Saturday, June 5, 2010

Best Ports in Napa Valley

On the hunt for the best port in Napa Valley, my cousin E and I have traveled to vineyards all over the valley. He loves them sweet and syrupy, I love them to be smooth and nutty... so we tend to disagree on what quantifies a good port. However, we have found some diamonds in the rough that we can both agree on. Here is our list of the top four finds:

4. V. Sattui - All the sweet wine lovers in California know of V. Sattui. A great place to stop in the valley and grab lunch, this vineyard is known for its picnic grounds and sweet wines. (It is little known fact that it is one of only two vineyards that are allowed to host weddings in the valley.) Personally, I love their dry reislings for sunny picnics. However, my cousin E loves their sweet and syrupy Port as well. Not my favorite, but it's still worth the stop to see the vineyard, try the BBQ, and sit out at the picnic area and enjoy the scene!

3. Rutherford Hills - Tucked away in the hills above the Auberge du Soleil hotel and napa valley, this vineyard is famous for its wine cave and picnic area with views of Napa Valley. (You may recognize it from the 2009 Top Chef Finale.) However, its hidden secret is its 2005 Zinfandel Port. Coupled with chocolate covered blue berries, this port is smooth with a hint of cherry and blueberry jamminess. (is that a word?) This port is perfect for stand alone, or my favorite, dashed over some vanilla ice cream and sprinkled with raisins. A tour of the Rutherford Hills wine caves & tasting is $20, and is one of the best wine tours of the valley. Ask for Jack... he's the most entertaining tour guide on staff. My suggestion is to pack a picnic lunch (or swing by Dean & DeLuca) and have lunch on the Rutherford picnic grounds. Its less crowded than V. Sattui and since its on the Silverado Trail, its less touristy and not as crowded as V. Sattui's grounds.

2. Heitz Cellars - One of the oldest vineyards in Napa Valley, they have been selling wine for nearly 48 years. Located next to V. Sattui, I have driven past this unassuming vineyard dozens of times without knowing about this hidden gem. Recommended by some other port enthusiast, my cousin and I swung by to try the free tasting and was surprised by both ports that are available. The Ink Grade port is a shinning example of the best port has to offer. Smooth, rich, yet hints of ripe berries and sweet plum... this is a port that everyone will love. Even my cousin's fiance, who hates ports, thought this was tasty. The 2004 Grignolino Port was also delicious, with hints of orange and caramel. Its deep ruby hues reminds me of the antique ruby gem stones i covet at a local SF jeweler. This unassuming vineyard is highly recommended!

1. Prager Winery & Portworks - To be short and sweet, this is a must stop for any port lover. The 2005 Aria White Port is magical and takes your taste buds on a Willy Wonka-esque adventure starting off nutty, then a fruity sweet flavor... and leaves you with a hint of burnt caramel. Mmmmmmmm... pure yumminess. The 2004 Royal Escort Port is nothing to be laughed at either. Coupled with the Prager's caramelized walnuts, it is nectar from the Gods and you think that you should always have liquid desserts before dinner. Tastings are $15 for 5 ports/wines and you can keep your glass. The gardens outside the tasting room are beautiful, however the tasting room (tucked away through a barrel cellar that leaves you smelling of oak and old vineyard) has aesthetics that needs polishing and reminds me a couple dive bars i've hoped to forget. In some ways this is a good thing as you know that the vineyard pours all it's love and energy into their wines.

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