Napa Valley Trolley

Trolley in the vinesNapa Valley Trolley Supreme is in the house!

Our Trolley Supreme has arrived and is now doing a wine tour as I write this blog. Reminiscent of earlier times, this Napa Valley Trolley is far from just yesterday. This beautiful vehicle along with its clanging bell and rear observation lookout offers state of the art comfort and amenities deserving of any wine tour.

Couple in love with TrolleyLimousine seating sets the social barometric pressure, the audio video station delivers the atmosphere and the central air sets the temp to make any day in Napa Valley perfect in every way. We call this baby the Napa Valley Wine Trolley Supreme. With the beautiful wood work, the leather setting, the stereo system, the central air, the suspension and the enclosed environment makes this trolley, the ultimate Trolley. It is truly the Trolley Supreme.

Inside the Trolley SupremeFor the time being, we have tested the Napa Valley Trolley Supreme on our “Daily Wine Tour” from Napa Valley. The response has been wonderful crazy, not only from our guests but from the staff at the wineries as well. In the short time she has been with us, she is already booked for 20 days and for two weddings in Napa. We will continue to use it for the daily group wine tour if the groups are big enough.
The Trolley has become Napa Valley Trolley Supreme Toura historical vehicle and was made famous by San Francisco as its transportation of choice. Of course one of the most famous would be the cable car which the cable operator would activate a clamp onto a cable running beneath the car and the cable would pull them along. When they wanted to stop, they simply would release the clamp and voilà, the trolley would slow down and stop.

The Trolley Supreme has no restrictions on where it goes. Hire it for your next wine tour or wedding. It will seat up tp 22 passengers and will make your day enjoyable, comfortable and fun. Clang Clang Clang goes the bell.

Napa Valley Wine Trolley Supreme

Benziger Family Winery

Benziger Family Winery of Sonoma“At Benziger, we’re about three things: family, great wine and healthy vineyards. For more than thirty years we’ve searched Sonoma County for the most distinctive and expressive vineyards. Once found, we tended these sites using certified Biodynamic, organic and sustainable farming methods. The result is a portfolio of authentic and memorable wines.”  Chris Benziger.

In the beginning, the Benzigers farmed their land just like everyone else.  They used pesticides to keep the bugs and critters in check.  The wines were OK, but nothing to write home about.  Then they noticed something…the vineyards, except for the grape vines, were “dead”.  No birds, no bees, the land was dry and did not look rich as it once did.  It was time for a big change.

In the mid-90’s, Mike Benziger began a transition to new, “beyond organic,” Biodynamic farming practices.  All chemical pesticides and anything else artificial were eliminated. Bug-attracting flowers were planted, bird and owl habitats were built, chickens and cows and sheep were brought to the property.Sheep at the winery  The balance of nature was restored, and a miracle happened…”Once the estate found its balance, the wines did too. As we tasted the wines grown from such a healthy and vibrant place, we realized that the distinctiveness and authenticity we were lacking before was right in the glass.”Benziger Family Winery

Today, Benziger Family Winery is truly a “destination” winery in Sonoma Valley.  You can  jump aboard a open air, tractor-pulled tram and take a tour of the vineyards and caves.  Taste the award winning wines and stroll the beautiful gardens. Benziger 3You are almost certain to meet a  Benziger on your visit because there are 24 members of the family who work there. They will regale you with information on and stories of their now 29 different lots.  Many of their wines are available a local markets, while others can only be purchased at the winery.

