50 Years of Wine Country Travels

Janelle Joe

Janelle and Joe in a Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in St. Helena – May 2015

Celebrating 50 Years of Wine Country Travels

My mother holds our 1st while we taste at Simi. Check out the redwood barrel tasting room.

My mother holds our oldest son Chris while we taste at Simi. Check out the redwood barrel tasting room.

By our most conservative estimates, 2015 marks our 50th year of visiting wineries in California. It all began when my parents purchased a vacation home near the Russian River Resort town of Guerneville, back in 1963. I turned 21 later that year, so most likely our wine tasting adventures began shortly thereafter. Janelle and I have been married 50 years as of this June, so I am going to use that as our official anniversary of visiting wineries and tasting wine. The first winery we visited was Korbel Champagne Cellars. It was just about ten minutes away from my parents’ Russian River home. We were hooked on wine country after that very first visit to Korbel. There was something magical about being in the wine cellar and viewing the vineyards. We took the tour and tasted several times at Korbel. We also visited the Simi Winery. The tasting room was in an enormous old redwood barrel turned on its side. Isabelle Simi, daughter of founder Giuseppe Simi always seemed to be in the tasting room pouring wine.  We also went to Pedroncelli Winery and Nervo Winery (now Trione). We made trips to the Napa Valley beginning in 1966 and visited Inglenook, Louis Martini, Charles Krug, Beringer Brothers, and Beaulieu Vineyards. In those days, we could buy a bottle of Cabernet from Louis Martini or Charles Krug for $2.25 a bottle.  In the town of Sonoma, it was Buena Vista on several occasions. It is hard to comprehend the changes that have taken place of the past 50 years in our wine country travels.

Oh, the changes we have seen!

  • Tasting room fees  - from none to today, where 90% of the wineries have a fee for tasting their wines
  • The price of wine – from reasonable to, in many cases, astronomical
  • Traffic  - especially in the Napa Valley, the traffic today is very heavy and annoying on weekends
  • Healdsburg – a sleepy vacation town turns chic
  • Palatial wineries and tasting rooms with fancy gift shops
  • Cooperate boom – small wineries are gobbled up daily by the big guys
  • Number of wineries – 400 in Napa, 200 in Sonoma, 200 in Paso Robles
  • Restaurant scene is upscale and there are many great choices
  • Sustainable and organic farming is a welcome relief from the use of  pesticides and herbicides
  • Two-night minimum stay for lodging on weekends, which can be very annoying and expensive
  • Wine Festivals and Wine Weekends – big parties on the wine trails
  • Paso Robles – once a cowboy town, now a wine country town
  • Sierra Foothills - famous for gold mining history, now it’s for hunting wine.
  • Urban wineries like Rockwall and Jeff Cohn Cellars
  • Warehouse wineries  like the Lompoc Wine Ghetto
  • Limos, vans, buses galore these days
  • The wine snob is alive and well in just about every tasting room

I know we missed a few of the big changes so please, add your two-cents in the comment section.







Five fun things to do in the Napa Valley in April

Don’t just have a great time in the Napa Valley, have a phenomenal time! We suggest these five fun things to do in the Napa Valley in April. Enjoy!

View bud break
Bud break is happening at this very moment in the Napa Valley and all of wine country. Vineyard managers and winemakers rejoice as another year of the grape begins. Bud break ranks just below harvest in importance in a vineyard year. The rows of vineyards look wonderful with the tiny bud leaves poking out towards the sky. It is a serene and lovely moment in wine country.

image of bud break Napa Valley

Bud Break in the Napa Valley

Combine art and wine
Robert Mondavi Winery recently introduced “Foodies in Exile,” a new art exhibit on display in the Vineyard Room at the winery. It is a collection of fifty pieces from artist Bryce Vinokurov. The “Foodies in Exile” exhibit aims to capture the local and national sustainable food movement through a series of large and small oil paintings, collages, linocuts and intaglio etchings. The exhibit will last through May 9th and the hours are 10 am to 4 pm for the viewing public. Robert Mondavi Winery is located in Oakville on Highway 29.

At Mumm Napa winery in Rutherford there is a wonderful exhibit by photographer Jeffrey A. Davis. The exhibit is “Serenity, Wonder, and Spirit.” Photographer Davis in this exhibit captures memorable moments from wilderness regions, sacred sites and diverse cultures all over the world. Visitor center and fine art photography gallery hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. Mumm Napa is located at 8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford, CA 94573.

image of art gallery at Mumm Napa

Art Gallery at Mumm Napa

Enjoy a picnic lunch among the vineyards
April is one of the prettiest months for a picnic in wine country. The climate is ideal and the vines are in a lovely state of growth. Pick up your picnic lunch on the way at one of these delightful delis in the Napa Valley and choose one of these Napa Valley wineries for a picnic in wine country.

Get a mud bath
In Calistoga, the mud bath is king among the spa treatments. At good old Dr. Wilkinson’s, they are celebrating 60 years of mud bath treatments. Dr. Wilkinson designed a recipe of Calistoga’s volcanic ash and mineral hot springs water to cleanse the skin and relax the body. It is the most popular mud bath in Calistoga.

Visit five fun Napa Valley wineries
Of course the main reason for traveling to the Napa Valley is wine tasting and touring. In this video see why these five wineries are fun and exciting and offer the tourist a special experience. Choose one or more for a great time in the Napa Valley.