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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Dolce Far Niente…As sweet as the name.

Saturday, August 28, 2010
“Il dolce far niente” - how sweet is doing nothing?A visit to Far Niente Winery has you picturing yourself doing just that as you bliss out at the fairytale property. Located between St. Helena and Oakville, Far Niente is a little slice of heaven and offers the ideal tour and tasting if you are looking for an intimate yet impressive tour that includes a great tour and guide, impressive and historic grounds, beautiful, lush, sweeping landscaping, a fabulous wine and cheese tasting, and even a visit to the carriage house with collector autos. The experience begins by driving up to the gated property along a long tree-lined road, so pristine that you feel as though you might be a character in The Truman Show, having thewinery door opened for you by a waiting doorman, and a sign welcoming you and your guests by name in the foyer. What I found incredible was that the winery itself is actually an old barn built in the 1800s, although it now looks more like an ivy-covered European Chateau. The 125 year-old building was built from assorted rubble, and after the center of the 3-story barn was rotted out in the 1900s, it was reinforced and given a complete faceliftwith the intention of lasting at least another 125 years. The building is beautiful, with three fireplacesand one of the tallest free-standing spiral staircases in California, which you can climb to the top floor where you’ll find a tranquil “office” that overlooks acres of Oakville vineyards and had me drooling!
The property reminded me of Wonderland – shadows reach across pristine gardens cast by different types of trees and bushes, brightly colored flowers of all sorts, peeping out from rocks and pathways, a beautiful pond with a fountain, and a charmin

g gazebo, bordered by 120 acres of cabernet grapes. The pizza oven, outdoor kitchen and expansive lawn make the winery ideal for events, which can be hosted at Far Niente, although individual picnicking is not allowed, much to my dismay.The tour takes you down spiraling stairs to the second floor, which houses the barrel tanks, and into the wine caves – which stretch two football fields long!! When you first look down the rows of stacked wine barrels, you think that you must be looking into a mirror- the underground cave labyrinth is that expansive! My favorite part of the
tour was a visit into “Dolce” – where the botrycized sweet Dolce Far Niente wine, made of Semillon and Sauvignon grapes is stored – each barrel makes 600 half bottles of the liquid gold dessert wine and it can be aged for over 20 years, turning from a golden blonde to a deep amber honey color. After a charming stroll through the grounds and a visit to the carriage house, which houses a dozen gorgeous collector cars and branded Far Niente boats, we finally got to taste the acclaimed Far Niente Wine. Each wine was paired with a delicious gourmet cheese and is described below:
  • 2008 Estate Bottled Chardonnay: Made in the French Style, this chard was delicious and juicy, with good acidity. It tasted of apple, lemon and vanilla – like an apple pie that has been sprinkled with lemon juice and vanilla and has not yet been popped in the oven to cook. I liked that this Chardonnay had a hint of buttery flavor, but was not overwhelmed with butter and oak as some New World Chardonnays are.
  • 1998 Cave Collection Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine had a bit of Bordeaux funk on the nose, and it tasted the way a Cab made in the Bordeaux style should taste – like the soil the grapes came from. I found this Cab to be rich and earthy, with meaty, smoky, even spicy flavors, and a little spiced plum. This wine would be excellent for food pairing.
  • 2007 Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon: This Cab was far more fruit-forward than the 1998 Cab – with big red-fruit flavors and toasty, buttery vanilla notes-like buttered toast with red berry jam – I’d drink this cab on its own or with food – festive, juicy and comforting.
  • 2005 New Release Dolce: There is no better way to describe thisdessert wine other thanliquid gold. It is perfectly balanced, sweet without being too viscous, and hints of honey, apricots and orange blossoms make it the perfect nectar.
Live the sweet life and stop by Far Niente – and don’t leave without a bottle of dolce to remember how sweet life can be.

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