Gourmet winery tasting experiences in Napa and Sonoma

tasting experience
Overlooking the vineyards at Opus One, near Oakville, Napa. Credit: John Bedell

Not long ago the cheese and charcuterie board was considered the gold standard for a high-end wine tasting experience. Today, wineries in California’s Napa and Sonoma Counties are bringing wine and food pairings to a new level, offering multi-course tasting menus in private settings embellished with fine linens, stemware and bespoke service to showcase premium cuvée wines at their best.

All 10 experiences recommended here feature food and wine but no two are the same, differing in everything from the style to the setting. What they do have in common (aside from being a marvellous way to enjoy wine country) is an emphasis on the wine, first and foremost, and using carefully prepared food to enhance it.

‘You can get cheese and charcuterie anywhere in wine country,’ says Hamel Family Wines executive chef Clinton Huntsman. ‘It’s not special any more. It is much more meaningful to show guests our wines with an experience that has a true dinner-party feel.’

Hamel Family Wines

View from the Library at the Hamel Family Wines Estate House, Sonoma. Credit: John Bedell

15401 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, CA 95476

Reserve Experience

Set aside two hours for this visit, which begins with a splash of Hamel’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and a garden-inspired amuse bouche (think herb and preserved lemon parmesan crisp with ricotta, topped with English pea purée) followed by a private tour of the vineyard, winery and cellar (including barrel tastings). Winery chef Clinton Huntsman’s four courses play to the season’s strengths, with dishes such as a poached egg with green garlic cream, porcini, sunflower and fried onion, or a decadent bacon-wrapped rabbit loin with lentil and watercress. The setting is an opulent, but not stuffy, private winery library overlooking the grounds, so you’ll feel like the lord and lady of the manor. Available daily, $150 (£123) per person.

Gloria Ferrer

The terrace at Gloria Ferrer, near Big Bend, Sonoma

23555 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, CA 95476

Taste on the Terrace

Sparkling wines dominate Ferrer’s more casual five-course experience, but also expect to see a Pinot Noir or two. You’ll be seated on the winery’s sunny terrace and looked after by a wine educator (who also tends to other private groups enjoying the patio) for this 90-minute experience. The five courses are broken down into a main starter (we had prawns stewed with ouzo, tomatoes, fennel and feta) paired with the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs, followed by a plate featuring three unique bites to pair with three additional sparklings. The finale features a demi-sec and dessert fizz. Executive chef Raymond Schafer tailors his changing menu to the seasonality of ingredients and encourages the mixing and matching of bites and bubblies. If not on the pairings list, be sure to seek out a taste of Ferrer’s delicious Carneros Cuvée bottlings. Available Thursday-Sunday, $95 (£78) per person (maximum six guests).

Joseph Phelps

Joseph Phelps tasting rooms, off the Silverado Trail, Napa Valley. Credit: Matt Morris

200 Taplin Road, St Helena, CA 94574

Bountiful Table

This communal experience lasts almost three hours and features seven courses paired with the wide-ranging offerings in Phelps’ portfolio of wines with selections from the far Sonoma Coast to Napa Valley. Joseph Phelps was as much gourmand as winemaker, and this menu reflects that. It is an intimate experience (no more than 12 guests) hosted in a private dining room that boasts sweeping vineyard views. You’ll kick things off with canapés outside on the patio and then progress to the lavishly set table for your first course (think Kaluga caviar with corn pudding, parsley emulsion and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc). A parade of dishes and fine wines follows – branzino, Thai curry, dry-aged strip loin – narrated by your tasting guide who will elaborate on the wines, the pairing and the winery history….

Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine/gourmet-winery-tasting-experiences-in-napa-and-sonoma-486798/