April 20, 2017
One of the staples or what makes San Francisco Bay Area a popular place to visit besides Big Sur, Yosemite National Park, or even Lake Tahoe is Napa Valley. I had several opportunities to revisit the wine region, but they were all rushed/we were only able to explore one winery each time. When my mother came to visit the Bay Area in April, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to spend the day in Napa Valley and show her what makes NorCal unique.
I researched the most popular wineries of 2017 in Napa Valley and narrowed our day trip to two wineries: Chateau Montelena and Sterling Vineyards. Both wineries were unique in its own way. Chateau Montelena held the first place title at the “Paris Tasting,” whereas Sterling Vineyards is known for its tastings and view – you literally have to take an aerial tram to reach it.
Visiting Chateau Montelena was a very peaceful experience. The winery was not big, but it offered a unique experience for me and my mother. The way it was situated was perfect because you were able to enjoy a wine tasting, explore the Chinese garden encompassing a lake, and catch a spectacular view of Mount St. Helena. This winery was also known for its age worthy Chardonnays. In 1976, the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay [cultivated] by Mike Grgich took first place at the [infamous] “Paris Tasting” [ultimately] beating France’s best white Burgundies (California Winery Advisor, 2017).
Reservations were not required to visit Chateau Montelena. They offered walk-ins for their Current Release Tasting, which is what my mother and I participated in. Other tours were available, allowing a more intimate setting: The Estate Experience, Current Release by Appointment, Library Tasting, Winery Tour, Cellarmaster Tasting, and San Francisco Tasting Room.
Upon entering Sterling Vineyards, you park near the aerial tram. Near the aerial tram, I noticed the “before I die” sign. It was an interesting experience reading what people thought of when thinking about the end of life. What I have noticed while reading people’s thoughts were common themes: to travel, to explore somewhere new, or to live in a different country.
It surprised me that what people want to do the most has not been accomplished because those dreams are often pushed aside for “being responsible.” It made me think about the times when my friends or family would ask me where am I going to next, how do you have that much paid time off (PTO), or how can you afford traveling so much?
To me, I think people make a lot of excuses when it comes to traveling. Two common excuses I have heard are time (most often due to work) and money. If you really want to do something, I say do it and do not look back. That is how my mentality has been for most every decision I have made in life, especially when making traveling a lifestyle.
My mother is afraid of heights, but I managed to convince her to visit Sterling Vineyards/take the aerial tram up. This was a great photograph of my mother, but most of the journey up, her eyes were closed.
Once you reach up to Sterling Vineyards, you have a spectacular view of Napa Valley. From where we stood, we could see other wineries, even Castello di Amorosa. I’m not sure if the wines I tasted were better, but I enjoyed being able to relax and enjoy the view at Sterling Vineyards.
This photograph was the beginning and the end of the entrance of Sterling Vineyards. I thought the color of the leaves were beautiful, and this area was a popular spot for people to take photographs. What I loved most about Sterling Vineyards was the journey getting there, which included the aerial tram and also the spacious tasting sites, offering views of Napa Valley.
I asked my mother which vineyard was her favorite, and it was hard for her to answer. The reason she could not answer was because the vineyards were both so different, each providing a different experience.
While exploring new wineries each time I visited Napa Valley, I noticed the ones I have been to so far each offered something new to any tourist, local, or visitor. Each winery represented something special or symbolic whether it was best type of wine, best view, most beautiful architecture, etc. They all offered something different to each visitor, making every Napa Valley trip memorable, experiential, and different.
Where have I traveled in the United States?