By Don Douloff, August 21, 2008
For groups looking to take a bite out of California, Cruise West has enhanced its three-night, small-ship Culture of the Vine and four-night Vintner’s Choice excursions to highlight more of the culinary offerings available in the state’s northern wine region. Each day features added onboard lectures and wine tastings led by an expert, as well as a land programme offering tours at select wineries and meals at local eateries.
The five-day/four-night Vintner’s Choice itinerary highlights Napa Valley, Sonoma and the town of Sausalito. Cruising up the Napa River from San Francisco Bay, guests disembark in Napa and visit the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). There, they will observe a wine-blending workshop that includes the five Bordeaux grape varietals, after which they sit down to a three-course, chef’s-choice lunch, paired with wine, at Auberge du Soleil and sample the sparkling wines of Mumm Napa during a tour of the facilities and gallery.
“The California Wine Country Cruises are designed for both wine novices and connoisseurs who seek a personalized wine-country experience,” said president and CEO Dietmar Wertanzl.
In Sonoma, guests will have the option to explore the area’s historical district or participate in one of several optional excursions, including a cabernet-lovers limo tour, an olive-press tour or hot-air balloon ride. That afternoon, oenophiles will learn “tasting techniques” at award-winning Chateau St. Jean and indulge in a cheese, charcuterie and wine tasting at St. Francis Winery.
As part of the four-day/three-night Culture of the Vine itinerary, guests visit Napa, where they sample four wines at a private tasting at boutique winery Alpha Omega, followed by a tasting at Merryvale Vineyards, the first winery built in the Napa Valley following the repeal of Prohibition. After that, at Clos Pegase Winery, visitors will enjoy a three-course lunch in the on-site cave theatre, complemented by three wines.
Highlights in Sonoma include a tour and tasting of Reve Blanc de Blancs and Brut Rose, at sparkling-wine producer Domaine Carneros, as well as a private tram tour of the vineyard and cave at Benzinger Family Winery, followed by a lesson in the company’s biodynamic farming methods.