Sonoma Makes Wine – Napa Makes Auto Parts
Touring northern California’s wine country in autumn was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. Both the tree and the grape leaves were starting to turn, grapes were in harvest and the weather was excellent. This isn’t meant to “dis” the other fine wine regions of California, but since Sonoma is home to The Girl and the Fig, one of our favorite restaurants, we chose to focus on the area.
While professionally guided wine tours are abundant (and apparently quite profitable), we chose to self-tour in order to set our own pace. Wine country tour prices vary greatly depending on the type of transportation (bus, limo, train) and the services offered.
Be aware that not all wineries offer tasting or winery tours and of those that do, many require reservations. Tasting starts at $10 USD and can go north of $50 USD if food pairing is offered. Tasting is generally limited to 1-2 oz. per serving (hint: if you’re trying to experience the wine sip just enough to get the full taste of the wine and toss the rest in the provided waste bucket; if you’re after the buzz – drink up.) Some wineries will host private events (weddings, etc.), some wineries have restaurants on site and some will prepare a picnic basket for your use on their property. Wine tourism is an ever growing business.
Some factoids about grapes and wine (numbers are approximate):
1 bottle of wine = 600 grapes
60 Gallon barrels per acre—13.5
Bottles per 60 gallon barrel—300
Bottles per acre—4,000
Napa Valley is currently home to approximately 450 wineries producing about five percent of California’s total wine output. Most are small independents (more than 80% are less than 100 acres in size). Though the laws are a bit ambiguous, it’s generally accepted that in order to use “Napa” on the label, 75% of the grapes in the bottle must come from Napa Valley.
Sonoma Valley boasts more than 300 wineries, most again being smaller independents. Sonoma is responsible for about eight percent of California’s wine production. Sonoma Valley also bases their labeling laws on the 75% rule.
We decided to give both valleys (Sonoma and Napa) an equal chance at proving which one produced the better of the fermented grape. This comparison is greatly complicated by the fact that many wineries hold vineyards in both valleys and sometimes even draw on the crops of other regions to produce their wines. Even so, we had come this far and weren’t ready to give up.
Next: The Napa Run