Words by Malachy Duffy and Peter Grogan
Rutherford is an area in Napa that is noted for its robust reds, and when the last big parcel of land zoned for development there went up for sale in 1989, Agustin and Valeria Huneeus snapped it up. With great taste and style, they have put the 280 acres to excellent use. As you enter the property, with its rolling hills planted with the classic Bordeaux varietals, what you do not see is an obvious winery. You might expect this given the tremendous cost of the land, but the Huneeus resisted making a grand statement and instead built a graceful curve of stone into a hillside that marks the entrance to the entire facility. It includes 17,000 square feet of caves and tunnels. The wine is, as in Bordeaux, a blend of the different varietals that can vary from year to year, the winemaker using his judgment in determining which balance will yield the best wine. I have always admired Quintessa for its superb structure, ripe fruit and long finish, an excellent food wine. The fascinating tour is a hosted experience and ends in a tasting of current releases and wines from the Quintessa library.
In 1973, Joseph Phelps, who as head of one of the biggest construction companies in the country had worked on building a Napa Valley winery, decided to change his life. He purchased a former cattle ranch with 600 prime acres in the Spring Valley section of Napa and started the Joseph Phelps Vineyards. Phelps is not only one of the oldest of the post-war wineries in Napa, but it was also one of the pioneers in making blended wines, a move that caused no little controversy in the Valley. But Phelps persisted, and the signature Bordeaux-style Insignia consistently garners high marks for its beautiful structure, balance and appealing notes of rich red fruit. Putting all of his knowledge of building to excellent use, Phelps oversaw the construction of a stunning winery that takes advantage of a hilltop location for exceptional views. The facility was just completely renovated, and the Terrace Tastings (pictured) give you a chance to see Napa in a memorable way while sampling superb wines. Tastings by appointment.
Why visit San Francisco?
Not least among the many pleasures of San Francisco is the close proximity of the celebrated Napa Valley. A quick hour-and-a-half drive gets you right to the heart of wine country. While tasting rooms abound, book a visit that will help you fully experience the wineries without feeling crowded or rushed, which is inevitable when there’s an open-door policy. These two offer a refined experience.
Where to moor your yacht
Marina Bay Yacht Harbour, near Berkeley, for small yachts; large yachts can moor off Sausalito's Bridgeway Promenade in Richardson Bay.
Inspired to visit the region? Dont miss our guide to six days cruising on a luxury yacht around San Francisco Bay