Mountain High and Mannequins

Napa county mountain

Yesterday, I and a few other parents were chaperones for a choir competition held in an incredibly beautiful spot: Angwin, CA, a town of approximately 3,000 people in Napa County. It’s high up on a hill with an Alpine-like setting, like a melding of Colorado and the Wine Country. The only problem is, there is no wine around—nor coffee, curiously. Alcohol and caffeine are entirely absent, at least on the campus of Pacific Union College, where the event was held.

So after our kids were settled, I decided to take a drive down the hill in pursuit of a cup a coffee, but I ended up getting in the car with two other moms headed for Raymond Vineyard’s tasting room in St. Helena. I tried to explain that we didn’t have to go that far for a good winery. For quite some time now, I’ve wanted to visit Viader, declared one of Napa’s wineries with the best views, less than three miles away. In fact, this whole mountain—Howell Mountain—is a destination in and of itself. Now that I’m home at my computer, I’ve learned that no less than 35 wineries will be participating in the Annual Taste of Howell Mountain this June. Amazing…But Niki had free tasting passes for Raymond, and I couldn’t argue with that.

Crystal Cellar at Raymond VineyardsWithin fifteen minutes, we arrived at our destination and entered into a bizarre world that is called Crystal Cellar. With its stainless steel walls, mannequins with wings, and at least one mannequin hanging upside down on a swing, it was an odd contrast to the natural beauty outside. Not that the cellar wasn’t beautiful in its own way. It just surprised me, which I think was part of the point. I had been familiar with the Raymond wine label: elegant, traditional, and simple with silkscreening right on the bottle. The fact that the tasting room décor was Moulin Rouge-surreal completely caught me off guard.

The flight of five tastings, however, was in keeping with the high-end label design. I wish I could describe the wines to you, but let’s just say that if you want to know what the ultimate 100% Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like, this would be the place to go.

After the tasting, we returned to the beautiful mountain and finished our volunteering responsibilities, so pleased that our day of chaperoning kids included a grownup adventure. Yet, I am eager to return to Howell Mountain to experience Viader Vineyards with its views, the perfect thing to do on a hot summer day because the weather is cooler up there. There’s also Arkenstone, Bremer, Cade, Neal Family Vineyards, Howell Mountain Vineyards…it’s hard to choose! Many of these wineries have permits that require appointments for tasting, so if you’re inspired to visit as well, look online to see if you should call ahead to let them know you’re coming. Then give yourself plenty of time to navigate the winding roads and take it easy with your mountain high.

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