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Vines,Wines,and UnforgettableTimes My Trip to the Napa Valley
buy from the store. At its heart, it’s an agricultural product that requires dedicated work from farmers and artisans. It reflects the place it comes from, the weather of particular years, and all the hands that touch it along the way. That handmade approach was never more apparent than when we visited Schramsberg, one of the country’s greatest sparkling wine producers. I have to be honest, I’ve never been much of a bubbles person, but that quickly changed. The caves where Schramsberg ages their wine are a sight I’ll never forget. There were racks and racks of bottles stored there to age and mature. Every last one of these bottles is rotated by hand. The care that’s taken to produce this wine is mind-blowing. While we were there, we also had a chance to taste some of the still wines they make, including a bottling that they only make once or twice every decade. Maybe it was because we were at the winery, but it was probably the single best wine I’ve ever tasted. One of the Schramsberg employees recommended we go the Palmaz winery, because their technological approach is “the exact opposite” of Schramsberg. Somebody telling you to experience the antithesis of what they make perfectly sums up the experience of Napa Valley for me. It’s a place where there’s no one way to make good wine or enjoy it. Everybody does things their own way, with a love for the land they farm and the wine they produce. After returning, my husband and I couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful our trip was. We learned, we laughed, we ate delicious cheese, and we sure as hell drank some incredible wine.
I recently returned from a conference in California. While the event itself was great, that’s not what I want to tell you about today. Instead, I want to focus on the trip my husband and I took while we were in the Golden State. As we were looking at our schedules before the trip, we realized that we had an opportunity to spend a few days in Napa. It ended up being a very smart decision. I enjoy a nice glass of wine as much as the next person, but I’m not an expert by any means. Nevertheless, walking through the vineyards and speaking with the people who’ve devoted their lives to viticulture were eye-opening experiences. Not a single person we spoke to was the least bit snobby, which, I have to admit, I was worried about. Instead, they were all humble folks who were excited to talk about wine and share their passion with us. Our first stop was at the iconic winery of Robert Mondavi. We were so lucky to receive a private tour from a young man who took us through every step of the process. He also provided us a lot of historical perspectives on Mondavi in particular and California wine in general. If people know one type of wine today, it’s probably Napa Valley Cabernet. However, that wasn’t always the case. In the world of wine, Napa’s status is actually relatively recent. Mondavi’s efforts during the ‘60s and ‘70s helped put California on the map. In a sense, walking through the winery was like walking through history. As we spoke to the young man, he mentioned that his father and uncle owned the Prager Winery in St. Helena. We decided to check it out. While we were there, we had the chance to ask a million questions and explore the earth up close. My husband used to be a farmer, so he was thrilled to inspect the soil and pull up some roots. The more wineries we visited, the more we began to realize that wine is a lot more than something you
– Dr. Stacey Raybuck Schatz
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