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A beginner’s guide to wine-tasting!
Wine is a world of possibilities. A universally beloved drink, the making of wine is an ancient tradition with as many nuances and complexities as devotees. To the wine connoisseur, a glass of wine is more than just fermented grapes – it’s a story, told through countless generations, of seasons, vineyards, and terroir. To truly taste a glass of wine is to glimpse greatness.
Of course, most of us are not trained in tasting wine. That means this world of possibilities can be confusing, and even worse, discouraging. We’re here to tell you that even if you can’t tell the difference between a $4 blend and a $60 pinot noir, wine tasting doesn’t have to be intimidating! After all, wine is here to be enjoyed.
That said, if you’re interested in learning how to truly appreciate wine, here are some tips to get you started!
1: LOOK AT THE WINE
So much of appreciating wine is noticing the tiny differences, and that starts at the moment you see what’s in your glass. Aside from the difference between white and red, there are countless subtleties that differentiate one wine from another. Look at the color. Is it a deep, ruby red, or more pale? When you swirl it around the glass, do legs form on the inside of your glass as the fluid returns to its sitting state? All of these are clues about the wine you’re about to experience, but don’t worry about that yet – just take it in, and enjoy the beauty of the glass.
2: SMELL THE WINE
Much of what we think of as “taste” actually comes from our nose – so before we actually put the glass to our lips, it’s important to appreciate the smell of the wine! Swirl the glass (this helps add oxygen to the wine, which makes the bouquet more pronounced) and take a deep breath through your nose. Really think about what it reminds you of - is it floral, or fruity? What does it remind you of? Don’t worry, there are no wrong answers here. The point is to think about the wine, not write a quiz!
3: TASTE THE WINE
This is the real point. There is so much to experience here as all your senses combine. How does the wine feel on your mouth? Is it thick like syrup, or thin? Sweet, or rich? Bitter? Even better, the smells you just appreciated at this point open up and become even more clear. Try to come up with descriptors about what it reminds you of – blueberry pie? The richness of a cola? The dark sweetness of an overripe cherry? Again, there are no wrong answers. The point is that you are opening your mind to the wine, and learning how to appreciate it! It’s not hard, but it is rewarding. Just be careful – you may like it so much, wine tasting will become a part of your life!
With that in mind, we hope that you’ll visit the Hotel Indigo Napa Valley to kickstart your lifelong wine journey! Our friendly staff will be happy to point you in the direction of our favorite vineyards in the Napa region – just book your stay and we’ll take care of the rest!
What is grape stomping?
Grape-stomping, or pigeage, is a traditional way of macerating grapes so that their juices can be released to turn into wine!
It’s pretty simple – grapes are collected in a wooden vat with an open top and a spigot, and the grape stomper rolls up the cuffs of their pants, climbs in and commences to stepping, stomping, and jumping into the grapes until they release all their sweet juice.
It may seem unsanitary, but it’s really not! Stompers do a quick wash before climbing in, but that’s really all that’s necessary, because the alcohol production process actually kills any pathogens that may be introduced to the grapes by the feet.
Do you still feel grossed out? Don’t worry, these days most grapes are crushed with industrial machines that are better able to extract every ounce of juice from the grapes we’ve worked so hard for all year. However, it is important to remember that pigeage is actually a longstanding tradition that has helped to create some of the finest wines known to humanity. Those industrial processes are relatively new developments, and the world’s most famous vineyards have relied on little more than bare feet and elbow grease for centuries. If you think about it, it’s actually weirder to not make wine with feet!
Even though grape stomping is no longer how most wine is made, it’s still a fun tradition in which you can take part. In fact, a Roman sarcophagus from around 200 AD depicts a rural festival where peasants are stomping grapes – that means this has been the case for over 1800 years.
Why is grape-stomping such a longstanding tradition? Maybe because it’s fun.Come visit the Napa Valley during October for Crush season and find out just how much of a blast it is to take off your shoes and make some wine.
Be sure to book your room now at the Hotel Indigo Napa Valley so you don’t miss out on all the fun of Harvest and Crush! Rooms are already filling up fast – book your vacation as soon as you can!
Harvest is here in Napa Valley!
It’s here! The moment that all of the Napa Valley has been waiting for has finally arrived: Harvest! Every vineyard in the valley is buzzing with activity and excitement as they the grapes they’ve been carefully growing all year achieve peak ripeness, making September the perfect time to begin the winemaking process!
