Dave has been a wine enthusiast for many years and in 2006 created the Napa Wine Project. The mission of the Napa Wine Project is to personally visit, taste with and promote all wineries and commercial wine producers in the Napa Valley, as well as all collectives & select other locations. Dave has personally visited & tasted with representatives from nearly 700 commercial Napa wine producers, physical or virtual, out of about 900 – including other locations that offer tasting experiences but do not make wine. Dave is founder and editor of a popular international travel site (since 1996), Dave’s Travel Corner and affiliated travel blog, Above the Clouds.
Interview with Dave
When did you discover your passion for wine and what was the inspiration behind The Napa Wine Project?
I grew up around wine country – mother’s maiden name is Gallo (there is some connection there to the Gallo Family). I have Italian citizenship. So I think some of my interest is related to heritage! A friend from high school ultimately got me into wine more seriously (after high school). She used to tour me around the Napa Valley and now I tour her around when she visits the area!
The inspiration for the Napa Wine Project was to do something on a large scale that would be both educational for me personally as well as benefit others and in addition create connections for me in the wine industry. With a tourism background, I chose the Napa Valley over other nearby wine regions because of its well regarded International reputation and exposure as well as the fact the Napa Valley is a easy to understand geographical region – a valley surrounded by hills.
What are your key highlights of Napa Valley?
The key highlights of the Napa Valley are first and foremost its dedication and passion of its vintners to creating high quality wines and bettering their vintages each and every year. The Napa Valley is very scenic ̶ containing vineyards, mountains, and beautiful scenery. Other key highlights including select wineries that stand out for a variety of reasons, the wines, the owners, the experience, the architecture and or the views.
When are the best times to visit Napa?
There are two “best times” to visit the Napa Valley. One is in late spring – the weather is usually warm, the summer crowds have not yet come to the valley, and the vineyards are completely leafed out. Another great time to visit the valley is in September and October during harvest. The vineyards are a buzz of activity with grapes being picked and harvested. The smells of fermentation radiate from the wineries. Its a very educational time to be in the valley because you can experience first hand the culmination of the entire growing season when the grapes come into the wineries and are processed.
Do you have a personal favourite winery in Napa and if so why?
I do not have a personal favourite winery in the Napa Valley. I’ve visited and reviewed nearly 700 of them – I have a list of around 200 excellent experiences in the valley along with another list of maybe 25 wineries that provide truly amazing and memorable experiences.
What would be your top tips for the keen wine traveler?
Dump Bucket (spitting, dumping) – All wineries we visited have a “dump” bucket or some other type of container for pouring or spitting excess wine. It is normal to pour or spit wine into these provided containers if you cannot finish it. Wineries expect this and if you are not in the wine industry it can take some time to get over the perceived “weirdness”of spitting wine.
Try to schedule winery appointments at wineries that are located close to each other. Napa Valley is not huge – but there are wineries spread out all over and it can easily take up to an hour to drive between wineries far apart from each other. Allow time ample time for lunch – and note there are no restaurants along the entire Silverado Trail (with the exception of a few nearby resorts and one store/deli). Napa Valley restaurants are typically in or near the main towns along Highway 29. Take all winery phone numbers with you. If you find yourself becoming late for an appointment – call at least 10-20 minutes before the appointment time to appraise the winery of your situation & current location.
Cell Phones – should be turned off during tastings or set to vibrate – especially on tours and during more intimate sit down tastings. If there is a call you absolutely have to take – take it outside. The way we see it, if you choose to go wine tasting, leave the cell phone in the car.
Swirling – or what is known in Chemistry speak as “volatizing the esters” actually “opens up the wine” – by swirling you expose more of the wine to air and you will notice the aroma’s become more noticeable and pronounced and will even change over time. Introducing oxygen to the wine can enhance the aromas and flavors. Grab the wine glass by its long stem and move it in a counter or clockwise direction so that the wine swirls around the inside of the glass for 5 to 10 seconds.
Finally, which wine region in the world would you like to visit next?
I’ve been to a number of wine regions in the world – but would would like to next visit lesser known regions – I was in Hungary last year and would like to visit the Tokaj wine region – amazing dessert wines coming from this part of Hungary.