Wine Country Itinerary: Yountville

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By Robert Farmer

It is arguably the most power packed handful of square miles in California's Wine Country. Yountville: a tiny town along Hwy. 29, can be driven through in a matter of a couple minutes. But at a more leisurely pace, it can take a week to soak it all in. What a week that would be--filled with hours of wine tasting, spa time, and long casual dinners in some of the nation's best restaurants.

Yountville is home to several charming inns and a few world-class resorts. It boasts six Michelin stars among its dozen or so globally famous restaurants. And it's all contained within a few blocks radius. Yet in spite of its highly charged wine-and-dine reputation, Yountville manages to retain its slow-paced rural charm--never feeling too far from the roots that were planted in 1855, when George Calvert Yount laid out the city's plan and put the first grapes in the ground.

So it's not surprising that while many visitors are drawn to Yountville because it is home to Thomas Keller's French Laundry and his more casual Bouchon, still as many arrive to take in the joie de vivre of Wine Country as it can only be found in a town chock full of shops, boutiques and purveyors of the good life.

The town is in the throes of a master plan improvement, which will ultimately add a series of new hotels, spas, and of course restaurants--effectively jamming even more into its already packed four square-mile radius. And through December, the city and its surroundings come aglow during its 20th annual Festival of Lights, a series of celebrations and holiday-themed events.
Stop 1: Cliff Lede Vineyards
One of the closest wineries to the town of Yountville, Cliff Lede is a rather recent addition to the scene, but has quickly established itself as a hallmark producer of Stags Leap District wines--the opulent Poetry Cabernet is the flagship wine, a wonderful example of the terrior. The winery is a great example of passion--for wine, for art, for life. The eponymous proprietor is frequently spotted on premises, tending to the winemaking process and to the world-caliber art installed throughout the grounds and in the onsite gallery. Private tours of the facility and seated tastings are available by appointment. Otherwise, the tasting room staff is eager to pour winery-exclusive releases on a drop-by basis.
Tasting Room: Open daily 10am-5pm. 1473 Yountville Cross Road, 800-428-2259
Tasting Fee: $20 for three wines

Stop 2 Cosentino Winery
One of the more popular stops for wine tasting in Yountville, Cosentino does not disappoint the crowds who show up to their stylish tasting room along the St. Helena Hwy. That's because the prolific winery produces some 50 varietals, ranging from reserve cabs to interesting, award-winning meritages. There are several labels operated by Cosentino, all of which can be sampled, but not all of which come from these parts.
Tasting Room: Open daily 10am - 6-pm. 7415 St. Helena Hwy., Yountville, 707-944-1220
Tasting Fee: Tasting fees range depending on the program you chose.

Stop 3: Robert Sinskey Vineyards
In the Valley the name Sinskey is synonymous with pinot noir. But as you'll see at the vineyard, the "Vandal" cabernet from grapes grown on the five-acre estate vineyard can hold its own with any of the Stags Leap cabs. Robert and his wife--who is a chef and cookbook author--clearly enjoy the good life. The joie de vivre is evident at the winery, where the open kitchen in the tasting room is frequently used to entertain friends and guests with cooking classes and demonstrations. The winery's catalog of biodynamically produced wines is available to sample during regular tasting room hours. But a more memorable experience can be had on the reservation-only culinary tour, which includes cheese pairings.
Tasting Room: Open daily 10am-4:30pm. 6340 Silverado Trail, 707-944-9090;
Tasting Fee: $15-$20, tours $25-$30

goosecrosstour.jpgStop 4 Goosecross Cellars
With their emphasis on wine education and their small-production operation, there are few better places to truly discover wine than at Goosecross. The family-run winery produces exceptional chardonnays, cabernets, and zinfandels, as well as a handful of select other varietals. All current releases can be sampled in the tasting room, and the intimate, near one-on-one staff to guest ratio ensures you'll do more than just taste. In fact, if you want to delve further into the glass, Goosecross offers by-appointment educational opportunities that include vineyard tours, wine classes, and epicurean explorations.
Tasting Room: Open daily 10am-4:30pm. 1119 State Lane, Yountville, 707-944-1986
Tasting Fee: $10 for five wines

For other Napa Valley Itineraries Click Here:
Napa Valley Itinerary
Stags Leap District Itinerary
Carneros Itinerary
Calistoga Itinerary
Merlot Lovers Tour

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And there's no better way to soak in Yountville and adjacent wine appellations like Stag's Leap, Oak Knoll, and Oakville than on the seat of a bicycle. Bicycle inside the vineyards or on the valley's country roads.

I've been to Robert Sinskey and Goosecross and highly recommend them.
We were introduced to Goosecross in Maine! The owner of the restaurant had been the wine buyer for the Maine State liquor stores and discovered them. She continued to purchase their wines when she opened her place. They are great!

I must say, the description Robert gives of Yountville is so perceptive. I visited Cliff Lede Vineyards and Goosecross Cellars a few months ago and although these two wineries have completely different atmospheres, they are both delightful. Goosecross was very unique, the wine was superb, and the staff was fantastic; they were not only friendly but I received the best service! They really made me feel at home. Cliff Lede Vineyards was in a word, beautiful. Their tasting room had a rustic elegance and their staff was extremely informative and enjoyed sharing their knowledge of winemaking. Should I mention that their Sparkling Wine was Magnificent? I remember it even now!

Afterwards, we visited the town of Yountville and it was just charming. We stopped at Bouchon (delicious!) but I could not stay long which is unfortunate. I could have enjoyed the whole afternoon in the sunshine leisurely strolling their town.

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