What's New in Napa Valley

    California’s Napa Valley is the most famous wine region in the United States, and with good reason.

     It is a unique valley — relatively long and narrow, and home to several microclimates that accommodate the growing of numerous winegrape varieties. It also is rich in history, yet embraces the latest in technology.

     Some of the wineries are “mom-and-pop” operations, some are owned by multi-national corporations, and most would be categorized somewhere between those two extremes.

     An extensive “wine country culture” has emerged up and down the valley, as the wineries have been joined by gourmet restaurants, luxurious spas, sprawling resorts, delightful bed-and-breakfast inns, art galleries and shops offering an array of collectibles and consumables.

     So while the wine industry forms the economic base of the valley, numerous other enterprises exist in and around the small towns that separate the vast stretches of meticulously manicured vineyards. As a result, there’s always something to see or experience in the Napa Valley.

     For instance, in recent months, a new visitor deck and tasting program has been added at Mumm Napa Valley, and new Saturday classes have been added to the Culinary Institute of America curriculum. There’s lots more going on throughout the year, but these two “experiences” will give you a glimpse at a valley that’s steeped in history yet constantly is evolving.

     After nearly six months of construction, Mumm Napa, located on the Napa Valley’s  scenic Silverado Trail, has opened a stunning new space for visitors.

     Facing the vineyards, it preserves a 180-year-old blue oak tree by surrounding it with special wood decking. Down a few steps and surrounded by stone is a lower deck, which is at vineyard level.

     Dubbed the Oak Terrace, the new space affords more room for special events, and visitors now have a new and different tasting menu from which to choose. The menu is focused on some of the rarer wines in the Mumm cellar, including older vintages, the coveted DVX and the acclaimed Blanc de Blancs. Still wines that are equally rare, including select bottlings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, also are on the special Oak Terrace tasting menu.

     To enhance the experience, samplers of artisan cheeses, fruit and local chocolates also are available.

     As anyone who has visited Mumm Napa Valley knows, hospitality is always first-rate. With this new addition, the winery simply has expanded its venue, and given visitors a chance to enjoy even more of the wines in a beautiful and exceptional setting.

     Mumm Napa Valley is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and complimentary tours head out every hour on the hour from 10 to 3.

     Meanwhile, the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone has introduced its first-ever weekend classes for food enthusiasts.

     “Saturdays at the CIA” offer a wide array of hands-on cooking and wine exploration classes for Napa Valley visitors with no previous professional training. Each of the two-hour classes — taught by the same expert faculty that has made the CIA one of the world’s premier culinary colleges — costs $75 per person.

     With titles ranging from “Hot Latin Cooking” to “Street Foods of the Middle East,” these unique hands-on classes take students on a culinary journey while creating dishes inspired by global cuisine.

     Class sizes are small — just 12 students — so all participants have the opportunity to work one-on-one with the chefs of the CIA. Over the course of the two hours, students will work in teams to prepare a tasting for their fellow classmates to enjoy.

     “Saturdays at the CIA” wine exploration classes introduce students to the world of viticulture in the facility’s state-of-the-art Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies. Instructors guide students in tasting a number of grape varieties and exploring the diversity of wine regions throughout the world. Participants also will learn helpful tips when tasting and serving wine for their friends and family.

     Students who enroll in “Saturdays at the CIA” can get even more out of their trip to the campus by making a lunch or dinner reservation at The Greystone Restaurant. Guests who make a reservation before class will receive a seat at a communal table with their classmates and enjoy a special fixed-price menu for only $19 for lunch or $29 for dinner. All “Saturdays at the CIA” participants also receive a 10% discount on any purchases from the college’s Spice Islands Marketplace.

     If a Saturday visit doesn’t fit into your schedule, there also is a limited number of Sunday classes, taught by chef John Ash, that focus on how to pair food and wine. The cost is $95 per person.

     A schedule of the new courses may be found online at the CIA’s Web site. Reservations are recommended.


Mumm Napa Valley

8445 Silverado Trail

Rutherford, Calif.



Culinary Institute of

America at Greystone

2555 Main Street

St. Helena, Calif.



Posted in Our Wine Travel Log
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