Restaurants & Bars

Markham Vineyards & Sutter Home, St Helena - Napa Road Trip Report #3

Chino Wayne | Apr 11, 200204:39 PM     3

After being sufficiently refreshed at Taylor’s Refresher, Mrs. Chino Wayne made known her desire for dessert. So, like the good boy scout he once was, Chino Wayne thought he was prepared for this minor challenge and with Mrs. Chino Wayne, got back in to Heather and headed north, up Main Street in St. Helena. The Model Bakery was located with dispatch on the west side of Main Street in downtown St. Helena, unfortunately, The Model Bakery was closed on this Monday. Visions of sweet baked delights for Mrs. Chino Wayne, and a good local sourdough for Chino Wayne having vaporized, the only sensible action for Chino Wayne was to bring Mrs. Chino Wayne to the nearest shopping opportunity to help her forget the unpleasant lack of dessert.

The factory outlets were located just north of town(up Main St which is Highway 29). This is a small outlet complex situated on the side of a lush hillside, and the management had the good sense to place a couple of picnic tables among the greenery so that the breadwinner could suitably refresh him/herself while the spouse is shopping. Chino Wayne had very little time for refreshment, however, because the Mrs. quickly determined that the appropriate vendors were not present, and when she ventured in to the shoe store, their sale prices were way higher than anything Mrs. Chino Wayne would pay at any outlet. The sales clerk did remark on how she liked Mrs. Chino Wayne’s handbag, but apparently the Mrs. liked it too much to use for barter. There were no sales this afternoon at this outlet. Mrs. Chino Wayne would advise all readers that the outlets in Napa Valley seem geared to those with mucho disposable income, but would not attract a true bargain hunter. It seems to Chino Wayne that since he last visited the Napa Valley about 25 years ago, it has reached the point where it is becoming, if it is not already, overdeveloped, with high end accommodations, tracts of big houses, and expensive winery “architectural mounuments” loaded with not only wine, but various and sundry accouterments, most of which are probably not a necessary part of life. (Mrs. Chino Wayne’s bargain hunters’ hint: visit the factory outlets in Cabazon, which is near Palm Springs in the summer, when it is hot and all the snowbirds have gone home and prices are at their lowest.)

Having struck out on both the dessert and shopping fronts, the only rational action the Chino Wayne’s could take next would be to sample some wine. The closest winery to the outlets was Markham, about sixty seconds down the road heading south, so that was the next stop. It is quite a well known fact that the Chino Wayne’s are most certainly far from wine sophisticates, in point of fact they are proud to proclaim that they are wine hicks and would be loath to have it any other way, having suffered through too many business dinners, where shallow colleagues, spending the company’s money, work at one upping each other as “wine sophisticates”. Give the Chino Wayne’s a bottle of White Zinfandel, a liter of 7-Up and a bucket of crushed ice any time and they will be perfectly happy and content, they are a cheap date and don’t need to impress anyone. So why then did the Chino Wayne’s decide to sample at Markham? Because it was the first winery the Chino Wayne’s came across, and they had never heard of the label before, and for the experience. Three whites were sampled, a Sauvignon Blanc, and two Chardonnays, all of recent vintage. All three were drier and more sophisticated than the Chino Wayne’s, however Chino Wayne did purchase two bottles of the Sauvignon Blanc ($14.00 a bottle), primarily to use as a cooking ingredient, and not to drink. Three tastings for two were $6.00.

The gentleman doing the pouring at Markham was friendly, but ultimately proved to be of doubtful chowing credibility, as he did recommend Cole’s Chop House in Napa for the beef, but rated Rutherford Grill just as high, while in the same conversation admitting that Rutherford Grill is just another Houston’s. So, having lost confidence in this local denizen of the Napa Valley, the Chino Wayne’s bid farewell to him, his wines and the overpriced “accessories” for sale in this very impressive edifice with the Koi pond out front.

Toodling down the road in Heather, the Chino Wayne’s knew exactly where the next stop would be, Sutter Home. Now this was more like the type of place that would attract the Chino Wayne’s, the unpretentious home of their favorite label. The Chino Wayne’s arrived just as the blue haired set were finishing and were to climb back aboard their bus, and thus had the vintner’s full attention. Eight wines were sampled. The Chino Wayne’s started with old reliable, Sutter Home White Zinfandel, after the White Zin Chino Wayne and the Mrs. were treated to their first taste of the Sutter Home Muscato (2002 vintage), another blush wine with a bright, fruity sweetness. It was immediately agreed that the Chino Wayne’s could very easily put away quite a lot of this nectar. Next up was the Sutter Home premium label Proprietor’s Muscato (2001 vintage), which was slightly drier and with a more sophisticated taste. Also sampled were a Gewürztraminer which was also very nice and had a slight peppery taste. A cream Sherry was sampled that would put Harvey’s to shame, and is probably a lot less expensive, and a fortified Port. Mrs. Chino Wayne liked the Sherry and REALLY liked the port. Chino Wayne felt both the Sherry and Port were drinkable, but just not his cup of tea, although he would probably use the port as a cooking ingredient, he prefers the dryness and rawness of a cheap straight sherry for cooking. Another wine was sampled, but Chino Wayne reports that by that point in time of the afternoon wine tasting marathon, memory began to fail. Also offered and tasted were a chocolate sauce, which was quite nice, not too sweet (Chino Wayne is also not certain if this chocolate sauce was fortified or not, since by this time, everything just plain tasted good.)

The Chino Wayne’s left Sutter Home with two bottles of the Proprietor’s Muscato ($12.00 each), one bottle of Triple Cream Sherry ($15.00), and one bottle of the chocolate elixir ($16.95). Six wine tastings, with two souvenir glasses thrown in, were $10.00 (the vintner gave the Chino Wayne’s a break on the wine tastings).

Markham Vineyards
2812 St Helena Highway North
St Helena, CA 95474
(707) 963-5292

Sutter Home Winery
277 St Helena Highway South
St. Helena, CA 95474
(707) 963-3104
(800) 967-4663

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