Tasting wine is like test-driving a car: potential buyers are able to experience what they might get, and they can only choose from two colors. Try the red or the white with today's Groupon: for $20, you get a wine-and-chocolate tasting for two at Rutherford Ranch Winery in St. Helena (a $50 value).
Rutherford Ranch Winerys team of lifelong winemakers sources grapes from sustainably run vineyards around the Napa Valley, their juice globes grown with the aid of ecologically friendly practices such as recycling water and natural predation. Upon entering the capacious tasting room, sampling attendees untie their ruby chocolate boxes' gilded ribbons to uncover a variety of confections, with instructions indicating the order in which they should be savored and an emergency number to call in the event of a cacao overdose. The tartness of the white lemon chocolate nips at the tails of a silky estate chardonnay before the luxuriant crunch of the light toffee punctuates a punchy pinot noir. A homologous fruitiness ties together the reserve cabernet sauvignon and the dark cherry, and a jolting contrast unites the imago match of zinfandel port and chili and sea salt cocoa.
Between pairings, tasters rinse away the previous residual flavors with a glass of water or simply remove all sense memory with a quick mindwipe. The Cabernet Room ensconces guests in a living-room setting with overstuffed sofas, and if the windowed view of the grounds proves insufficient, imbibers can carry their glasses outside to roam among the century-old olive grove or ogle the cork tree.
Rutherford Ranch Winery
Rutherford Ranch Winery's team of vintners transforms grapes into wines that showcase the abilities of California's terroir. As a testament to their efforts and three generations of family ownership, the winery garnered the 2012 Family-Owned Winery of the Year award at the New York International Wine Competition. Several of their varietals were winners as well, including the cabernet sauvignon, a blend that bewilders palates with notes of french vanilla, blackberry, and cocoa powder.
Tastings take place in Rutherford Ranch's Cabernet Room, where guests sink into overstuffed sofas to sip wine in comfort before striking out to explore the property. When weather permits, tasters can tour the winery's vineyard, gaze up through the branches of century-old olive trees, or view a live cork tree tasked with keeping fresh the millions of gallons of wine just beneath the earth's crust. Guests who look closely enough may spot owl boxes, indigenous plants, and photovoltaic cells used to keep the winery sustainable and ensure that wine is produced with respect for the land and the environment.