Napa Trip – Day Three – Supporting a good cause and “I paid HOW much?”

Day three. Ugh. Is it really the “halfway point” of my vacation already?

For months, I had been hearing rave reviews on Twitter about Cleavage Creek. And for good reason.

Random poll, but related to this post…how many of you who are reading this have somehow been affected by cancer? It doesn’t matter if it’s you yourself, a family member or a friend…if you haven’t been affected by the “big c” as some call it, you’re a minority.

Budge Brown at Cleavage Creek wants to do something about it. Specifically, he wants to do something about Breast Cancer. See, he lost his wife of 48 years to it. On Cleavage Creek’s website, Budge says, “My wife died for no damn good reason. It’s time to do something about this.”

With that, he decided to do something about it. He decided to open Cleavage Creek Winery and donate 10% of the proceeds to cancer research. But not only research. He also helps women who are in Stage 3 and Stage 4 and have exhausted their insurance benefits get the treatment they need.

‘Nuff said in my book. I’m there.

We drove up a windy country road, reminiscent of the roads I live on and drive daily, to Pope Valley. Yes, it was a bit of a drive, but knowing that we would be supporting a good cause was worth it.

Part of the view on the way to Cleavage Creek & Pope Valley, CA

We arrived at Cleavage and were amazed at the grounds. They are simple…nothing fancy or meticulously manicured like some of the big wineries in Napa. In fact, this is the complete opposite…with the exception of the nearly 300,000 tulips, daffodils and other flowers that are planted around the property. Yes, over a quarter of a million.

Just a fraction of the flowers at Cleavage Creek

The wines, you ask? Beyond amazing. Bold. Robust. Delicate. Tantalizing. All in a glass. And you don’t care about the price tag, either. I believe my mom is still in shock over her buying a $50 bottle of wine (she’s never spent that much on wine). But it’s like I told her…”It’s worth it.”

Personally, I walked away with the 2007 Secret Red and the 2008 Secret White.

I’m having problems really putting the Cleavage Creek experience into words…you really have to go there, reflect on things as you walk the grounds and remember that life is precious.

We had mentioned to Jean, our wonderful hostess at Cleavage Creek, that our plans were to go to Pope Valley next. She was kind enough to call and make sure someone was there, as Pope Valley is only open by appointment during the week (we misread the ad…oops). By the time we were through just drinking in the scenery at Cleavage Creek, David at Pope Valley had called Jean and was ready for us.

We took a short drive (literally…Pope Valley is all of five minutes from Cleavage Creek) down to Pope Valley and were greeted by some VERY friendly dogs, Gus and Bella. Bella, in fact, jumped up on our car. I can say my dog, Belle, has done a lot of things, including successfully getting into the UPS truck when they make a delivery, but never has my Belle hopped up on the hood of a car and basically staked it as her own property!!! We got a good laugh out of Bella’s antics on our car, though. It wasn’t like she was attacking the car. Oh no. She was just trying to stake her claim!!

After Bella’s antics upon our arrival, we got to talking to David, the winemaker at Pope Valley. He told us the story of how the winery was started in 1897, is a gravitational flow winery and has hand-dug caves as we tasted and walked through the facility. Yes, hand dug. But if you think about it, back in 1897, that was really the only option.

The hand dug caves at Pope Valley...the cave is still in use today!

We tasted through much of their portfolio of wines…including their ports. Now, I’m not much of a sweet wine/fortified wine fan, but my cousin turned me on to something that I can’t back away from when we visited Washington’s Yakima Valley in July of 2010. That being Port.

See, I’m a chocoholic by DNA. Not by choice. By DNA. Get that? I come from a family of chocoholics. So the natural pairing for chocolate is Port (or is it the other way around???). Well, red wine in general is a natural pairing for chocolate, but honestly…Port and chocolate are like that perfect pairing. And damn do they make some good Port. Hell, they make good wine in general, but their Ports blew both my cousin and I away. They even outranked the White Port (which is Gewurztraminer based) we had at Bonair Winery in the Yakima Valley on our favorites list. Yes, White Port.