If you visit Benziger Family Winery, leave time to cross the road and stop at their sister winery, Imagery. They were named 2013 Sonoma Winery of the Year.  Known for growing “lesser known” varietals, you will find wines like Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Viognier, and White Burgundy.  And, each and every label was created by an internationally famous artist.  2009 Dragon Syrah Front proof

Napa Valley Wine Country Tours would love to take you to visit Benziger Family Winery and Imagery Estate Winery in the Sonoma Valley. You can experience a tractor pulled tram ride, and end up in an art gallery with a collection of one of a kind winelabels.www.benziger.com, www.imagerywinery.com

 

Hotel Yountville

Hotel YountvilleIf you were to look up “Luxury” in your dictionary, you might very well expect to see photos of Hotel Yountville. This place simply defines the word. Recognized by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine as one of the “hot 100 new hotels and restaurants in the world,” Hotel Yountville is absolutely where you want to be for a sensual, intimate experience in Wine Country.  It is located in the little town of Yountville, home to more Michelin Star rated restaurants than any other town of its size in the country, and is perfectly placed as your home base for all the wonders you will find in the Napa Valley.Hotel Yountville in Yountville CA

Just one hour, and a world away from the bustle of San Francisco, this intimate, European-village style boutique resort features cascading fountains amidst beautifully manicured gardens,  a cypress lined pool, outdoor fire pits, and private patios.  The rooms are beyond glorious, with deep soaking tubs, fieldstone fireplaces, French doors, vaulted ceilings and Bellora Italian linens.

Hotel Yountville in Napa ValleyThe 4000 square foot Spa AcQua is a great spot to experience a massage in the morning, and Hopper Creek Kitchen is the new “it” place to enjoy breakfast. The lobby bar is the perfect spot to wind down after a busy day exploring and tasting your favorite wines.  The resort even offers complimentary bicycles to those guests who just want to explore the miles of beautiful vineyards on their own.Beautiful Hotel Yountville

Napa Valley Wine Country Tours is proud to recommend Hotel Yountville.  And, if you choose to stay there, please give us the opportunity to show you around this beautiful valley we call home.  We will help you make wine country memories to last a lifetime.  The Beautiful Hotel Yountville

NVWCT is going Green

Going Green Hybrid Mercedes S400

Napa Valley Wine Country Tours is in the process of updating our fleet with new environmentally conscious choices. With the opportunity for tech savvy “green” transportation in limousine style vehicles, we’ve started honing our Napa fleet. We are going green. We have made additions of new hybrids like Mercedes Sedans – S400, S550 and several vehicles using blu tec technology to control the particulate matter in the emissions. The Lincoln MKS is very comfortable and will also be joining our list of vehicles. Mercedes Sprinters are a great alternative to our stretch limousines. For groups up to 12 passengers the Sprinter limos are an awesome choice. They brag a walk-in style cabin, comfortable lounge seating, bluetooth stereo and touchscreen technologies. Our new Ford F550 limo bus for 24 happy wine lovers is state of the art in every way. These vehicles are smarter, cleaner and very beautiful. We are going green.

Green Ride Global has certified Napa Valley Wine Country Tours standing as being a progressive “going green” company interested in the steady improvement of our environmental carbon footprint. Through reporting and tracking of our operation practices we will constantly be looking for new ways to decrease our environmental impact. Napa Valley Wine Country Tours will lead Napa wine country transportation companies in environmental responsibility. We, with Green Ride Global, will cut our GHG emissions from all areas of the company’s business operations.

We have implemented an Environmental Management System that is ISO 14001 compliant. We qualify for inclusion in the US EPA Climate Leaders program. Our goal is to take part in the necessary environmental mission to make a real reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. We will watch our fuel consumption and electricity use. We will check how we buy supplies and their recyclable value. We will look in every corner of our business for ways to improve.

If all of us would try just a bit more, we could make a better world. Join us in going green!

 

Green Valley Sonoma County, Part Deux

Hartford 2Our CANVAS Research Day in Green Valley Sonoma County, Part Deux, took us from Martinelli to Hartford Family Winery in the Russian River town of Forestville, just 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean and its cool breezes.  Founded in 1994, they remain a family owned, artisan winery, with 2 different labels.  Hartford Court bottlings are small lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and Hartford labeled wines are old-vine Zinfandels.  Hartford 4These zinfandels are 80-100 years old…some of the oldest in California.

