/ On The Road
On The Road — By Mary Jo Manzanares on November 23, 2009 at 3:50 pm
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Tasting the Bubbly at Mumm Napa Winery

It had been years since I had visited the Napa Valley, so when the opportunity came up to participate in a weekend press event there, I jumped at the opportunity.  And let me tell you, if you haven’t been to Napa recently – it’s like you haven’t been there at all!

First, however, a few logistics, most specifically, how to get to Napa.

Mumm Napa sign and vineyards

Welcome to Mumm Napa

If you’re flying in, the obvious airport choices might seem like San Francisco (map) or Oakland (map) airports, and then make the drive to Napa.  My recommendation, however, is to fly into Sacramento (map).  Sacramento is a smaller airport, and very easy to navigate.  The drive from Sacramento to Napa is primarily freeway or highway driving, and will, depending on traffic of course, take about an hour and 15 minutes.

I landed in Sacramento about 9 am,  and then picked up the rental car and hit the road.  I made a brief stop because something caught my eye, and also stopped for a leisurely breakfast.  Traffic was light, although slow moving due to high winds, and the drive was easy.  From the time the plane landed until I pulled into the hotel parking lot in Napa (and that’s after two stops), it took just under 2 1/2 hours.  Just try making that kind of time from SFO or Oakland.

After getting my bearings on downtown Napa, and where I’d need to meet up with everyone later that evening, I stopped by the Napa Valley Visitor Information Center, 1310 Napa Town Center (map).  Here I poked around at the displays, picked up a lot of material that would help me in planning some future trips, got a winery map, and set about deciding which winery I wanted to go to.  This was around noon, and something about looking for wine tasting at that hour seemed rather decadent.  After a weekend in Napa, however, I found out that ANY time is a good time to be thinking about wine.

As I browsed through racks of winery brochures, one jumped out and caught my eye – Mumm Napa.  Oh, how I love Champagne, so off I set in search of some bubbly!

From downtown Napa to the winery is about a 20 minutes leisurely drive along the Silverado Trail.  The sides of the road are full of wineries and vines, and I couldn’t help but continuously cry out, “oooh, let’s stop there” and “there” and “there.”  Of course, it’s impossible to stop everywhere, so I’d recommend mapping out a couple of place that you’re interested in, and then leave the rest of the day to discovery and serendipity.

Seating area on Oak Terrace

Seating area on Mumm Napa Oak Terrace

When you arrive at Mumm’s, you see a charming group of winery buildings and lots and lots of vines.  As attractive and interesting as those vines are, however, they are not champagne grapes.  In fact, thanks to the explanation from one of the winery hosts, I learned that not very many wineries have grapes at their specific locations.  Instead, vines are planted around the area, at locations that maximize the benefits of the soil, weather, sun, and other growing conditions.  When the grapes are grown on the same property where the winery is located the term “estate” is used.  As in Estate Reserve, or Estate Blend or something like that.,

There are a variety of tasting options: the glass-enclosed tasting salon, table service outside on the patio, and the new Oak Terrace, with 2-hour seatings from an exclusive library flight.

After traveling since the wee hours of the day, I opted to forego the winery tour, instead deciding to enjoy the fall sunshine with some champagne and nibbles on the Oak Terrace.  (NOTE:  While the winery website and other printed material indicates that reservations are required for tastings on the Oak Terrace, I walked in without a reservations and was graciously welcomed and seated).  The Terrace offers a variety of conversation areas with comfy chairs and tables, looking out at some vines.  It was a warm(-ish) fall day, and a beautiful setting.

Cheese plate at Mumm Napa

Champagne and Cheese at Mumm Napa

The reason that I opted for the Terrace over the other choices was because of the exclusive champagne choices.  Why taste something that I can buy at home when there are delicious choices, that I can only get at the winery, tempting me?  It was hard making choices, but the server was helpful, explaining the choices in depth, and he made the tasting process fun and enjoyable, rather than intimidating.

My guest and I tasted all three of the library wines that were offered, sharing with one another and adding in our comments about what we thought.  We tasted:  We also shared a cheese plate, with choices that were perfectly paired for champagne.  My favorite was the Reserve Brut, and I picked up a bottle to take home ($60).

Before leaving the winery, you can stroll through a beautiful gallery of fine art photography, and then stop off at the gift shop to pick up a few bottles of champagne or some wine-related gifts.

If you’re heading to Napa for a little wine tasting, be sure to put Mumm Napa on your list.  It’s a beautiful, relaxing setting, with some top-notch bubbly to boot!

Mumm Napa is located at 8445 Silverado Trail in Rutherford (map)  It is open daily from 10 am –5pm, and complimentary tours depart on the hour, from 10 am – 3 pm.

Tastings are available in the Tasting Salon and on the Patio 10 am – 4:45 daily.  Tasting prices range from $6-25, with a variety of individual and flight options.  Light snacks are also available.  Print out the discount coupon for additional savings on tastings and champagne purchases.

The Oak Terrace offers tastings 10 am – 4:45 daily and are priced at $30.  Individual glasses and tasting flights are available.  Reservations are recommended.

Photo credit:  From the personal collection of Mary Jo Manzanares

Related places:
  1. A
    San Francisco International Airport, California 94030
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    Oakland International Airport, Oakland, CA 94621
    View Details and Book
  3. C
    Sacramento International Airport, Sacramento, CA 95837
    View Details and Book
  4. D
    Napa Valley Conference and Visitors' Bureau
    View Details and Book
  5. E
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