It’s a wonderful time of year; hard work and excitement combine with the natural tranquility of the vines, making for a truly intoxicating atmosphere of camaraderie and celebration, and if you’ve never experienced it you owe it to yourself to come visit.
Are you a wine connoisseur? This is a great time to peer behind the curtains and learn everything there is to know about what makes the wines of the Napa Valley so outstanding. Winery tours are never more compelling than at harvest time! In particular, we can recommend Stags Leap Districts’ Pine Ridge Vineyards interactive tours. Pine Ridge actually ages their wines traditionally in a system of caves, combining old world knowledge with new-world technology. We recommend finishing your tour with a meal in their Cellar 47 Tasting Lounge, which is actually in the caves.
Not an expert, but you “know what you like?” Then you’ll like the fun events taking place all month long, including BBQs, concerts, catered meals designed to show off the best of our wineries vintages and dancing all through the night. Nearly every winery in town has a fun and informal party celebrating Harvest; check out this list and pick out your faves!
Even better, book a room at the Hotel Indigo Napa Valley, and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to give you recommendations and book your reservations at the hottest shindigs in town! Hurry up or you’ll miss Harvest, though… but keep in mind that next month is Wine Crush! Either way you’re going to have a great time in the Napa Valley.
Celebrate the Wine Harvest in Napa Valley!
Here in Napa Valley wine country, we’re never sad to see summer go. As the days get shorter, we know that life goes on and the summer sun did maybe its most important job – growing and nurturing the grapes on our vines until one of the most exciting times of the year: Wine Harvest! Although certain varietals are harvested early, in August, September is when the majority of our grapes mature enough to gather for making wine! The whole valley buzzes with excitement all month, making it a great time to visit!
One fun thing that needs to be on your bucket list is a Grape Stomp. Historically, grapes were pressed the old fashioned way – by rolling up your cuffs and getting messy! This is a fun, interactive way to experience the wine making process, and nobody can do it without breaking into a huge grin. Check out the daily Grape Stomp at Grgich Hills Estate!
Harvest Parties are a great way to experience the Wine Harvest. Nearly every vineyard in the Napa Valley puts on its own celebration of the season, and there’s a real sense of competition to see who can put on the best soiree. Wood-fired pizzas are served with the finest of that wineries vintage, and as the evening begins you get to dance in the idyllic shade of grape leaves. We’re looking forward to Benessere Winery’s Harvest Party and Grape Stomp this year, but here are a list of Harvest Parties you might want to attend!
There’s really nothing like harvest season in the Napa Valley – that’s why you should book a room at the Hotel Indigo Napa Valley. We offer an upscale experience deep in the heart of wine country that’s a perfect complement to your vacation! Rooms are already filling up for this Wine Harvest season so don’t delay!
It’s Wine Crush in the Napa Valley!
In Napa Valley, September is Harvest season… but what might be even more exciting is what happens in October… Wine Crush!
Now that the grapes have been collected and tasted, it’s time to begin the process that will transform them into some of the finest wines in the world. Technically, Crush begins when the first grapes are picked, but it usually denotes the beginning of crushing the grapes and the first stages of fermentation. It’s an electric time in Napa Valley – everyone is busy, busy, busy, working around the clock at this crucial stage to make sure that the final product will be absolutely splendid – but it’s also a celebratory time, the moment when the summer’s hard work begins to be transformed into something truly special.
You can come be a part of that celebration and observe this fascinating time in the wine production process. Winery tours during Wine Crush are especially exciting, because you get to really see the blood, sweat and tears that go into making a fine vintage – though not literally!
If you’re looking for some suggestions about what to do when you’re here for Crush season, we recommend booking tickets for the PARADUXX HARVEST PARTY.
Taking place at the cusp of the transition from Harvest to Crush, Napa Valley’s award-winning Paraduxx hosts a wonderfully relaxed event where you can taste the earliest samples of 2017’s vintage, enjoy BBW by SMOKE cooked over an open fire, trying your hand (or feet!) at grape stomping and maybe best of all, having a first chance to buy a bottle of 2015’s coveted Paraduxx X2.
Of course, nearly every winery in the valley will feature a number of fantastic events throughout the Crush season, so we recommend having a look at your wine collection, choosing your favorite bottle and planning your trip from there! Once you’ve done that, book a room at the Hotel Indigo Napa Valley for an eco-friendly visit that is perfect pairing to a fine glass of wine. Even better, we’re pet-friendly so your furry friend can come too!