It is Day 6 and our trip is nearing it’s conclusion but not before we take part in a wine blending lesson at the Franciscan Winery followed by lunch at the Culinary Institute of America. During the drive on Highway 12 I noticed rose bushes at the end of the rows in many of the vineyards and I was told the reason is they are effected by the Phylloxera louse before the vines get infested thus providing an early warning alert to the presence of this dreaded pest, in essence they are the “Canary in the coal mine” for wine country. We arrived at the Franciscan Winery and were immediately taken with the beauty of the winery and an it’s neatly manicured grounds. Inside the main building we divide into four teams and begin to blend our wine under the watchful eye of Fred, our instructor. Our 45 minute assignment is to blend a wine, set a price that we think the wine would sell for, design and make a label, bottle, cork and label our wine then make presentation to the group stating why our wine should be judged the winner. After sampling each blend and laughing a lot, we realized we were all winners that day. Our next destination is St. Helena and the Culinary Institute of America for lunch and a brief history lesson of this magnificent building that had served as the Christian Brothers Winery for so many years until an earthquake left it unstable, only to be saved from demolition by the C.I.A. for future generations. Everyone was seated for lunch around a very large table in a cavernous room on the 2nd floor directly across from the bustling teaching kitchens of the Academy. During our meal an Executive Chef from the school conducted a presentation on the preparation of a Galette, which by no coincidence just happened to be our dessert . Upon returning to the hotel we pack our bags for the trip home tomorrow, then we got ready for our last night together with our friends at the “Wine Maker’s Dinner”. At dinner that evening we would laugh, eat and drink as we enjoyed a superb meal of Beef Short Ribs prepared by Chef Andrew Wilson of the Carneros Bistro and wine pairings by Highway 12 Winery. The one consistent message I got throughout Sonoma and Napa Valley was that California winemakers are expecting the 2012 vintage to be exceptional and that it will be a year that we will remember. The evening winds to a close and we all say our goodnights knowing that tomorrow we will be saying our goodbyes.
- The Best Wineries to Visit in Napa Valley (california.answers.com)