Sometimes the most unlikeliest of places have the best food. When my family and I arrived in Napa Valley and saw rows and rows of vines, we were expecting only good wine tasting sessions and an informative afternoon on the processes of winemaking. Signing up on one of the Robert Mondavi Winery tours, we got all this and more.
The tour began with a stroll in the vineyards with a brief history of Robert Mondavi and his vision of making his wines one of the best in the world. After, our guide took us on a comprehensive walkthrough of what happens to the grapes after they are picked – the fermentation room, the aging barrel storage and the bottling room. She was also really friendly and any questions we asked she could answer in depth. Furthermore, she worked under Mr. Mondavi himself and she shared with us his work aspirations and approach to his team. But the two main highlights were the range of wines we could taste and the lunch option of the tour.
There were about 6 bottles of wine awaiting us at the end of the tour, 4 reds and 2 whites. In addition, two of the reds were Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1996 and 2005. Being an enthusiast and collector of Bordeaux reds, my father is very picky when it comes to red wines and these two were the only ones he gave a thumbs up. Upon hearing about a section of vines that was 66 years old, I also wanted to try the sauvignon blanc they produce. Surprisingly, the ladies behind the counter were willing to open a bottle of it (vintage 2004). That sauvignon blanc, was also divine – refreshing and fruity without being too dry.
Lunch was served in a special glass dining hall overlooking the vines and there four courses in total. First, came the soup.
Pumpkin Soup with Walnuts & Creme Fraiche
The second course was more interesting.
Sauteed Dungeness Crab Cake, Fennel Puree, Shaved Fennel and Citrus Salad
Hearing the word crab cake, I first expected the meat to be minced but when I sliced it open, it was still flaky. The crab was fresh and the fennel puree and citrusy grapefruit dressing made it light and refreshing.
Niman Ranch Beef Short Rib Bourguignon, Fingerling Potatoes, Cipollini Onions, Wild Mushrooms, Garden Spinach
The main course was beef short rib stew. It was cooked well (and for 5 hours!) – the meat was tender and falling apart. The mushrooms, the uneven skin of the fingerling potatoes and the spinach soaked up all the sauce. If I had to choose a comfort food for winter, a stew like this would be one.
Apple and Gingerbread Cake, House-made Apple sauce, Cinnamon Ice Cream
Dessert was also delicious. The cold cinnamon ice cream was a great contrast to the warm, moist and not overly sweet ginger cake. All the spice flavors went well together and it was a suitable choice for the cold weather. I just wished for more apples on the top of the cake.
To top it all, the view from the room was beautiful.
If I had to pick one among the wine tours in Napa Valley, Robert Mondavi would be on the top of the list and if I had to choose where to eat, the tour lunch option will be next after the French Laundry. The winery also offers other wine and food pairing tours, be it lighter or more courses. Just be sure to check the website for schedules and book in advance.
The Harvest of Joy Tour and Lunch
Robert Mondavi Winery
Highway 29, Oakville CA 94562
Tel : +1 888 766 6328
Website : http://www.robertmondavi.com/rmw/at_the_winery/tours/5