zygomates, is a fan of the western side’s most famous peak. “I hiked up Mount Veeder last fall with a picnic lunch, and the views were breathtaking,” he says. From the top, you can get a sense of the valley’s distinct form – a flat trough with two sheer edges, like an enormous castle moat. The Land Trust of Napa Valley organizes hiking tours of Mount Veeder and other valley trails. You can also book one of their Wild Culinary Adventures, which combines a hike with an alfresco meal catered by a local chef and paired with regional wines from such producers as Mount Veeder’s Yates Family Vineyards.

Where to Visit:  Truchard Vineyards

When sommeliers travel to Napa for “work,” many hope to bring back a more intimate knowledge of the wines they present on a daily basis by connecting a bottle of crushed grapes to a person, a place or a backstory. Your correspondent, a sommelier himself, has always enjoyed the wines from Truchard, especially the Carneros Chardonnay, with its seductive notes of ripe apple and burnt sugar. During a recent trip to Napa, I finally got to pay a visit. After a tasting of the rare 2007 late-harvest rousanne, a tour of the chilly underground cellar past wine-stained barrels, a walk through rolling hills planted thick with syrah and tempranillo and a chance encounter with the winery’s septuagenarian proprietor, Tony Truchard, what was always inside a bottle of Truchard is now so much more.

3234 Old Sonoma Rd., Napa

Where to Eat:  Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ

Michael Meagher, founder of the Boston Sommelier Society, swears by this barbecue joint on the river’s edge in downtown Napa. Wine, it turns out, is a great partner for the Bounty Hunter’s excellent barbecue offerings. The Smokin’ BBQ Platter, in particular, serves as a sort of greatest hits montage, with its combination of pulled pork, applewood-smoked brisket and St. Louis ribs. Still, the best part of the platter might be the Bounty Hunter’s knockout coleslaw, lightly dressed but with a sharp edge courtesy of the chef’s secret ingredient (shh, it’s garlic). Meagher also appreciates their excellent beer list. “A palate fatigued by too many wine tastings is never more quickly revived than by a pint of a cold, hoppy, local brew,” he says, sounding like the veteran wine traveller we can all aspire to be.

975 1st St., Napa

Orignally published in enRoute .

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