Day 11 Alexander, Dry Creek & Napa

Cooler today, with morning temperature of about 11C, and I think we topped 22C midafternoon. It would be impossible to do justice to these three major wine growing regions in a week, never mind a day. On the other hand, we couldn’t find most of what we were looking for anyway, so parts of it went quickly. Our plan for today was to drive up the Alexander Valley, then back to our hotel via Dry Creek because they are side by side. We planned to visit only three or four wineries of our own choosing. Went looking for Murphy Goode, since I had enjoyed last nights dinner wine, couldn’t find him. Lara found the Murphy Ranch, no sign of any wine-tasting place. Heard later that he has a tasting room in Healdsburg, but not at the winery. Tried to run further north to Cloverdale, but Lara just took us up a dead-end hill to a Casino. There were lots of grapes growing in the Alexander Valley, but not as many wineries as we expected, and I think we only passed two or three that were open for visitors. Frustrated, we crossed over to Dry Creek. The little Dry Creek General Store we visited all those years ago now features an overflowing parking lot. On a Tuesday. Did manage a tasting and a t-shirt at the Dry Creek Vineyard. You may have deduced from the name that it was the first in the area.

Decided that since I was in a bad mood anyway, we’d go visit Napa; it never fails to appall me. Calistoga has changed a lot. No more garden center, and hard to find a parking spot. Had lunch there on a patio, it was okay. Actually got a Tillamook cheeseburger cooked medium! Helena, a beautiful little town in the middle of the valley was choked with traffic, even though it was a Tuesday. It used to only be this crazy on a weekend, and maybe it was because this is harvest season, but I fear the whole thing is out of control. The big wineries are more crowded, and if possible, more ostentatious than ever. Darted into Domaine Chandon to seize two bottles of my beloved Blanc de Noir and fled without tasting or touring. They do a very good tour there, but we took it last time, and since they make Champagne the old-fashioned way, it won’t have changed much. Stopped in at Merryvale, they no longer promote their widely available Starmont label at the winery, preferring to concentrate on their $35 to $75 line, and their expensive stuff. They do still have it in the building, though, and had apparently just had a debate this morning on whether they should have it on the shelf. So we bought some. Once again, we located Swanson’s. This tiny winery used to be just a shed the size of a four-car garage and some barrels on the driveway. Now it has a locked gate, and tastings are by appointment only. We learned on the internet that those tastings range from about $25 to $55, with the more expensive ones including caviar. Since I just wanted to buy a couple of bottles of wine, we tried some stores, but found only a single half-bottle. Yet the stuff shows up in restaurants and even cruise ships at reasonable prices. I don’t get it. Retreated to our hotel.

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