Artisan winemaking techniques are used in the production of these fine wines.  All the grapes are picked at night and every cluster is inspected by hand.  The harvest is minimally handled and most wines are not filtered or fined, to retain flavor & color.  Only French Oak barrels are used for aging.

russian river 1Our third stop was Russian River Vineyards.   With only 6 acres of prime land, and vineyards established in 1963, they produce fine Pinot Noirs, Zinfandels, and Gewurtztraminers.  This historic property farms organically, sustainably, and is certifed “green”, with a bat colony that, from April through October evacuates the winery roof each evening, tearing through the night sky to devour virtually every insect in its path.russian river 2

Corks @ Russian River Vineyards is the only winery-based restaurant in the Russian River Valley (& one of only 5 in the entire state), offering an unparalleled wine country dining experience in an historic 1890s farmhouse.  We enjoyed a delicious 3 course lunch paired with their fine wines.  The menu changes seasonally, and features only locally sourced meats, fish, and produce.

Halleck 2Our last stop on this magnificent day was Halleck Vineyard.  Only one acre of grapes is planted at their home, which is also the tasting room.  Ross Halleck met us at the bus, and escorted us to his outdoor fire pit which overlooks the vineyard.  There he served us a lovely sauvignon blanc and some cheese, and told us his story.Halleck 1

Ross and Jennifer have a passion for Pinot, which was evidenced when Halleck Vineyard earned the recognition as the #1 Pinot Noir in the United States in 2002 with its first 2001 vintage, competing in the Pinot Noir Summit.    Dan Berger said of their 2009 Pinot, “I would challenge any reviewer who rates wines on a 100-Point Scale
to take a single point away from this wine.”

Limobus 38We finished our visit on the back deck of the Halleck home, enjoying more wines and cheeses and the view all the way to Mount St. Helena, before re-boarding our gorgeous limobus to head back home.

These CANVAS Research Days are awesome.  We always meet so many new friends and learn so much that we can share with our clients.  Napa Valley Wine Country Tours is proud to have provided the transportation for the day, and we hope you will give us a call as well when you come to visit our beautiful Northern California Wine Country.

www.hartfordwines.com, www.russianrivervineyards.com, www.halleckvineyard.com

Green Valley Sonoma County

Green Valley SonomaGreen Valley Sonoma County, CA, became a federally recognized AVA in 1983.  It is the coolest part of the Russian River Valley, and is defined by the fog. There are over 100 growers in the appellation, farming a total of 19,000 acres. The area is renowned for producing exceptional cool climate wines.

This was our destination last week when I, along with 20 other very excited industry professionals, boarded a limobus for a day of exploration and fun.  The event was sponsored and planned by our dear friends at CANVAS (Concierge Alliance of Napa Valley and Sonoma), and oh, what a job they did!Martinelli 1

Our first stop was Martinelli Winery & Vineyards, at the “gateway to the Russian River”, where, for the last 130 years, the Martinelli family has farmed the same vineyards. In fact, until the 1950’s, the land was turned over by the use of a horse and plow. Regina Martinelli, the current top dog, is hilariously funny and down to earth.  She is the great granddaughter of founder, Giuseppi, and gave us the grand tour.  The Big Red Barn is old and funky ( & I mean that in the most positive way), and even smells historicMartinelli 3.

We took a stroll out into the vineyards and were given a lesson in grape growing by Regina’s brother, George.  We finished our visit with a wonderful selection of local, artisan cheeses paired with Martinelli wines.  There was Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, along with several other “cool climate wines.”  It was no mystery to us why Robert Parker gave their 2011 Zinfandel 94 points…it was the very first “cool weather” Zin ever made.Martinelli 2

This family, for 5 generations, has farmed their land kindly, gently, and sustainably.  And that has made all the difference.

