My friend Mark said I should compile a list of "Best Of" wines and wineries from our tour. Unfortunately,
(1) I didn't take notes and can't remember, and (2) they were all so good, it would be impossible to judge kind of like "who's the prettiest model in the Victoria Secret catalog?"
Nevertheless, there were some standouts:
Best overall winery: Merryvale. Best wines, best servers, great atmosphere
Best wine server: Ravenswood. She was the friendliest, fun-est, and most generous server we had.
Best scenery: In Sonoma, Benziger (farm-like) and Chateau St. Jean (regal). In Napa, Beringer winery felt European.
Best buzz: Franciscan. Wines delicious, and Cherie had to sit down on a park bench for an hour to regain her sea legs.
Best party: Rutherford Hill. Had a rockin' time with both the servers and the patrons.
So much for the best of's.
The biggest surprise: Smelling the wines. If the quintessential advice in life is "stop and smell the roses," the best advice I picked up from this trip was to stop and smell the bouquetthe wine bouquet that is. A fine wine can be every bit as much an olfactory ecstacy as an eipicurian one. If you've got a good glass in your hand, stop, swirl, and smell.