The other unique thing about Pope Creek is that David was tasting along with us. No tasting, then spitting, as is common at wineries here in the Pacific Northwest. Oh no…he was consuming it along with us. His words on the matter were, “I can’t have you ladies drinking corked wine, so I’ll taste it first.” Which was fine with us! We didn’t mind tasting along with the winemaker!

The wines? Absolutely, positively amazing. I left with the Sauvignon Blanc and the Sangiovese Rose and my cousin left with the Chenin Blanc (which that bitch had better save for a night when I’m at her house!!!!).

For the record, my cousin and I call each other a bitch and we mean it in a good way. 😀 It’s a long-standing, positive thing between us.

After our time in Pope Valley, we went to Mumm Napa for…yep, bubbly. I’d had the readily available Mumm Napa sparklers, so I was excited to try their winery-exclusive wines. What I didn’t expect was to fall completely in love with a bottle or two. Let’s just say I have new favorite Mumm Napa sparklers…the 2006 Devaux Ranch and the 2001 Domaine Mumm Renouveau (which are both winery-exclusive). I came home with a bottle of the Devaux Ranch…and a sea-salt caramel bar (I love sea-salt caramels).

My Mumm Napa sampler from L to R: 2006 Devaux Ranch; ???? (I can't remember!!!!); 2001 Renouveau

They were both amazing and imagine my surprise when, after signing up for Mumm’s Wine Club after I got home, I was sent two more bottles of the Devaux Ranch! Yes, the party is at my house.

After finishing our tasting at Mumm, we headed up the road a bit to St. Helena and to Sutter Home. Yes. Sutter Home. One of the undisputed kings of cheap wine. But honestly, sometimes, I’m more impressed with the wineries who have figured out how to make good wines at a decent price than the ones who make you give up your first born in order to afford a single sip.

Plus, it’s free. And as Tom Peterson, a Portland furniture store owner, used to say in his commercials: “Free is a very good price.”

We got four tastings, and we got to pick them. I had the Retro Muscat of Alexandria, the White Zinfandel Reserve, the Retro Zinfandel and the bubbly Moscato.

All were amazingly delicious. They had just released the bubbly Moscato the week before our visit…and looking at their website now, the limited quantities they had of it are gone.

And yes, I did buy a bottle of the bubbly Moscato. Which will be shared with my best friend one night. I also brought home the Muscat of Alexandria, which was given to a friend, and the Main Street (part of the Sutter Home family) Sauvignon Blanc.

After Sutter Home, we went to Castello di Amorosa. Mainly out of curiosity. And also because I’m slightly…okay, okay, VERY twisted and seeing the words “torture” and “chamber” in print ads intrigued my love of all things crazy, weird and…well, twisted.

Castello di Amorosa

One thing…it’s VERY expensive to view the torture chamber. You have to take the $32 tour, which they don’t tell you about in the advertising! Oh well. It was an interesting, informative tour (everything there is either authentic or a very well-crafted replica) and piqued this twisted bitch’s interest!

My favorite part of the torture chamber...the chair o' spikes.

The wines didn’t set my heart on fire, but I did buy one bottle. The Fantasia. Mainly because I want to see what it’s like in Sangria. Oh, I also bought a bottle of their Muscat of Alexandria grape juice, which is going to be a treat for my 6-year-old niece. And, it was better than most of the wines we tried. :/. Kinda sad that a winery who “prides” itself on “quality” wines makes better grape juice than they do wine. (Mind you, this is my opinion…)

We had dinner at the Silverado Brewing Company. Being Portlanders, we HAD to try the beer! It wasn’t too bad, but *cough*Portlandstillhasbetterbeer*cough*.

What will our last full day in Napa hold? A chance to let our inner 6 year olds play, free beer and…yes, more bubbly!

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