Our Wine Trip to California

While the store was closed during the month of July, GourmetPhile team didn’t waste time – we went to Napa and Sonoma! Here are some highlights from our visit – the great wineries we saw, the new wines and vintages we tried, and unforgettable memories we’ve made.

Trefethen Winery (“trefethen” is a Biblical term meaning “lush cluster of grapes”) had just celebrated their 50th birthday. We were very impressed at how they have rebuilt their property after the extensive damage they had suffered in the 2014 earthquake. Their wines were amazing, we especially loved Halo (a Bordeaux Blend) and Dragon Tooth (Malbec based blend). We currently carry the Dragon Tooth, come in anytime to try this incredible wine which retails for $39.

As soon as we drove in to the Rudd Winery, all we were able to see were sunflowers and sorghum. These plants revitalize the soils, and the winery had ripped out a great deal of vines to nourish their lands. Rudd Winery is located in the heart of Oakville and neighbors Screaming Eagle and Dalle Valle. We saw some unique fermentation vessels they are working on, still in their experimental stages. The winery is moving towards Biodynamic certification.

Rudd Winery Barrels

You can’t miss the Hall Winery when driving down Highway 29 – the giant silver bunny statue will most definitely catch your attention. This bunny is just a small part of one of the the most incredible art collections we have ever seen at a winery. We had such an unforgettable experience here, tasting some of the greatest wines which never make it to distribution. Everything felt so special and unique at this place.

Silver Bunny Statue outside of Hall Winery

 The Plumpjack Winery is always worth a visit. Lance, our wine director, has a few go-to wineries whenever he comes to Napa, and Plumpjack is one of them. In the heart of Oakville, their wines walk the line between power and finesse. The Chardonnay and Merlot were just singing.

Silver Oak is a winery with tremendous history. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to book a tour, but we did a walk-in and they were extremely accommodating. Our team tasted their current vintages and even got a chance to try their 2007 Napa Cabernet, which they opened just for us. These wonderful and kind people left a beautiful memory in our hearts.

The Darioush Winery is another must if you are planning a trip to California. Their wines are fantastic. The Signature Shiraz and Cabernet really stood out to us. Their costumer service was unparalleled. One of the best things about this winery is Iranian Pistachios, which they offer during their tastings. Amazing!

We went to a pop up tasting at Ellman Family Vineyards at their Downtown Tasting Room. They are currently in the process of building their winery. Andy Erickson, who used to be a winemaker at Screaming Eagle, Spotteswoode, Staglin, and others is their current winemaker. This new winery is bound to soon be considered one of the greatest in Napa. At the tasting, we met a fellow Boca Raton resident –  the world is so small! The wines we tried were amazing. We were so impressed with the Alexis Pinot Noir that we brought it into the store as soon as we opened again in August, and you can come in to buy a bottle today. Once their Brothers Blend is released this fall, it will also find a place on our shelves. We are so excited!

We got a personal tour from the Truchard Family matriarch, a vigorous woman in her eighties. We even got a chance to pet some goats. Very agrarian. Then we tasted some wonderful Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Rousanne. This place is very different from the showy and lavish wineries in Napa, it is a quintessential family farm. The father, who is in his eighties is still out in the vineyards every day. We even saw him on his tractor out there, working.

We joined a very homey and intimate tasting at the Behrens Family Winery. The winemaker has a very intuitive approach and has produced many stellar, highly-rated wines. The bottle labels are all original works of art and really stood out to us on this trip.

We got a personal tour and a private tasting with Anthony, the winemaker at the Balletto Winery. At this over an hour tasting we tried oaked and unoaked Chardonnays, 4 completely different Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris, and a sparkling Rose. We also tasted some of the new stuff he was experimenting with. We took part in an extremely informative and congenial discussion. The winery had set aside a very extensive vineyard acreage for a baseball field for workers’ families. They call this file the “field of dreams.” We very much enjoyed this “insider” tour.

At the Balletto Winery

 The best wine tour in the valley was at the Palmaz. The owner of the winery was the one who invented a heart stent. The winery had chefs prepare perfect pairings for the superb wines which were opened. The winery is a 20-story, gravity-driven property carved out of a mountain at astronomical expense. This place is extremely high-tech and data-driven. They have a “bat cave” in which charts and graphs are displayed on a sort of planetarium dome. Incredible and fascinating tour with unforgettable wines.

Charts and Graohs on the ceiling at the Palmaz Winery

 A couple of other places we enjoyed were Mondavi, HeitzCellars, Benziger, and RoundPond, which we also highly recommend visiting on your next trip to California.

Overall, this experience was not only very interesting and informative, but also motivational. Our passion and love for wines was fed with so much fascinating beauty of this industry. We are ready to begin this season and share our passion and knowledge with you every step along the way.

Palmaz Winery Cellars


  1. Reply

    I’m smiling that you brought some of my hometown to Boca. Next time, tour downtown Healdsburg. We live in Lighthouse Point now, and am so excited about your shop. Bravo!

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