Monday, October 18, 2010

revisiting kuleto

Continuing on with the wine country trip that was about two months ago...

Tuesday, our second and last full day in Napa, began the same as Monday with a stop at Bouchon Bakery for breakfast.  Steve and I both ordered the same sandwiches as we had the day before, since the big breakfast and no lunch plan had worked so well.  I also got another pain au chocolat "for the road."  No pictures this time, though.

The main event of the day was another tour and tasting, this time at Kuleto Estate.  We visited last year and enjoyed it so much that we joined the wine club.  Usually, we would roll our eyes at the idea, because who really needs to be in a wine club?  But it's been fun to get a couple bottles shipped to us every few months.  We get to try different varieties, and they're all really good.  They're also not available in stores or even that many restaurants.  Plus, wine club members don't have to pay $35 per person for the tour and tasting.

So we went back for another tour and another taste of the wines.  Kuleto Estate is easily the prettiest winery I've visited.  This picture is from last year's trip:

kuleto estate
This time, the 10:30am tour was full, so we took the 11:45am one.  Last year, there was only one other couple with us, and they were probably in their late 20s or early 30s.  This year, our tour had about a dozen people, and we were easily the youngest ones, aside from the tour guide.

Once everyone arrived, we took our glasses of Rosé and headed out.  There were a few things we had already learned on our previous tour, but there was also some new information.  For example, we learned that the stark tree trunks in the area outside the tasting room (pictured below) were from around Pat Kuleto's prior home, which burned down.
sitting area
Taking the same route as last year, we then walked through the herb garden—with a quick stop to try the table grapes growing on a trellis—and down to the lower level.  Below that was an area well-suited for the parties that Pat Kuleto loves so much.  Pizza ovens (also pictured above) abound, and there are more around the estate.  We didn't go down into this area last year, so it was nice to be able to this time.  It's referred to as the Amalfi Coast, although I don't know if the little painting on the pizza oven inspired the name or whether it was the other way around.

amalfi coast & amalfi painting
The bottom of the Amalfi Coast area has a little picnic table and a wonderful view.  I hadn't noticed it last time, probably because we didn't go far enough down the hill.  Later, we learned that our tour guide had killed rattlesnakes on more than one occasion in the Amalfi Coast area.  We were happy not to see any.

prime picnic spot
At this point in the tour, our guide cracked open a bottle for our next taste: Muscato.  (My favorite.)  It's a slightly sweet white wine, and we had planned to buy a few bottles of it to take home with us.

Continuing on, we made a quick stop at the large fountain and another at the little animal barn.  Last year, I took a picture of a lamb.  This year, it was bunnies.  All of the animals are used as food, except for one turkey who earned a pardon.

Unfortunately, this year there was no sampling of the muscat grapes growing on the other side of the barn.  The cold summer had pushed harvest time out by several weeks, so they weren't edible yet.  We did, however, run into the winery dog, Pilot, again.

lake hennessey
We made our way up to the back of Pat Kuleto's house and took in the view for a while.  The lake in the picture above was one we drove around on the way over and up to the winery.
Meanwhile, Pilot took a dip in the infinity pool next to the guest house.  We heard some splashing, and then saw that he was dripping.

The dappled light made it difficult to take pictures of Pat Kuleto's house, so I didn't really get any good ones of it this year.  We continued around and came to the "front yard" with its view.

front yard
Then, we walked through some more garden areas and by the little "herb barn" with hanging lavender and garlic.  I took some pictures, but they didn't make the cut for posting.

When we had circled back to the tasting room, we settled at the big table outside for the main part of our tasting.

bottles & columns
There were a couple kinds of cheese and some crackers out, and we started with the Chardonnay to drink.  They were out of it at last year's tasting, but we had gotten some in our most recent club shipment and opened it about a week before.  Unlike many chardonnays, theirs isn't the typical overly buttery stuff.  Reds came next, with the Sangiovese and a Cabernet Sauvignon or two.

During the tasting, we were sitting closest to the tour guide.  He told us all about his sommelier studies, which was really interesting.  He had taken some courses and was only maybe two levels in, but it sounded like the testing for certification got exponentially more difficult for each of the four levels.  The idea of making spreadsheets with tasting notes for every wine you drink or studying flashcards of them every night was a new one for me.

In the end, he gave us one more bonus taste, breaking out one of his favorite wines: the Cabernet Franc.  Since Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, it was somewhat similar to the Cabernet Sauvignon we had had.  However, it was more intense and more full-bodied.  Usually I prefer the lighter reds, but then again, I have yet to try a Kuleto Wine that I haven't liked.  We ended up ordering two bottles of the Cabernet Franc and six of the Muscato, opting to have them shipped to us, rather than carrying all that back with us in the car.

By the time were done with the tasting, we had consumed a fair amount of wine.  (I always feel bad about throwing out the last of a taste when the wine is that good.)  Steve was fine, since he had paced himself, but I was feeling like I had had enough alcohol for the day.  We walked around a little more so I could take some pictures of things we saw at the beginning of the tour, and then we drove back down the hill/mountain and back to Yountville.

It seemed a shame to go back to the hotel so early, especially when there were still wineries on my list that we had skipped last year too.  But more wine just wasn't appealing to me at that point.  We had also learned the day before that going to a regular winery (Rombauer) after a really good one (Robert Sinskey) was just disappointing.

So to the hotel we went.  I transferred pictures and ate my pain au chocolat snack, and then we dragged ourselves out into the heat again.  We hadn't yet made it over to the garden across from the French Laundry on this trip, so we took a walk down the street.

Steve wanted iced coffee on the way, and since there was a line at Bouchon Bakery, we decided to try out the Yountville Coffee Caboose.  It's situated at the end of a couple train cars, near the V Marketplace and across the street from Bouchon Bakery.

at the coffee caboose
Steve got his iced coffee, and I suddenly decided that a vanilla bean Italian soda sounded perfect.  It was in the 80s outside, and the sun was pretty fierce, so I was glad to have something cold to drink while we walked around.
The light at the French Laundry garden wasn't as nice as it was when we were there last time—at sunset—so I wasn't quite as inspired to take pictures this time.  Still, I managed to get some shots I was happy with as we looked around.  There were lots of tomatoes and cherry tomatoes at various levels of ripeness, as well as all the other usual crops.

cherry tomatoes
We saw strawberries, squashes and their blossoms, peppers, cucumbers, and various greens and herbs.  The garden seems bigger each year, though, with more and more rows of everything.

greenhouse effect
The greenhouse was there last year, but there may be more flowers and things planted around it now.  Inside, there were plenty of tomatoes, just as before, but there were also some kale plants getting started (below left).

the promise of plants & asparagus berries
We saw more Christmasy asparagus berries like we saw last year (above right), but the mid-day light was harder to deal with.
When we were done looking at the plants, we walked back to the hotel to get ready for our last dinner of the trip, at Redd.  And that will be the next post.

1 comment:

  1. Napa Valley, one of my favorite places! Enjoyed your beautiful photos.