Celebrate Cabernet Day in Two Easy Steps


Happy Cabernet Day! Here’s how you can join the celebration in two easy steps:

  1. Open a bottle of Cabernet.
  2. Pour and enjoy.

That’s it! Notice I didn’t even say you had to pour it into a wineglass. While a glass is recommended, if you choose to pour the wine directly into your mouth, I certainly won’t tell.

Today, I urge you to toast Cabernet Day with a glass of Napa Valley wine. Napa’s bold, fruit-forward Cabs are always an excellent choice, I think. And when you drink Napa Cab today, you’ll be supporting the Napa wine industry and those who suffered losses after Sunday’s early-morning earthquake.

Sure, drinking Napa Cab on Cabernet Day is largely a symbolic gesture, but you can also help out by texting “Red Cross” to 90999 to automatically donate $10. Or come on out to Napa this weekend and spend your money here at our wineries and restaurants.

A few fun facts to mull over while you’re savoring your Cabernet:

  • Researchers at UC Davis discovered that Cabernet Sauvignon is a 17th-century cross between Cabernet Franc (a red grape) and Sauvignon Blanc (a white grape).
  • More than 65,000 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon were harvested in Napa County in 2013 (65,757 tons, to be exact).
  • The average price per ton for Napa Valley Cabernet grapes was $5,499 in 2013, up from $5,101 in 2012. And that high price per ton (more than twice what’s paid for Cab from Sonoma County) leads to higher prices in the bottle, too.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon makes up more than a third of Napa County’s total grape harvest and accounts for almost 60 percent of total grape revenue in the county.
  • Cabernet pairs well with rich, savory flavors. That’s why a juicy grilled steak and an assertive Cab is a classic pairing.

As you can see from the photo, I’m spoiled for choice. I’ve got options from Miner Family, Alpha Omega, Duckhorn, Groth, Silver Oak, Hill Family Estates, and Regusci. Which delicious Cab should I open tonight? And what is an acceptable time to start drinking on Cabernet Day? Cast your vote in the comments!




Napa Earthquake: The Aftermath


At 3:20 Sunday morning, I was rudely awakened by a violent shaking. It took me a few moments to realize what was happening. Then I understood: EARTHQUAKE!

I jumped out of bed and planned to head outdoors to safety, but the shaking stopped before I made it. Instead, I stayed inside and surveyed the damage. Of course, the power was out–thank goodness for the iPhone’s built-in flashlight. I could tell it had been a big temblor, but luckily, almost nothing was broken. My bookshelves hadn’t tipped over. My pictures hadn’t fallen off the walls. The only casualties at my place were a small bud vase and a bottle of ginger syrup that my husband uses to make Moscow Mules.

After mopping up the sticky syrup and throwing away the shattered vase, I headed next door to my parents’ house to see how they’d fared. The smell of alcohol wafted up from the wine cellar, but only a few bottles had crashed to the floor. (As you can see from the photo above, the racks are all intact.)

Other losses were similarly minor. A vase. An antique beer stein. An earthenware pitcher. A decorative platter. My parents’ generator had kicked on, so they had power.

One of the few losses from Sunday's quake.

One of our few losses after Sunday’s quake.

As news trickled in from friends and family in Napa, we realized just how fortunate we were. Our biggest inconvenience was lack of water–we’re on well water, not the city lines, but the pump won’t work without electricity, and the generator doesn’t power the pump. But less than 12 hours after the quake, we had power and water once more.

Two things worked in our favor to prevent severe damage:

  • Our soil is made up of rocks and clay. The Cabernet vines love it, and it provided greater stability during the quake.
  • Our homes are newer construction–they were built just five years ago.

People on the other side of town, where the soil is sandy loam, experienced much more damage. And downtown was hit hard. Some historic wineries, such as Trefethen, are in bad shape.

But rest assured, if you have a trip planned, there’s no need to cancel. A few wineries, including Paraduxx, Signorello, and Miner Family, were closed on Sunday, and a number of restaurants were closed, too. A few days later, though, it’s business as usual almost everywhere. The sun is shining, the weather is warm, and the 2014 harvest is under way. Yes, some of the 2013 vintage was lost in the earthquake, but there’s still plenty of wine to go around.

