Napa Valley is home to some big names in the wine industry, and it’s big business, producing high quality wine and a lot of it. When driving into the Napa Valley you are greeted with vineyards as far as the eye can see. The smaller towns such as St Helena and Calistoga area picturesque and I was excited to be calling this beautiful place home for the next three months.
During my time in the Napa I had the pleasure of working at Frank Family Vineyards in their tasting room with some amazing people who really knew their stuff about the wines they were selling. A couple of obvious differences in comparison to our cellar door at Rob Dolan were the tasting fees charged of $40.00 USD per person and the fact that you had to make a reservation to taste in advance. The way the tasting room was run was efficient, professional and welcoming. People would leave their sit down experience with nothing but great things to say and a lot of them would sign up to the wine club which had over 4,000 members!
The Napa harvest of 2017 saw some extreme heat. The week I arrived it was 40+ degrees everyday! The heat wave eventually led to 10 days of “wild fires” back in October, in fact they were the worst wild fires on record for the region. It was a stressful time for everyone; the smoke covering the valley left everyone with an uneasy feeling of uncertainty.
Todd Graff, the winemaker at Frank Family (who we were also living with), showed amazing people management skills and had a very calming influence over the whole team. The tasting room, like many others in the area, closed down for the duration of the fires. From a learning perspective, which was the main purpose of the trip, it was useful to experience how people handle extreme situations and still get on with the job at hand.
Harvest in Napa Valley 2017 at Frank Family Vineyards proved to be an incredible learning experience that I will never forget. I feel extremely grateful for the opportunity I was given. If you ever have the chance to visit the Napa then do it. And be sure to stop into Frank Family and taste their Winston Hill Cabernet – just delicious!