I’ve spent years wanting to visit some of the world’s most famous wine regions and now I live in one. I searched ‘wine country’ on Google while writing this and the first place that came up was California. I’ll be honest, when I dreamed of traveling through wine regions, I imagined vineyards in South Africa, Italy, France, Spain… but California -not even its own country- holds her own among these wine-producing titans.
It’s only in the last 5 or so years that I’ve learned to appreciate wine and develop a taste and preference for certain grapes. I love reds but have not tried nearly enough because I’m often hesitant to deviate from my favorites: Malbec, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.I could just as easily have bought a number of California-made bottles from a store and sat down with my friend -Mofi- to ‘taste’ them but decided instead to visit the source: Napa Valley. Mofi would be visiting from Canada. We’d rent a car to drive up to the region, spending the night in a small, beautifully decorated boutique hotel before our wine tour the next morning. It would be my first time visiting a vineyard.
Kuleto Estate Winery is difficult to find; its located high enough in Napa’s mountains (in an area called St. Helena) that there’s little to no cell reception. About 20 minutes into our drive, we lost GPS and relied on mile markers placed on the road to determine if we were on the right track. I was starting to get frustrated that we’d be late and have our tour canceled when we found the numbers 2470 carved in stone in front of a large double-door gate. Veering from the main road, we continued on a narrow, uphill drive leading to the estate.
A rustic-looking mansion with impressive stone-covered exterior walls sat at the top of the driveway. Flowering plants crept around the walls in contrast to its hard rock texture. The estate, stunning in both size and scenery, was built to be reminiscent of the vineyards the owner visited on his travels in Italy; more specifically, Tuscany. So the entire morning, I imagined myself in central Italy – a long-time dream destination of mine.We were poured five glasses of varying wines – mostly reds with one or two whites – to taste. Each tasting pour is quite small, maybe 2 ounces, so I found myself nursing the glass for longer than usual to savor the wine. I guess that’s the point.My favorite pour was a red called Sangiovese, a grape I had never heard of, commonly grown in Italy. I learned that wines are not only named for the grapes that produce them but also for the region they’re created in. Bordeaux, for example, is named after the region in France.Since no one else was on the tour, Mofi and I had the grounds to ourselves and our guide -who was tacit, and I think happy to leave us to our devices- allowed us plenty of time to walk around. Despite the cold, we sat outside to drink most of our pours, only coming in with empty glasses to taste a new wine.
Good to Know
How we got there: Napa Valley is approximately an hour’s drive outside of Oakland, CA.
Where we stayed: Indigo Hotel, Napa
Kuleto-Specific Information: Kuleto charges $45 for a 1hr wine tasting tour.
Download the route to Kuleto Estate on your phone or print it out. It’ll make it easier to find.
You can find more information on their website: https://www.kuletoestate.com/
thank you for reading
all photos shot on iPhone XR by me & + Mofi.
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