Restoration Romantic IV: Exploring California wine country

From the pca e-brake archives

4y ago

Saturday, December 20, 2014

By Michael Benet

Getting the car to California was one thing… Getting the drivers to California was another thing altogether.

We booked flights, and the schedule was set. We started the trip about two weeks before the winter holiday and expected travel to be easy. And it was. A one-stop flight set us in Sacramento late but without hassle. I reserved a hotel near the airport so Tara and I could go to sleep as soon as we stepped off the plane, and then drive the rental car to the hangar, where my 912 was being stored, in the morning.

It was a sight to behold when we arrived at the hangar. Surrounding my 912 was a bevy of collector cars and vintage aircraft. Brian has the same affliction as me! He gave us a tour of the facility and even allowed me to drive his 1968 912 (with a twin-plug flat-four upgraded for performance and a 7000 rpm redline) on their private 4,000-foot airstrip. It was delicious.

We then parked both 912’s, went to a casual dinner in town, and talked about our PCA history and events. Afterward, we planned our Napa tour departure for the next morning and remained impressed with the hospitality that our fellow new PCA friends provided us. What a great help Brian and Sue were. I can’t express how much we appreciate that.

The weather was not optimal the next morning, but the trusty 912 fired up without hesitation. Our navigation system showed a 100-mile journey to Napa, so I looked at the gas gauge, which registered about half a tank. Half Tank? 100 miles? Unfamiliar territory? No problem. We rolled out with the wipers on and the plan to get there before lunch. Traffic agreed with us and we made it in short time — the gas gauge didn’t budge a bit. Nothing like a 912 when it comes to fuel economy!

Napa greeted us with partly sunny skies and nice, open roads as we headed to our hosting hotel and spa. We pulled into a beautiful, manicured area and parking zone that the 912 felt really good about (nice wide parking spaces). The hotel staff greeted us with smiles and set our stay into motion. This place is beautiful and truly designed for a stay like ours. We had them take care of our luggage, warmed up the mighty 912, and then off we went to our first winery.

I'll start out by stating an immediate observation of the area: There are so many winery’s in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys! I was completely impressed. On a short drive to Sonoma Valley to visit Gundlach Bundschu, one of the oldest wineries in the area (Est. 1858), we drove past rows upon rows of grape vines adorning almost every street, on highways lined with countless wineries — easy to see and access. A fantastic tour guide greeted us when we arrived and walked us through the cave in which the winery’s barrels reside. The guide waxed on eloquently about all things wine-related, and we learned about California wine production and how prohibition affected Sonoma and Napa Valley culture. We were offered a barrel-tasting as a surprise at the end of the tour, and, of course, the wine was excellent.

Being car people, we had to visit the Andretti Winery next. Located in Napa Valley, we had the opportunity to drive again, and the roads were pleasant and the traffic thin. Country roads surrounded by rolling hills and mountains define the area, and I would guess much of it hasn’t changed over the years. Cruising in these parts made me think of 1967 and what it may have been like to drive this car when it was new.

When we arrived, we were met in a very quaint courtyard reminiscent of Italy. Right past the courtyard we joined the Andretti team for a tasting of their best offerings. Lots of automobile memorabilia was found laced through the establishment. We enjoyed our time gazing over the vineyard then set sail for our next “port.”

Just up the main street we found lovely offerings from Cakebread Cellars, Cosentino Winery, Del Datto Vineyards, Turnbull, and Stags Leap. All of them had fantastic offerings and staff that made each one of us feel as if we were at home. Plus the parking was plentiful and comfortable. But let it be known that you must pace yourself — this is wine tasting, not drinking — despite the wineries’ generous offerings. There are so many to see and taste!

When it was time for dinner, we were referred to one of the local favorite restaurants, the world-renowned The French Laundry. Located in Yountville, it was an easy drive and a chance to sit back and take in the full day of tours and tastings.

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