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Wonderland of wine

California’s Napa Valley offers plenty for the palate.

If California sun and great wine is your thing, Napa Valley is the place where they meet in perfect harmony.

Inspired by the vino-drenched movie Sideways, which showcased Napa in all its glory, I couldn’t wait to get there are start tasting the nectar of the gods.

Even with all the hype surrounding Napa in recently years, it remains a largely quiet, scenic and even laid back place.

One of the more unique and classy experiences in the region has to be cave dining, at Rutherford Hill Winery. After entering the candlelit wine aging caves, I was treated to a veritable feast, complete with fancy linens and crystal stemware to sample the wines, no less.

Rutherford also allows the novice like myself to play winemaker for a day and blend your own merlot. Of course, guzzling it was the best part.

Perhaps the most famous winery in Napa is the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, started by the famous movie mogul turned grape master. Located on a scenic hill surrounded by vineyards, there is more than you might expect here. Not only are exclusive and popular Coppola wines on hand for sampling (and believe me, I sampled), there is even a touch of Hollywood in the form of a museum featuring props, costumes and memorabilia celebrating the owners iconic movies.

A whole wall is dedicated to Apocalypse Now, featuring Dennis Hopper’s outfit, and Robert Duval’s Calvary hat. Another area features a re-creation of a Lake Tahoe scene from Godfather 2. You get the idea. A display case even features a row of Coppola’s personal Oscars that he received for just one film. Somehow all of this Hollywood memorabilia seemed even more fascinating following a taste or two of Coppola wine.

Maybe that’s the gimmick. Napa may still be small and intimate, but it’s big on cool ambiance.

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