Our third day was slightly different than our ‘normal’ scheduled trip, but I might add, may be the anticipated highlight for instructors and students alike. You may realize from the title and yes, it was the visit to winery. For the majority of the trip members, it was a whole new experience to visit the fresh mountain air and hills of Napa Valley as a refreshing change to the ever-flat land of our beloved Illinois.
I am ashamed to admit that I was be too excited for this part of trip that I found myself wide awake the night before. The imagery of lush-green bed of grapes leaves and walking through the meandering road within Napa Valley filled my mind. Thus, I was left slightly disappointed to find that the bright morning sun was blocked by the dull color of clouds and raindrops unforgivingly poured down across the coast of West that morning. However, even the torrent of water drops could not wash away the amazing view of Sausalito as we passed by the renowned hillside and graceful tidal flats. The magnificent view of the seaside quickly transformed into more adjacent greenery and with it come organized t-shape trellises where the grapes are grown. Everyone automatically adjusted their seats closer to the window to have a good look at the hill bed.
Just after a few short minutes, we arrived at the Frank Family Vineyard. As we alighted from the bus, we were straight away taken by the fresh smell of mountain air and old buildings that quickly reminded me of historical forts. Our guide ushered us inside the well-preserved building and explained that such structure and traditional fermentation tools were maintained because it gave the atmosphere of rich tradition in the winery and functions well as a chamber to provide an optimal atmosphere to store wines.
We then went on to the manufacturing and storage area. Our guide explained that the majority of grape picking was still done traditionally by hand picking. However, modern technological equipment is utilized for quality control and fermentation processes. Thus, there is certain degree of flexibility in optimizing production rate while prioritizing on ensuring a high quality product.
One factor that I really admire from the wine-making industry was the amount of detail in wide range of factors has to be considered before any production process began. Our guide explained that production cycles may take 4-5 years and thus, there is a unique challenge for winery managers since high initial capital cost was incurred and inventory tracking is critical. Moreover, additional factors such as taste, barrel options, distribution line as well as branding also play a very important part in positioning the wine brand.
On a less serious note, we did have a wine tasting session. As a wine newbie, I looked forward to the session and I had to say that it did not disappoint! We tried a wide range of wine from Frank Family such as cabernet sauvignon, port and chardonnay among others. Some of us got red-faced and feel light-headed but it was a refreshing experience, just like the representation of vibrant Napa Valley scenery. As we bid adieu to Frank Family Vineyard, I promise myself to come to this enchanting place in the near future. What a fantastic experience for the MSTM family!