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We began today at Beaucanon at the foot of Atlas Peak, then to Yountville for quick visits to Jessup/Lloyd Cellars & Avenel, Titus in Calistoga for lunch, Del Bondio in Rutherford and then finished the day with dinner at the top of the Pritchard Hill at Chappellet!  What a promising and  packed day.

We started out at 9am at Beaucanon Estate in the vineyards with owner and winemaker Louis De Coninck as our host.  He discussed in depth the different clones of Cabernet, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.  These are some of the best value wines that can truly be aged but are fantastic upon release.  This is a very small family run business. Louis, his wife and his sister served the wines and shared their knowledge of the Napa Valley and their products.




Then it was a back on the bus for a quick trip to Yountville. Jessup and Lloyd Cellars share a tasting room one block from the French Laundry.  Robert Lloyd was our host and did not disappoint.  He poured us his 2011 Chardonnay in a very unique way … out of a one gallon jug!  He even went through the hassle of labeling it, totally funny.  Jessup was great as well. I really enjoyed their Cabernet Sauvignon.

Avenel is produced by Girard so we walked from Jessup to there, a REALLY long walk … like right across the street.  Pat Roney, owner of Girard was on hand, along with his winemaker to share the wines of Avenel. We were the first people to taste the Avenel 2011 Chardonnay which is still in barrel.  First vintage, first to taste – let me tell you its good to be first.  It will be in our stores January of 2013.  The 2010 Cabernet was outstanding as well.

We then headed up the Silverado Trail to Calistoga for lunch at Titus Vineyards.  Our hosts were Eric and Philip Titus. Eric is in charge of the vineyard management and marketing portion of the business and Philip makes the wine.  On a day that was supposed to eclipse 100 degrees these two did their homework. They came out to the sight the day prior at the exact time we were going to be there to see where the sun was going to be to make sure that we got good shade.  This is one of my favorite spots in the valley. They always serve up classic CA BBQ, great wine and great beer! 


The catering was done by Silverado Brewing Company and everything was fantastic!



Next we went down the valley in southern Rutherford to Del Bondio.  The winery is located on the border of Rutherford and Oakville right in the center of the valley, some prime real estate.  The Del Bondio’s have owned their vineyards for over 100 years and up until recently they were selling all their fruit.  They have built a custom crush facility on the property which we visited.  We received a great education on the history of the Rutherford and Oakville appellations. I think the staff took some really valuable information to share with our customers back in their stores.

The final stop of the day was to Chappellet Vineyards on the top of Pritchard Hill, some of the most spectacular views in the valley.  The winery overlooks Lake Hennessey with a view of the valley from the eastern hillsides.  We started at Don and Molly Chappellet’s house above the winery.  They led us under a tree that was over 400 years old with an incredible view and poured us a glass of Chappellet Chardonnay.  Our hosts were more than fantastic. They pulled out all the stops.  Molly even came out to talk to us for a little bit!  We then moved down to the winery for dinner. Every year this is one of the greatest food experiences. They have used the same caterer, Roland, with the some of the greatest Mexican food I’ve ever eaten!  Tonight was no different. I went back for seconds, thirds….well you get the point.  We tasted through the entire Sonoma Loeb and Chappellet lines led by Philip Titus the winemaker and the colorful Cyril Chappellet.


Cyril was hilarious, from pushing Philip to keep pace tasting to the wild pictures we got with the team later in night.



Once we got through the tasting Cyril broke out his pride and joy, the margaruter!  It is an automated contraption that makes killer Margaritas!  There’s a picture on Flickr of what it is, but the principle parts are an igloo water cooler and a garbage disposal … super fun!

I thought the night was done but Cyril wouldn’t let us leave until we finished all the Margaritas.

Then it was off to bed after another day full of fun, delicious food and a delightful assortment of libations.



**Check out more photos from all of the wineries we’ve visited on flickr: California Wine Experience 2012**