Last weekend, I drove up to Napa with my parents and some of their friends. We had such a great time, despite the dreary weather! My mom calls it pineapple storms… Not sure where she got that from, but I like it. As mentioned previously, we hit 3 wineries in the 24 hours.
Our first wine tasting on Saturday was at Hall Wines.
This is one of the first places I visited with my parents after turning 21 and we’ve been back several times now. The winery is beautiful with lots of outdoor seating and a great view of the vineyards. When the weather is warmer, we bring a picnic to enjoy outside and sit under the shady trees for hours. However, this time of year, it’s rainy and overcast so we stayed indoors.
Unfortunately, and surprisingly, it was very crowded. I thought the poor weather would keep everyone away, but it definitely didn’t. Both the upstairs bar and deck, as well as the downstairs tasting room were packed. Thankfully, we found a table big enough for the group! There, we savored our wine with a few deli items from Dean & DeLuca and cheese and crackers from Trader Joe’s.
After Hall, we headed back to the cottage we rented on the Del Dotto Estate.
It was a cute, little lodge they called “Grandma’s” right next to their gardens and vineyards. After freshening up, we walked over to the main venue and cave for our tasting. This was my first time visiting, but it’s one of my dad’s favorite places. My dad and his friend told me a lot about it, but I couldn’t be prepared for the grandeur. Modeled after a Venetian palace, the interior is heavily decorated with murals, mosaics, marble, and imported Italian sculptures. I know some people probably think it’s overwhelming, but I loved it!
The entire experience was a bunch of fun. Del Dotto provides an extensive barrel-tasting tour to help educate visitors about the effects of different types of oak on wines. Our host was extremely friendly and knowledgable, teaching us how the oak and the various toast levels influence the vintage. I learned that toasting or charring the inside of the barrel caramelizes the oak’s sugars. The darker or heavier the toast, the less tannin and, in my opinion, the smoother the wine tends to be. Different grapes work best with different types of oak that have different toast levels.
Until the tour, I didn’t quite grasp how sophisticated and important the barrel was. We tasted two grapes harvested at the same time in different barrels and they were entirely different wines. So cool!
After the caves, they served us homemade cold-cuts and olive oil, as well as wood-fired pizza. They topped us off with some of their port and dark chocolate for dessert. Then, warm from the wine and full from the food, it was back to Grandma’s!