Welcome to the narrative of this travel journal, a collection of experiences that transports you to the heart of some of the world’s most renowned wine regions. Throughout these lines, we will embark on a journey to discover rich terroirs, iconic grape varieties, and passionate artisans. Join me on a voyage through vineyards, where each encounter and tasting tells a unique story, revealing the culture, tradition, and magic emanating from wine production. Prepare yourself for a journey where wine becomes the guiding thread of an unforgettable sensory adventure, from vine rows to centuries-old cellars. Let these lines mirror the gustatory escape awaiting you on a visit with KRS Wine Tour.
My journey into the heart of the famous Napa Valley vineyard
California, USA – August 2023
California wines have a rich history dating back to the 18th century with the arrival of Spanish missionaries and the establishment of wine missions. However, the modern wine industry flourished in the 1960s when vintners like Robert Mondavi introduced innovative techniques and elevated the quality of Californian wines. Indeed, Californian wines are renowned for their diversity, ranging from powerful Napa Valley Cabernets to elegant Sonoma Coast Chardonnays.
The 1976 Judgment of Paris was a significant turning point for these wines. In a blind tasting, Californian wines surprised by surpassing renowned French wines. This established the global credibility of Californian wines. Notably, a 1973 Californian Chardonnay (Château Montelena) and a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon from the same year (Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars) won first place in their categories, highlighting the exceptional quality of Californian wines at that time.
This event contributed to changing the global perception of these wines and reinforced California’s reputation as a leading wine region. Since then, California has become one of the world’s top wine producers. It boasts two major renowned wine regions, Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, known for their opulent typicity and wine richness.
I begin my journey with a visit to Caymus Winery, where I had the opportunity to taste their wine in this beautiful shop overlooking the cellar.
This winery, located in Rutherford, is one of the most renowned vineyards in the Napa Valley region. Founded in 1972 by the Wagner family, the winery is known for its exceptionally high-quality wines, particularly its Cabernet Sauvignons. Caymus Winery stands out for its commitment to producing premium wines, emphasizing quality over quantity. Caymus’ vines are planted in some of the most fertile soils conducive to viticulture in the Napa Valley, contributing to the richness and complexity of the wines produced.
One of their most iconic wines is the Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, often acclaimed by critics and wine enthusiasts for its rich, concentrated, and opulent character.
Joseph Phelps Vineyards
Continuing my exploration of the Napa Valley, I stopped at Joseph Phelps Vineyards near St. Helena.
Also, a globally renowned winery, it was founded in 1973 by Joseph Phelps himself. The winery quickly gained a reputation for producing exceptional wines, emphasizing innovation and excellence in all aspects of viticulture and winemaking. Joseph Phelps Vineyards is also known for its commitment to environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
One of Joseph Phelps Vineyards’ most iconic achievements is Insignia wine, first introduced in 1974. It is a blend of Bordeaux varietals, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, with varying proportions of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. This wine is often considered one of the best blends from the Napa Valley, receiving numerous accolades and praises from wine critics worldwide.
I take this opportunity to greet and thank Nancy Richardson for the tasting tour of the wines displayed on the photo card below!
Continuing my journey with a visit to Opus One in Oakville.
Founded in 1979, Opus One is the result of a historic partnership between two major figures in the wine world, Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. The Opus One estate covers approximately 68 hectares of vineyards, primarily cultivating Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The vines are carefully maintained, and the grapes are hand-harvested to ensure optimal quality. Opus One’s cellar, designed by architect Scott Johnson, is a modern architectural masterpiece, blending functionality and aesthetics that visitors can appreciate during guided tours of the cellar and vineyards. The wine tastings offered showcase their expertise and winemaking philosophy.
Opus One’s flagship wine is, of course, “Opus One.” It is a Bordeaux blend that varies from year to year based on climatic conditions and the quality of grapes from each vintage. This wine is appreciated for its complexity, balance, and elegance, making it one of the great wines of the world.
Thanks again to Vicki Kaspar, with whom I was in contact on-site!
I couldn’t stay in California without making a stop in the famous city of San Francisco.
The city is known for its iconic suspension bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as its lively Fisherman’s Wharf district. Also, its iconic prison on Alcatraz Island. The city offers a unique combination of culture, diversity, and spectacular landscapes. San Francisco is also renowned for its distinctive neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, one of the largest outside of Asia, and the historic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, the birthplace of the 1960s hippie movement. The city is also a major technological center, home to many Silicon Valley companies. Its temperate climate and steep hills provide a picturesque backdrop to a dynamic and multicultural city. Indeed, with a flourishing artistic and culinary scene, globally coveted.
Moreover, a must-visit is the most famous steep street in San Francisco: Lombard Street, pictured below. Located in the Russian Hill neighborhood, Lombard Street is often called “the crookedest street in the world.” Indeed, the iconic section of the street has been designed with eight hairpin turns on a single steep slope, making it easier for vehicles to descend. The well-maintained gardens, colorful flower beds, and picturesque houses lining Lombard Street make it one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Back in Napa, with a visit to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, near Yountville.
