As I told you the other day, we are keen to explore our new home and the area we live in, and a day off work is the perfect way to do so. That’s why we spent Martin Luther King Day–a Monday–to finally visit one of Northern California’s most popular areas: Napa Valley. As a wine enthusiast, who spent all Summer 2021 exploring various wine countries in Europe, I can’t believe we haven’t made it to the prestigious wine county yet. Though Napa Valley is known to be rather expensive and exclusive, and god knows we had other things to spend our money on than wine tastings in prestigious estates.

For our first trip to Napa Valley, we decided to visit only one winery and see how we liked it. Spoiler alert: How could I–the wine lover– not like it? And which winery would be the best to start, as Beringer, since their Chardonnay has been my go-to ever since we lived in Singapore and were forced to spend $30++ on a bottle of wine. What are the odds that my favorite wine doesn’t only grow, but also gets produced just a one-hour drive north from where we live now (and costs way less here, too!)?

By the way, although it’s currently winter and Napa Valley not as busy as it gets during the summer, it’s still worth a visit. The temperatures are mild, not cold (particularly not if you’re used to German winters), and the vines, although having dropped their leaves, are covered in mustard flowers that are blooming in a fluorescent yellow. After visiting Sonoma County during Indian summer, and now experiencing Napa Valley at the peak of winter, I am more than excited to come back to California’s Wine County for the next seasons.

Blooming mustard flowers are covering the vineyards in a fluorescent yellow during winter time


Since our tasting was booked for 1 pm (tastings here start way earlier with the last one being most of the time at 4, sometimes 5 pm. Guess the Americans like day-drinking?), we decided to hit the road in the early morning to avoid traffic and explore the area a little. Our first stop was in Yountville, about 10 miles south of St. Helena, where we actually planned a second breakfast at the infamous Bouchon Bakery, a french place that is known for its artisanal bread and traditional French desserts. Unfortunately, Yountville was pretty deserted (the pandemic is currently surging, especially in Napa Valley, and winter is generally not a peak season anyway), and the bakery seemed to use that time to go under renovations. We will certainly come back here another time, though, since it looks lovely. instead of eating croissants, we then strolled a little through the V Marketplace, the local wine shops, and some cute little parks. We both agreed to come back in summer, as the area will likely be beautiful once it blooms and greens again. We left Yountville pretty shortly though and drove up a few miles to St Helena, the city known as the center of the eponymous American Viticultural Area.

In St. Helena, we luckily found a bakery that was not going under renovations and was still open, so we ended up eating heavenly delicious bread pudding and cinnamon rolls at Model Bakery which I can highly recommend. Their coffee was so good that I got two, and that meant something.


With a decent base for the upcoming wine tasting, we drove up to Beringer Vineyards. As Napa’s longest continuously operating winery, Beringer is an American wine icon built on 145 years of winemaking tradition. It was founded by two German brothers, Jacob and Frederick Beringer, that purchased 215 acres of Napa Valley land in 1875. Since then, they have established Beringer as a key player among the few wineries in operation at that time, with Beringer being the first winery offering public tours.

Today, they offer several different tastings and tours on their estate, including 12 buildings. We opted for the ‘Veranda Tasting’ in the Rhine House, the most prominent building with elaborate interiors and ‘Queen Anne’ and ‘Chateauesque architectural styles’, attributes from its architect’s German heritage. There, we had our tasting on a lovely veranda, facing the beautiful backyards on this sunny afternoon. The tasting was a swooping $60 and included five wines (one Chardonnay, four reds), all of them from the private reserve or single vineyards, and therefore very exclusive. This means that you can’t buy them in a store and usually only get access to them as a member (or during tastings), if even. Hence, the prices for a bottle range from $48 (Private Reserve Chardonnay) to stunning $170 (2018 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon), which has nothing to do with the staple I have at home. Adam, our lovely waiter, told us that the brand Beringer oversees many various productions. Hence, the wines that are sold in grocery stores for a much more affordable price are usually not Beringer viticulture-exclusive, but combining the product from various winemakers with Beringer eventually labeling them. Interesting.

With that knowledge and an absolutely incredible and insightful wine tasting experience, we decided to sign up for Beringer’s Wine Club. A first for us, although pretty much everyone we have met in San Francisco so far seems to be a member in various Wine Clubs, so it seems to be a thing here in NorCal, especially as a wine lover. As a member, we get regular shipments from Beringer’s exclusive wines, but –what’s even better– can come to the estate and have tastings for free (or, basically, pay for it in the membership fee) during the year. So, guess we’ll be back in Napa soon then!

The tasting on the veranda of the Rhine House was sunny, bright, and so much fun!


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