Last harvest I had the privilege of working with an incredible team at Lewis Cellars led by Winemaker Josh Widaman. I learned a tremendous amount during my short time at Lewis thanks to Josh and Assistant Winemaker, Justin Kinkade. They both have incredible backgrounds in wine and have worked at some of the most esteemed wineries in Napa. I gained so much applicable knowledge from the winemaking team that I just had to share with my readers and viewers. This interview is a must see for anyone itching to get into winemaking. In this exclusive interview Josh reveals the “secret” to winemaking at a world class level, how he conquered Napa and rose to the top, and his advice for aspiring winemakers. Enjoy!
I recently visited Napa a couple weeks ago. It was my second time and my mom's first. I had such a great time introducing her to the "Wine Disneyland" I fell in love with. We spent three days between Napa and San Francisco. On Day 1 we visited Domaine Carneros, Opus One, Cakebread, Robert Mondavi, and Silver Oak. For lunch we stopped at The Pear, skipped dinner, and had dessert at Bouchon Bakery. The Pear was okay but not my favorite place. Bouchon was amazing! The macaroons are heavenly. I died a little bit when I bit into the pistachio mac. Bouchon Bakery is a must stop. It is the famed Chef Thomas Keller's bakery and if you don't know already he's kinda like a BIG DEAL (Google The French Laundry!).
On Day 2 we had breakfast at Oxbow Public Market. We had breakfast tacos at C CASA and coffee from Ritual. Uhhhmazing! Literally don't think I could get tired of this combo. Everything in the Oxbow Market is of the highest quality and supports sustainable agriculture. C CASA serves fresh, gluten free Latin cuisine using only local, seasonal ingredients. Ritual coffee serves the most velvety soft coffee I've ever had. This stuff is not bitter at all. Their menu is very simplistic and focuses on the quality of the coffee, no artificial sweeteners needed here! It kicks Starbucks ass easily. Oh and the barista's are so friendly and sweet and do a damn good job. Getting back to the wine here...we started our day off at Joseph Phelps and we had an amazing tasting. Our wine educator was so sweet and knowledgeable. It was such a pleasurable experience; everything from the scenery to the wines were beautiful. We took home a bottle of their 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. The remainder of our lineup consisted of Rombauer, Failla, Chateau Montelena, and Sterling. I really enjoyed visiting Chateau Montelena. Their history is so rich and they really are iconic and a status symbol for what California wines can be. Our wine educator Kevin was very engaging and the property was gorgeous. We had to take a bottle of their Chardonnay home for keep sakes. For dinner we met up with my old college roomie and her grandma at ZuZu. We all ordered different tapas and shared so we could all try different items on their menu. Everything was great! My favorites were the spaghetti squash and the chicken croquetas.This place is always busy so I recommend going in earlier in the evening to avoid the wait.
On Day 3 we checked out some of the shops in the oxbow district and by shops I mean bakeries...My mom is super into baking so we had to try something from each place. She bought some treats at Model Bakery and I got this cookie because it was just so cute!
Here are my Favs from this trip:
Favorite Dining Experience: Oxbow Market
Best Winery for Wines: Joseph Phelps
Most Beautiful Grounds: Chateau Montelena and Domaine Carneros
Best Sweet Spot: Bouchon Bakery
I know this post is long overdue but here it is anyways. Last month I had the pleasure of taking a three day trip to Napa Valley & Sonoma. It was my first time visiting. I was so excited I could hardly sleep the night before. I felt like a kid going to Disneyland for the first time. I went with my friend Emilie, also a Cal Poly Wine & Viticulture graduate who works as an Enologist (wine scientist) for Opolo Vineyards in Paso Robles.
On Monday we made it the following wineries in order:
On Tuesday we visited...
On Wednesday we drove to Sonoma and tasted at...
My favorite winery for the ambiance and customer service was Darioush.
This winery was founded by a Persian couple. The architecture is absolutely gorgeous. It looks like a Persian palace. The tasting area is very elaborate and has a vegas like grandness to it. However, I had a very intimate and welcoming tasting experience there. Our server was very warm, informational, and kind. We even received a private tour of the winery and underground cellar. Everyone there was so hospitable; it was the perfect start to our trip. I would HIGHLY recommend visiting Darioush. Beautiful winery and great hospitality!
My religious wine moment at Opus One...
Emilie and I were so excited to visit Opus. Our good friend from Cal Poly works there so it was a real treat to visit and taste with her. Once we arrived at Opus we were greeted by Morgan and given a glass of their 2011 vintage. This vintage is a blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec. Morgan gave us a tour of the winery and barrel room. It was amazing! The cellar was spotless. The floor was so clean you could easily slip on it. Oh and the barrel room...it was a sea of beautifully stained barrels. We ended the tour at the terrace and oh my gosh...that is where I had my moment! Just seeing how successful one of my fellow classmates was doing was so meaningful and satisfying. I felt a rush of emotions take over. It was such an exciting moment for me to have finally made it to Napa after all the years of wine education and deep desire to see it. In that moment I felt so much joy, love, and thankfulness. The best way to describe how I felt on that Opus One terrace is BLESSED.
I was very impressed with Caymus. This was the first winery on the trip that I actually liked more than one or two wines at. Going into the tasting I already had my heart set on taking home a bottle of Clark & Telephone Belle Glos Pinot Noir with me but wow the Alturas Pinot Noir was delicious as well. I really enjoyed all of their wines from the Chardonnay to the Pinot and their flagship Cabernets. This winery does an excellent job making very clean, classic, elegant wines that showcases each varietal in an attractive way.
Alpha Omega was the perfect winery to end our day with. We sat on the patio in front of their gorgeous fountain. We had a very relaxing tasting. The wines were great! My favorite was the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (I think it's the 2013 vintage). This wine was like no other Sauv Blanc I have ever tried. First, it's barrel fermented, which is very unlikely for a Sauv Blanc since most are always fermented in stainless steel. The oak imparted an incredible creaminess and mouthfeel without overpowering the fresh aromatics of the fruit. The wine smelled heavenly with beautiful tropical fruit on the nose. On the palate it was perfectly balanced with creaminess and acid and kept true to the citrus, minerality characteristics of a Sauv Blanc. This wine was orgasmic no joke.
Most interesting and fun tasting experience goes to Raymond Vineyards
I had a blast at Raymond! The winery has so many rooms for you to play in, we easily spent two hours here. We were able to take a peek in the Red Velvet Room (club member only room) and check out the JCB lounge. Each room had a different personality and showcased something special about the wines, soil, and the owner Jean Charles. We even received a tour of the cellar which is elaborately decorated with Vegas Showgirl mannequins. Not kidding. I loved the sensory station they had in one of the hallways and the gorgeous interior design. It was an experience like no other! Raymond is a must stop for anyone going to Napa.
Thanks for visiting my site. Let me know what your favorite Napa wineries to visit are in the comment section below.