Wind tousles the broad leaves of vines above clusters of grapes the off-black blue of the dusk sky. Frank and Liz Vezér, owners of Vezér Family Vineyard, originally began growing the fruit to help fill the needs of wine producers including Ravenswood and Sin Zin. More than a decade ago, they also began producing their own wines. “One could call it beginner’s luck,” says Touring and Tasting Magazine, “but their award-winning streak has yet to be broken. Every single wine Vezér has produced has won a top award or superior rating. Of most recent note, the 2007 Vezér Cabernet Sauvignon won double gold at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and a whopping 97 points at a blind tasting at Napa’s Bay Leaf Restaurant.”
The winery adjoins the original Pony Express offices, and one can still almost hear the sound of plodding hooves and hooves frustratedly trying to apply stamps. On a copper-roofed cupola, an equine weathervane twists to face the winds above a sweeping swath of grass that fills with chatter during weddings and other events.
The Scribner family has been a fixture of the Sacramento River Delta since 1893, when George Washington Scribner settled along the river bend that would eventually bear his name. Five generations since the fertile soil first beckoned the patriarch, the family is still putting the original barn to good use—now as a tasting room where the Scribners' award-winning wines get the attention and ambiance they deserve. The family’s alluring adult beverages reach their palate-pleasing potential thanks to the expertise of 50-year winemaker William Ghiglieri, who helps the Scribners maintain their century-old legacy. Visitors can rent out the vineyard for private events, lending a convivial elegance to such get-togethers as corporate parties, bridal showers, or pet goldfish funerals.
Diners seated in what used to be the Frasinetti's east cellar sate themselves on handcrafted Italian lunch and dinner dishes, surrounded by huge vats evoking the 112-year-old winery’s storied past. Dinners commence with starters such as crostini slathered in grilled brie and red-pepper chutney ($10) or steamed clams in white-wine sauce ($9). Next, certified non-android servers bring out entrees such as seafood manicotti, a mix of salmon, scallops, and crab packed in pasta ($15). Pine-nut-gorgonzola butter adds a zesty twist to the 12-ounce center-cut prime rib ($25), and the regal Atlantic salmon rests on a bed of mushroom risotto ($19), like an eccentric rice baron.
Cuisine Type: Winery
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Parking: Parking lot
Most popular offering: Wines and a rustic event venue
Alcohol: Wine only
Outdoor Seating: Yes
The Carvalho family's history in the winemaking industry began in the vineyards of Portugal more than 100 years ago, right after drinking wine for pleasure was invented. Although the family has since immigrated to the rolling fields of Clarksburg Wine Country, the new generation of Carvalhos still hand-crafts small batches of wine with the same dedication as their ancestors. They source their grapes from local vineyards in the surrounding area to concoct a variety of California wines, including their crisp sauvignon blanc, creamy chardonnay, smooth pinot noir, and five-barrel tawny port, which can all be sipped in their quaintly appointed tasting room. In addition to tastings, the room hosts regular events including tastings, art openings, and live music.
The family further proves that they know how to entertain in their charming Old Sugar Mill event space, which hosts weddings and special occasions of all kinds beneath it's cathedral ceilings. Owner John Carvalho renovated the space, but preserved its Old World–style brick walls and rustic doors.
Now that eating on an ordinary table or atop a stack of Chinese acrobats seem horribly passé, adventurous foodies are seeking the next unconventional dining experience. Today's Groupon puts a little motion under your meal with two gourmet dinners on the Napa Valley Wine Train for $99 (a $198 value for dinner, $188 value for lunch). Treat yourself and a loved one to a three-hour ride through Napa Valley on an antique locomotive engine, accompanied by a delicious gourmet meal in lieu of the traditional mysterious murder.
Cornerstone Cellars piles oenophiles' palates with tastings of wine and cheese in an elegant tasting room adorned with eclectic artwork and TVs. Drinking duos will imbibe the winemakers' vintage Stepping Stone Rocks! red and white nectars, carefully comparing the French-inspired amalgamations of varietals, aromas, and Parisian mime tears. A smattering of cheeses complements each wine's unique flavors, allowing guests to experiment with pairings until they find the combination that unlocks wine's hidden notes of bacon. After emptying glasses and polishing off plates, pairs receive bottles of Stepping Stone Rocks! red and white to sip at home or use to strengthen core muscles by balancing them on their heads.