September 29, 2000. Napa Valley.
This week we worked on a few boat projects, continued learning spanish and met new cruising friends. We bought a new sheet for Temptress and used some line we had to replace the other one. (Sheets are the lines that control the headsail). We now have sheets long enough to go through the downwind pole and around the inner fore stay and still allow us to jibe without freeing the cockpit end. We helped some cruising friends with their boats. Diagnosing electrical problems and setting up some software. On Sunday I removed the Clark pump from my watermaker because the nice people at Spectra (the manufacturer of the watermaker right here in Sausalito) offered to upgrade it to their newest design for free. I dropped it off on Monday and on Tuesday afternoon they had it ready for me. Turns out they did quite a bit of rework. They thought that it must have been run with some dirt in it and the cylinders were scored. They replaced the cylinders and rebuilt the whole pump as well as replacing the shifting mechanism as they offered. All for nothing. This is one of the best pieces of marine hardware I have ever found and the treatment I received from Spectra makes them tops in my book. Installed the pump on Thursday and all seems to work fine. Just a bit less production but I believe that is because they essentially replaced my pump and it needs a bit of time to break in.
On Wednesday Bert, my cousin and tour guide, and his friend David took us to the Napa valley for some wine tasting. The first winery we went to offered a free tasting of some very good and interesting Italian style wines. One of them was quite unique. It had the perfume of roses and would accompany turkey and cranberry sauce perfectly. We didn’t end up buying anything there and after a day of wine tasting we forgot the name of the place. Then we dropped by a very nice local deli for some sandwiches and salad and ate it at another winery, La Famiglia (part of Mondavi). Bert bought a bottle of delightful Pinot Grigio to accompany our lunch in their picnic area. There was a nice view over rolling hills. We were struck by the fact that although we saw a lot of fields of vines along the road, many heavy with grapes, we also saw a lot of dry grassy land apparently unused. It was quite different from the landscape of Provence where most of the land is used for one crop or the other, including a lot of vines. After the picnic, we went to the Beringer winery. They offered a short very commercial tour and a tasting for $5. The wines were sad in my opinion and the tour was disappointing, seemed more of a walking commercial.
But then Bert took us to the Sterling winery. Definitely the highlight of the day. If you find yourself in Napa check this one out. Again we were asked to pay for the tour but our $6 got us a cable car ride up the side of the valley from the parking area to the winery, a very well designed self guided tour and the chance to watch the winery in action (this is picking season so there was a lot going on in every room). This is a very modern winery using thermally controlled Stainless Steel fermentation tanks and a mix of SS and oak aging tanks. The placards along the tour gave a lot of detail as to how wine is made, much more information then one gets from a tour guide as a lot of it would seem to technical to the average tourist. They also included amusing quotes generally recommending wine to wet your brain and enjoy life. At the end of the tour we were offered 4 very nice wines in the most comfortable setting of any of the wineries. I was quite impressed with the place so we decide to buy a couple of bottles. Big decision for us as we already have more wine on board then we think we will be able to finish before we get to Mexico. So I guess we will need to put our mind to it and start drinking more or we may have to pay duty on it.
Finally we visited the Chandon winery. This winery makes sparkling wines and as Birgitta and I don’t care for champagne, and we had about our fill of alcohol for the day we took a pass. Bert and David seemed to enjoy their wine though. The winery also had beautiful grounds. The late afternoon sun was starting to give the hills a soft golden glow. Then it was off to dinner. After trying a place Bert knew about and finding it booked for the evening we tried a place David saw in a guidebook. Turns out the place was having it’s 4th anniversary and was serving free food. We had a quick plate of ribs, chicken wings and BBQ oysters and were on our way. We decided to call this an appetizer and found ourself at a brew pub for our second dinner of the evening. This is how we completed a very enjoyable day of good food, good wines, and good company.
As we drove back towards Sausalito, we saw the big clouds of an approaching low pressure moving into the clear sky. We almost wished we could stay in Napa where it was significantly warmer than in the bay. Fall is in the air and it is time for us to move south along with the migratory birds.