The most enjoyable part of collecting wine is drinking it. A close second, however, is buying and storing wines from vineyards you visit. More than 90% of the wine in our cellar comes from vineyard visits: relaxing afternoons that involve tasting the varietals, romping through rows of Cabernet or Chardonnay grapes and getting to know the style and personality of both the wines and winemaker.
Nothing is more satisfying than pulling a bottle of wine off a rack that brings back fond memories of a trip to Napa or Sonoma, California or even more off-the-beaten-path locations like the wineries of Virginia and Hawaii. A tug of the cork releases not only the wine's aroma but also fond recollections of trips through vineyards and tasting rooms.
If you're a newcomer to the experience, a trip to any wine country can be overwhelming. With that in mind, here's a list of don't-miss travel spots in California:
Best Winery Tours
If you're looking for an all-around wine experience, I highly recommend a trip to the Robert Mondavi winery in Napa Valley. While it's commercial, sometimes crowded and somewhat impersonal, few other wine-country tours provide such a thorough experience. You can tour the vineyard and check out the grape-crushing, fermentation and bottling processes. Although the tastings are highly structured, they're good for newcomers; they typically offer a couple of reds and a couple of whites, usually with a "specialty" wine thrown in as well.Mondavi's well-trained guides provide a good explanation of the winemaking process and the sample wines. After the tour and tasting, you can roam the wine shop, which offers a great selection of Mondavi wines as well as trinkets to make wine drinking that much more enjoyable -- and expensive. I also recommend the additional tasting in the wine shop, featuring some of Mondavi's more exclusive labels. It's worth the extra cash.