Napa Valley Wine Country Tours’ chauffeurs are extremely knowledgeable about Green Valley & its wineries.  Call us for a limo ride to that part of paradise.  707-226-3333.

To be continued.

www.martinelliwinery.com, www.conciergealliance.com

 

Balloons Above the Valley

BAV 1Daybreak…there is just enough light from a soon-to-rise sun…quiet, no wind…let the adventure begin.  Your day commences with a pre-flight cafe and pastry service, followed by a short ride to the launch site.  As you eagerly await your flight, your pilot is busy checking every last detail of his equipment, including walking the inside of the balloon as it inflates. BAV 3 When all safety checks are complete, you will be assisted into the basket, which is held tightly to the ground by a highly experienced ground crew. The balloon, now fully inflated, rights itself, and as the crew lets go the ropes, you rise silently into the cool, crisp morning air. There is nothing quite like this experience!

As the balloon ascends above the Napa Valley, the views are now lit by the morning sunrise, and you can soon see all the way to the San Francisco Bay.  Mile after mile of vineyards lie below you, and you are probably now surrounded by many other colorful balloons.  It is completely silent, save for the occasional firing of the burner to maneuver up, down, and sideways.  Conversations can be heard from the porches of houses hundreds of feet below.

BAV 2Your hour long journey will take you anywhere the wind blows, but it is astonishing to observe how much control your pilot actually has over the direction and altitude of the flight. Balloons Above the Valley selects only the most highly trained and qualified pilots.  When the flight is over, they will choose a safe place to land, and you will be met again by your ground crew, who has been following in a chase car, in constant radio contact with your pilot.  Once on the ground, and having deflated and packed away the balloon and basket, you will be delivered safely back to the Marriott Napa Valley where a full champagne brunch will be served.

Napa Valley Wine Country Tours offers a special package with Balloons Above the Valley, whereby we will pick you up after your flight and take you on our Daily Group Wine Tour. You will visit 4-5 wineries and have a buffet picnic lunch in the vineyards.  Also, watch our website for the launch of our new package from San Francisco.  This one includes our San Francisco to Wine Country Tour, overnight in a Napa Hotel, a balloon flight the following morning, and transportation back to your San Francisco hotel.

Balloons Above the Valley

“May the winds welcome you with  softness
May the sun bless you with its warm rays, May you fly so high and so well
that God will join you in laughter
and set you gently back again
into the loving arms of Mother Earth.”

www.balloonrides.com

Clos du Val

Clos du ValClos du Val (“a small estate in a small valley”), located in the famed Stags Leap District of the Napa Valley, is one of the very few remaining “family owned” wineries in California.  It was founded 40 years ago by John Goelet when he purchased 178 acres in Stags Leap and 180 in Carneros.  Two years later, he released his first wine, a 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon, priced at $6 per bottle. That wine was selected as one of 6 California Cabernets to be entered into the now famous “Judgement in Paris” where it took 6th place. Ten years later, in 1986, that same wine took first place in a rematch…a testament to how well Clos du Val wines age.

Today,  the winery produces 60,000 cases of wine per year.  Senior winemaker, Kristy Melton, named by the Wine Enthusiast as one of the “Top 40 Under 40″, lovingly delivers wines of exceptional elegance and balance.Clos du Val Winery

From Classic wines to Reserve and the highly coveted Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon, Clos du Val has something to please every palate. And, boasting one of the most friendly, down-to-earth winery experiences in Napa Valley, you would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful setting.  Clos du Val 4                                There are cabanas for wine club members, and a gorgeous olive grove where you can picnic on a nice day. Add petanque courts, some sunshine and a bottle of delicious wine, and you will be making memories to last a lifetime.

Environmental conciousness is a must these days, and Clos du Val is on board.  Only reclaimed water is used, and there is even an owl house to keep the rodent population at bay.Clos du Val 3

Napa Valley Wine Country Tours highly recommends you visit Clos du Val.  It is conveniently located mid-valley on the beautiful Silverado Trail, and if you let us drive, you can drink in the view as well as the wine.

