Max Koch Uncorked

Wine-soaked adventures through a twisted life…

Napa Road Trip WRAP-UP and Another NEW Video

Good grapes!  Has it REALLY been 12 days since I last posted?? All apologies! I mean, how the hell am I supposed to gain momentum with this blog if I’m nothing but a slacker-offer??  Thanks a LOT, Major Depression!

So where was I…?

Oh, yeah, right!

Napa Valley.

Koch Napa Valley

Okay, so I gotta say the Napa Valley road trip (and subsequent documented stay at the Frank farm) was a smash hit. And it was SO good to be up there when both the leaves were falling AND the vines were changing to all shades of red, orange, yellow, brown, and green. If only I coulda leapt into a pile of raked leaves. My luck, I woulda wound up with crunchies n’ twigs in my undershorts.

leaves napa

Some of the other highlights of our exploration of Napa included Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards.


Actually located in Sonoma, sparkling wine producers Ferrer and her hubby José (no, not the famous actor), also own Freixenet, which I have been incorrectly pronouncing “freeze-ehn-ay” all these years (it’s actually “fresh-ehn-NET”). But their main claim-to-fame would be their divine line of Gloria Ferrer-brand premium sparklings.

I wanted to learn how Ferrer made her champagnes (which you’re not allowed to call sparkling wines in the state of California for some convoluted reason I still fail to decipher). So the wife hooked us up with a tour of the property led by Ryan, who was one of the coolest, most informative fellows I’ve met at a vineyard yet.


At one point, Ryan led us up to a vista overlooking the vines, where a bottle of Ferrer sparkling awaited us to sample. We stood high on the hill and learned all about owls, cows, hawks and other creatures Ferrer shares the land with.


It was the perfect moment to capture our zeal.




After we stood in awe of the Ferrer wine caves, we were led to the terrace with our group. Ryan sat us all down at a table together and the next thing you know, it was like we were calculated-ly being forced to socialize with one another (God forbid, right?). But for some reason, it really didn’t bother me as these wound up actually being cool people. Sure, they were young and smart and more successful than me (the video game business). But they were chill enough to permit me to slip into “interview mode”, which I am apt to do in social situations I’m not entirely comfortable with. The intent was to get us to try some cheese and join the wine club, but we took a pass. That said, I have NO PROBLEM continuing to purchase Ferrer sparklings at my local wine merchants.

What DID bother me – and a big problem I had with the majority of our Napa tastings – was how HARD certain wineries pushed us to join their wine clubs. I mean, even BEFORE we’d commence with the tastings! It’s, like, “Dude! If I want to join your wine club, I will LET YOU KNOW that I want to join your wine club. What is this, A CAR DEALERSHIP???” And considering that we are already paying very extravagant prices just to taste the stuff kind of pissed me off after a while. How much money do I actually need to spend here? Napa, love you, mean it, but GET OVER YOURSELF.

Such was not the case with Charbay, which was probably the highlight of our trip, winery visit-wise. The wife had arranged a private tasting with Johnny up there, and he couldn’t have been more full of good humor and knowledge. Best of all, Charbay is also a distillery, so you really are walking out of there with purchases that will either be gone as soon as you get home or others that will occupy your bar with pride for a long spell.

Charbay was the only winery on this trip where we actually got to meet the winemaker, too. Not that I was expecting to meet Francis Ford Coppola while at Inglenook, but it was so refreshing to have winemaker (and distiller) Marko sit down with us for a lovely chat on his property for about 20 minutes. Such a fantastic, down-to-Earth fella. And he was in the middle of WORKING. Dude had a SWEAT goin’. And he made us feel right at home. I also felt like I was back in Paso Robles, which, of course, remains my most favorite wine region here in the Golden State. I dunno. There’s just a…relatability factor there for me.

I should mention, while at Charbay, the wife and I enjoyed a picnic, a cigar, and some port! (Okay, Nic doesn’t actually EVER smoke cigars, but, man, was she comedically-commited here…)

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Now for my biggest “wine geek” moment of the trip. Chateau Montelena is world-famous for the 1976 Paris tasting that put California wine country on the map. I can’t even describe the beauty and power of this place. If you’ve never seen “Bottle Shock”, I strongly urge you hop onto your Netflix and stream it right away. We got to see the actual bottle that won “Judgement in Paris” in “person”! How dorky is THAT??





Finally, I leave you with this video of my visit to Opus One and Mumm Napa. Now even though I’m playfully taking the piss out of the grounds of Mr. Robert Mondavi’s “grand opus”, I have to admit, it was another major highlight of our Napa journey and the staff was surprisingly the LEAST pretentious of the more snobbish wineries we hit while up there.

Bottom line? I will return to Napa Valley again someday soon. It really did win me back. Not that anyone up there would EVER care what *I* think.

WINE PAIRING: This might surprise you, but I am going with the Charbay Green Tea Aperitif this time around. Johnny at Charbay told us to drop a slug of this into a tumbler with some ice and a little sparkling Limonata San Pellegrino. Delicious and refreshing as hell. It’s what we enjoyed when we got back home and popped on “Halloween II” after 9 hours in the car.

Have a GREAT Thanksgiving! Be back soon!

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