Dedicated wine lovers in the San Francisco Bay area get several opportunities each year to indulge their passions for wine. Large, themed tastings like the ZAP Zinfandel Festival are great opportunities to get a sense of a certain varietal and the quality of the recent vintage in California.
It is quite rare, however, despite the nearness of the appellation and the saturation of wine in the Bay Area, for consumers to get the opportunity to get an in-depth or comprehensive look at the wines of Napa Valley. Perhaps it's just because Napa wines don't need much marketing help, or perhaps it's because the Napa Valley Vintners association can only put on a few major events each year, but there just isn't a real good opportunity for members of the public to survey the breadth and depth of wines from the Napa valley.
Unless, that is, you happen to be a member of the Napa Valley Wine Library Association (Hint: you can become a member for just $75).
The Wine Library is just what it sounds like: a library with books about wine. Started in the early Sixties by a group of winery owners that realized the irony of having a public library in the heart of Napa Valley that possessed virtually no literature or resources about wine, the library association was built on donations of money and books from Napa's wine families over four decades. Now occupying a special section of the St. Helena public library and even owning a small vineyard out behind the building, the Wine Library Association is a membership organization that gives its members access to these materials, some of which are rare and historic, as well as to annual tasting events.
These tasting events have been going on for FIFTY years, offering members the chance to sample wines from producers all over the valley. This year's 50th annual tasting will feature one current release wine from each winery, as well as a wine from their library that they select. Around 80 wineries will pour their recent vintages in the grove at the Silverado Country Club. If you've never been to the grove at the Silverado Country Club, it is an idyllic place for a wine tasting, even during a hot Napa day.
"That's all well and good," you may be saying, "but this is a members-only event and I'm not a member of the Napa Valley Wine Library Association." That's true. But a check for $75 sent in advance, or a check for $80 on the day of the tasting will do the trick. Membership is available on the spot, and covers the tasting plus any others that you choose to go to for the rest of the year.
Sound like a steal? It is. Unless you're a member of the trade that attends Premiere Napa Valley, or someone willing to pay in the hundreds or even thousands for a package at the annual Auction Napa Valley, there is generally no other way to get the opportunity to taste so many Napa Valley wineries in a single setting. If you're serious about learning more about Napa wines, especially if you're interested in some of the less famous wines of the valley, this is an event you don't want to miss.
For those of you who make decisions about such tastings based on what you think you'll get a chance to taste, here is the list of wineries and the wines they'll be pouring (PDF).
2012 Napa Valley Wine Library Association Member Tasting
Sunday August 19th
Silverado Resort and Country Club
1600 Atlas Peak Road
Napa, California 94558
Annual membership dues for the Association are $75, or $80 if purchased at the door. Only checks and cash will be accepted, I believe, so stop at an ATM or bring your checkbook. Additional details on how to get membership in advance can be found on the Association's web site.
My usual tips for such outdoor public tastings apply: wear loose fitting but dark colored clothing (but keep in mind that it may be very warm for the outdoor tasting). Eat a good meal before going and drink lots of water while there. Decide in advance which wineries you would like to visit, and make sure to spit rather than swallow the wine to make sure you get a chance to enjoy (and remember) a number of wines.
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