Napa Valley Links – www.closduval.com

Valentines Day in Wine Country

Young woman and man in the back of a limo, drinking champagne.Napa Valley Wine Country Tours delights to offer our…Valentines Day in Wine Country.

Our Valentine Special.. February 13th through the 16th, 2014 4 Hours in a Sedan, a bottle of Champagne, and chocolate dipped strawberries! $300! 

Surprise your sweetheart with a time they will never forget.  Package includes luxury transportation in a new Mercedes Sedan, a bottle of Domaine Chandon Sparkling wine, and fresh chocolate dipped strawberries.  Use your 4 hours for a wine tour during the day, or for dinner service in the evening.   Let Napa Valley Wine Country Tours amp up the romance in your life! Here are some special places to visit in Napa, if you are lucky enough to find yourself here for Valentines Day:  ehlers logo Ehlers Estate Winery (whose logo is a heart, turned sideways) is a great place to start. The setting and the winery itself are very romantic but call 48 hours in advance for the Valentines special, Perfectly Paired, which starts with a stroll in the vineyards and barrel sample and ends with a paring of Ehlers’ complex and tasty wines with hand-made confections from Woodhouse Chocolates. Valentines Wine glass in vineyardsIf the weather is nice, bring a blanket, stop at Oakville Grocery, or Soda Canyon Store (depending on where you are coming from and going to) for sandwiches or fresh-baked bread, fine meats and local cheeses.  Then stop by a local winery, purchase your favorite varietal, and enjoy a picnic in the vineyards.Valentines Heart Napa Valley Wine Country Tours will try to grant your every romantic wish.   So remember, there is absolutely nothing more romantic than touring wine country in a limousine. Happy Valentines Day!

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Sparkling Wine for New Year’s Eve?

J 1So many sparkling wines, so little time!  How do you choose?  Let me help.  First of all, there are many wineries from which to choose, so I’m going to recommend one in the Napa Valley and one in the Sonoma Valley.

J Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma Valley, has a modern tasting room in the J Visitor’s Center, located just south of Healdsburg, California. Opened in 1999, Judy Jordan wanted a place where guests could fully experience elegant wine and food pairings – the first program of its kind in Sonoma County. Winemaker Melissa Stackhouse has an in-depth knowledge of the Russian River Valley and its unique terroir. J 2As a certified sustainable winery, everything that happens in the vineyards affects winemaking. And the winemaking methods and techniques they use are focused on delivering J’s essence of style – a combination of balance, elegance, and varietal expression.  There are seven different sparkling wines available, and they are all made using Mêthode Champenoise, the traditional technique of making Champagne in the region northeast of Paris, France.

Let’s move on to Napa, and talk about Schramsberg.  The Schramsberg estate is tucked into the densely forested slopes of Diamond Mountain, a few miles south of the town of Calistoga, and is home to the oldest hillside vineyards in Napa. It totals 218 acres with 43 acres planted to vines. In 1862, Jacob Schram, a German immigrant, arrived in California, and from humble beginnings, a sparkling wine empire was built.

In the late 1800s, Chinese laborers dug into the hillside’s volcanic rock to build caves for aging and storing wine. Additional tunnels were added in the 1980s and currently cover 34,000 square feet. The caves maintain a consistent cool
temperature, providing an environment that is paramount in the flavor development of bottled-aged sparkling wines. At any given time, as many as 2.7 million bottles are in the Schramsberg caves, aging two to ten years before release.Schramsberg Winery

 

In1957, Schramsberg was declared a Historical Monument by the California Historical Society. With over 10 sparkling wines from which to choose, you can’t make a mistake.

Sparkling wines from both J Vineyards and Schramsberg are available in most fine wine shops.  You only have one day left to get your party started. Napa Valley Wine Country Tours wishes you a “Sparkling” New Year.  www.schramsberg.com