Joy the Baker in Wine Country

Joy the Baker in Napa

Can we take a few moments to discuss my spur of the moment, Monday afternoon, high speed trip to Napa?

Napa seems to be in a perpetual state of sunshine.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  There are grapes everywhere.  If not actually growing from the earth, then engraved into the side of a freeway overpass, or painted on…. um… every available space in Napa.  Turns out they’re really into grapes.

Can I be honest?  Napa was a little too uppity, snootypants for my taste.  I know just enough about wine to make my way through a conversation about tannins and acid, grape varietals, oak aging and whatever other terms wine people drop…. but I don’t think good wine should be all about the secret, and unapproachable language of wine.

Joy the Baker in Napa

I discovered, in these few hours in Napa, that the beauty of wine is all in the land.  See, it’s the land that creates the beautiful grapes.  It’s the land that’s beautifully adored and so carefully tended.  It’s the careful love of soil that creates such beauty up in wine country.  The care is evident in the carefully places acres and rows of grapevines.  It’s lovely to see the earth adored for what it can produce.  I feel like the story should be about the people and the land… not about fruit forward mouth feels… or whatever.

Joy the Baker in Napa

Joy the Baker in Napa

Here’s the deal:

The looking.  The strolling out in the sun.  The lazy walks through the tall grass of the vineyards… that’s free.

The tastings and the wine… so very far from affordable.  Do I sound like I’m looking for a free ride?  It’s not that, it’s just that a $65 bottle of wine is outside, way outside, my wallet’s comfort zone.  Fact.

I need your help.  I need your wine country guidance.  Where’s the wine with spunk?  Where’s the wine with story?  Where’s the wine that will make me want to give three cheers to Napa.  Let’s go there this spring.  Seriously, we’ll make it a party!

Joy the Baker in Napa

51 thoughts on “Joy the Baker in Wine Country

  1. Here in Woodinville, Washington we have wines that don’t take themselves so seriously … there’s a little local one called PengWine that stick a guy in a penguin suit out in the road on the weekends and they sponsored something recently at the zoo! So cute! You can check them out on your next trip to Seattle.

  2. I’m with Rose. Murphys is so very adorable and in the California foothills east of the central valley. Sutter Creek (east of Stockton) also has some great little vinyards as does the Carmel Valley. We LOVE Morgan.

  3. Oh Joy – come to New Zealand for award winning wines, gorgeous scenery, great food, friendly folks – it’s got it all. Only a 12 hour flight across the Pacific!


  4. Joy, you should try the Santa Ynez valley for wine. Beautiful, and I suspect, much more affordable than Napa. My favorite winery was Firestone.

  5. Napa is the Las Vegas strip of wine country. Go Sonoma all the way! Steer clear of places that look like they put more work into their chateau-like exteriors than their wines. Try Ravenswood. They’re a big brand, but their winery is small, fun, and completely unpretentious. And there are half a dozen wineries nestled away withing close biking distance.

  6. I have been reading your blog for some time now… I really really enjoy your recipes but have never been driven to comment… Until today.

    Come to Oregon. I live in the Willamette Valley with over 35 wineries within a two hours drive and literally over 150 more is you are willing to travel further. Since Oregon wine is less well known, decent, fun wine is fairly inexpensive with none of the pretentiousness you might get elsewhere (well except for King Estates but that is another story). I have a little vacation rental you could stay in if you want to come up!

  7. I prefer Healdsburg to Sonoma or Napa. The Russian River Valley wines are yummy, people so friendly. Love Ferrari Carano and Passalaqua.

  8. I much prefer Sonoma to Napa — Sonoma is a little more user-friendly, the wineries look like wineries, rather than modernist architectural delights, or gothic castles (with a few exceptions). The Russian River Valley is a particularly nice ares — check out Korbel. The tastings are complimentary and they make surprisingly good champagne that you can usually buy for $15 a bottle or so. I also love Davis Bynum in Sonoma.

    If you want even less pretention, head down south to the Santa Ynez valley. Beautiful beautiful area, and approachable wines. My favorite is Gainey — their riesling is around $20 a bottle and it’s really good.

  9. The wine (and winemakers) with heart and soul are in Sonoma. Not as snooty, totally friendly, totally affordable. Some of my favorites in Sonoma:

    – Mayo Family
    – Jacuzzi
    – Cline
    – Rodney Strong (pretty corporate, but very friendly nonetheless)
    – Ledson

    Many of these have low cost tastings, if not free ones, and those who work the tastings are just fun to talk to.

  10. Haha, I’m the last person that should tell you anything about wine. I know I like it, and that’s about the extent of my knowledge. However, I really liked Sonoma. Maybe we should go there! Maybe it won’t have Napa’s snootiness (although I doubt it). Your pics are excellent!

  11. Oh man – Napa (and for that matter most of Sonoma) can be a bit…well its great but lets just say there are other places! Check out Murphys, CA (CUTE little town with tasting rooms all within walking distance of each other – and affordable!), Lake County (good wines, good prices, lovely lake/camping areas), Amador County (Zins!)…and thats just in Northern CA! I also love the Paso Robles area, Santa Ynez, etc etc etc…I could go on way too long. i can’t wait to see where you choose to go and the pics from the visit! Have fun!

  12. i also adore napa-my boy & i recently did a road trip up the coast & stopped in napa! just breathtaking! we were not impressed at all with there little downtown…what were your thoughts?

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