This winery was founded in 1970 by Warren Winiarski. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars played a crucial role in the development of the Napa Valley wine industry. It is now internationally recognized for its exceptionally high-quality wines.
The estate is particularly famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, specifically the “Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars SLV Cabernet Sauvignon.” This wine gained international fame during the famous “Judgment of Paris” in 1976. It was ranked first in the category of Californian Cabernet Sauvignons during the blind tasting. In addition to the SLV Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars also produces other renowned wines, such as the “Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon” and the “Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon.” Also, Chardonnays and other Bordeaux blends.
Greetings to Stephen Cracchiolo, who received me!
Stags’ Leap Winery
We turn back almost 150 years with a visit to Stag’s Leap Winery now.
Indeed, it is one of the oldest (1893) and most respected wineries in the region. It is important not to confuse Stags’ Leap Winery with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. The latter is a distinct estate, although geographically close. Stags’ Leap Winery gets its name from the many legends and stories of the region. Notably, one of a stag that gracefully leaped from a steep cliff, leaving a footprint, or “leap,” hence the name. The estate is also renowned for its superb Victorian-style stone cellar. It was designed in 1890 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Stags’ Leap Winery’s flagship wine is its Cabernet Sauvignon. It is often described as elegant, balanced, and expressive, reflecting the unique terroir of the Napa Valley. Besides their Cabernet Sauvignon, the estate also produces other wine varieties. For example, Chardonnays, Merlots, and specialty wines in small quantities.
I take this opportunity to greet and thank Steven Greenberg for his welcome and for the tasting tour. You can find the wines I tasted on the photo card below!
My discovery of the typical Italian vineyard around Chianti
Florence and its region, Italy – December 2023
Florence and Chianti
The city of Florence, located in Tuscany, has its origins in antiquity. It was founded by the Romans in the 1st century BC. Indeed, it was established on the banks of the Arno River, in a region conducive to agriculture and trade. However, Florence truly flourished during the Renaissance period, starting from the 14th century. At that time, the city was an important commercial and financial center in Europe. Indeed, it enjoyed great prosperity thanks to its wealthy merchants and bankers. The Medici family, an influential family of merchants and patrons, played a central role in the city’s cultural and artistic development.
Near Florence lies the Chianti region. It is renowned for its hilly landscapes, picturesque medieval villages, and, of course, its renowned wines. Chianti is famous for its red wines, especially Chianti Classico, made from Sangiovese grapes grown in the region.
During the Middle Ages, the hills of Chianti were already known for grape cultivation and wine production. However, it was not until the 18th century that the name “Chianti” was officially attributed to a wine produced in the region. In 1716, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany established geographical boundaries for Chianti wine production. This recognized the region as a controlled designation of origin. Today, Chianti is one of Italy’s most famous and appreciated appellations. It is known for its elegant and versatile red wines, which express the unique terroir of the Tuscan region.
A few photos of my visit to Florence and its cultural influence:
Tenuta di Carleone Estate
I begin my exploration in the heart of the Chianti region with a stop at Tenuta di Carleone.
Originally, the property was named after the small village of “Castiglioni” (small castle), first mentioned in 1078 when the monks of “Badia al Coltibuono” founded it. Moreover, the entire property, which covers about 100 hectares, consists of wooded hills, small streams, and fertile plains. About 30 hectares of vineyards are dedicated to Sangiovese, and a few scattered olive trees, some of which are over 60 years old. The Tenuta di Carleone cellar, more recent, was born in 2012.
The winery produces a range of 7 different wines, as well as olive oil, gin, and brandy. Among its wines, you’ll find the “Il Randagio,” Sean’s new Bordeaux blend, composed of 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Franc, aged for 12 months in cement. Or the “Chianto Classico,” 100% Sangiovese, aged for 18 months in stainless steel and cement to create an elegant wine defined by the terroir, which will age wonderfully well.
A big thank you to Sean and Valentine for their welcome and for the tastings I was able to do!
I continue and end my discovery of Chianti Classico with a visit to Fattoria Poggerino.
Founded in the early 20th century, Fattoria Poggerino has been run by the Gagliasso family for several generations. Indeed, the estate is renowned for its production of high-quality wines. Particularly elegant red wines made from the Sangiovese grape, emblematic of the Chianti Classico region. Poggerino’s vineyards are located on rolling hills, benefiting from an ideal sun exposure and soil rich in minerals. This contributes to producing grapes with great complexity and flavor concentration. In addition to its wine production, Fattoria Poggerino also practices biodynamic agriculture, implementing environmentally friendly practices to preserve the health of the vineyards and the biodiversity of the region.
Poggerino’s wines, including Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, and IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) appellation wines, are often praised by critics and wine enthusiasts for their elegance, balance, and ability to reflect the unique terroir of the region.
Thanks again to Piero Lanza for his welcome!
I hope these lines have conveyed my passion for the wine world and travel, and have inspired you to come and discover the Bordeaux vineyard with me.