Napa is ready to welcome visitors with all its usual hospitality. Come on out and raise a glass to the power of Mother Nature–and the resiliency of the Napa Valley.




Napa Valley Experience: Wine Tasting at Mumm


For me, the perfect day of wine tasting always involves a stop for sparkling wine. It just feels celebratory. And if you can’t stomach the thought of a big, bold Napa Valley Cabernet at 10 in the morning, sparkling wine is a great way to kick off the day.

While Domaine Chandon, Domaine Carneros, and Schramsberg have their charms, I keep coming back to Mumm. And not just because I’m a member of Club Vivant, which entitles me to a free tasting with three guests once a month. (Although that is a fantastic perk. As much as I love Schramsberg, I can’t indulge in the $50 tour and tasting fee on a regular basis.)

Recently, two friends from San Francisco came to Napa for an impromptu day of wine tasting, and after breakfast sandwiches from Model Bakery, we headed to Mumm. We arrived at about 11:00 on a Sunday morning, when most visitors were still lingering over brunch or nursing hangovers from the previous day’s exploits. The sun was just beginning to peek through the fog, and there were plenty of open tables out on the patio. On hot summer afternoons, this is rarely the case.

Reservations aren’t necessary for groups of fewer than six, but be warned–if you show up on a Saturday and want to commandeer one of the prime outdoor tables, you’ll likely have to wait. If that’s the case, I’m perfectly happy to sit next to one of the big picture windows in the Club Vivant reserved area indoors. And even if you’re not a club member, it’s usually easier to get a table indoors than out when the weather is warm. And indoors is quite civilized–beads of moisture are acceptable on your wine flute, but perhaps not so pleasant on your forehead.

Experience Essentials

Winery: Mumm, 8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford

Tasting Room Hours: 10:00 AM to 4:45 PM (open until 6:00 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in the summer)

Tasting Fee: $18 to $25 for a flight, $8 to $16 for a single glass

Tastes Offered: 3 per flight

Appointment Required? Not for groups of six or fewer, but always a good idea on weekends

Once you’re seated, you’ll have multiple tasting options. You can select a single glass of sparkling or still wine (although Mumm is best known for sparkling, still wines are on the menu, too). Or, you can choose to sample a flight of wines. I generally go with a flight, because I like to taste several sparkling wines side by side and pick a favorite.

Tasting options at Mumm

Tasting options at Mumm

This time around, I chose the Summer Essentials ($22 for three tastes, but free for Club Vivant members). The Mumm Napa Classics is always a popular choice, as well. And when I’m ready to splurge, it’s DVX all the way!

Our server gave us an educational overview of how sparkling wine is made, as well as a few tasting notes on each of the wines we were sampling. Those who want to learn more about how Mumm makes its wine can take the winery tour that’s offered four times a day. It’s $25, which covers the tour and your tasting fee. You also get a souvenir flute.

I started with a small sip of each wine, starting with the Brut Reserve, moving on to the Brut Reserve Rosé, and finishing with the 2009 Blanc de Blancs. Lush berry flavors made the Brut Reserve Rosé my absolute favorite (and it’s just so pretty in the glass!), but the citrusy yet creamy taste of the 2009 Blanc de Blancs was delicious, as well, and toasty, yeasty flavors of the Brut Reserve are quintessentially Mumm.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it impossible not to feel a bit more posh with a glass of bubbles in hand. I think that’s what I like so much about visiting Mumm–it adds a touch of elegance to any day. Although I tried to sip slowly and savor the relaxed atmosphere, my flutes were empty all too soon.

While several of Mumm’s offerings can be purchased at wine shops, or even at your local supermarket, other bottlings are “winery exclusives,” meaning you can only purchase them directly from Mumm. Since my favorite, the Brut Reserve Rosé, is only available at Mumm, I bought a bottle to take home and enjoy on a special occasion. Or, you know, a random Wednesday.

For me, Mumm is a quick 15-minute jaunt up the Silverado Trail, so I can replenish my supply anytime. Those of you who live a bit further afield can always shop online and have the wine shipped to you. But there’s no substitute for raising a glass of sparkling wine while surrounding by rolling green vineyards and ancient oaks. And that’s why I put Mumm on my must-visit list.