Today was a busy day. We started off with a visit to the Far Niente Winery. The location is beautiful. The winery is surrounded by 13 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, thought by many to be among the most stunning landscapes in the Napa Valley. It has been described as “southern” in style, with an emphasis on texture and foliage. The highlight of the Far Niente gardens is the thousands of southern azaleas that bloom every spring.
In 1885, John Benson, who was a forty-niner during the California gold rush and uncle of the famous American impressionist painter, Winslow Homer, founded the vineyard. Benson hired architect Hamden McIntyre, creator of the former Christian Brothers winery – now the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone – to design the building. Constructed against a hillside in western Oakville, Far Niente functioned as a gravity flow winery, gently moving the grapes through each stage of production.
Far Niente prospered until the beginning of Prohibition in 1919, when it was abandoned and left to fall into disrepair. In 1979, Gil and Beth Nickel purchased the winery and adjacent land and began a three-year restoration of the property. During restoration, the original name, Far Niente, from an Italian phrase that romantically translated means “without a care,” was found carved in stone on the front of the building where it remains to this day.
We were treated to an exceptional wine tasting to which the owner, Beth Nickels showed up and sat with us for a while. We tasted 5 different wines, 2 chardonnays and 2 cabs and a sweet wine called DOLCE.
After the winery tour, Zack took us to see their classic car collection. Some are exceedingly valuable coming from Italy, Britain, Germany and America, plus a number of vintage BMW motorcycles. Some of the most significant cars include a 1966 Ferrari 500 Superfast and a 1961 Corvette roadster. The cars are hardly treated like a museum collection. In fact, they’re driven regularly along the wide-open spaces and curvy hillsides of the wine country.
This evening we returned to the kitchens at Cakebread and prepared an excellent dinner. Marie and I arrived about an hour early and were put to work right away. With a head start on dinner, we were able to start our meal at 6:30PM. Our menu included: Avocado Soup, Asian Summer Rolls filled with smoked salmon Pan Fried Veal Dumplings, Thai Green Curry risotto with Seafood, Papaya Salad, Chocolate Di Dum Purses with coconut an Chilies.
Tomorrow will be another busy day. We will start off at the Robert Mondavi Winery where we will cook and have lunch and in the evening we will drive up the mountain to the Ovid Winery. That will be special since they are rarely open to the public.