It was a spectacular day in Napa for a Novice to begin learning his way around.

“A hint of fig and oak with a finish of tobacco at the back of your throat.”

I don’t even know what that means. In fact, I really can’t tell the difference between Welch’s and the finest box of wine in the land.

You see, traditionally I’ve been a beer, scotch, and water drinker (separately, not mixed together). I don’t even drink coffee anymore. But, some wonderful friends invited me to join them for a day in Napa during a recent trip to San Francisco. I’ve got amazing friends.

The views were incredible.

I was braced to hear people come up with some creative ways to describe grape juice. A sacrifice I was willing to make for some day drinking.

We hit five wineries, which, according to local experts, was quite an achievement. All-in-all, because I’m a real man, I figure I drank about eight or nine bottles of wine. Clearly, I’m exaggerating. Clearly.

Our first stop was at a small, family-owned winery. Our guide was a former firefighter battling a cold. She reduced our worry about the germs by reminding us four times that she’d done something with antimicrobial.

I’m still not sick thanks to whatever she drank from that bottle.

I chose to assume the alcohol would kill anything off. So far, so good.

At another winery, we were offered a giant bottle of wine. It held something like 80 glasses of wine and cost $7,500. Since it wouldn’t fit in my carry-on, I decided to pass.

We received a tour at another winery. Seeing where they crush and ferment the wine was really interesting. Speaking of fermentation, that’s the process of the yeast turning sugar into alcohol. I didn’t know that. It’s important to learn something new every day. Even through a wine-induced fog.

And, of course, barrels made from American Oak are better than ones made from French Oak when it comes to flavor. Of course!

I also learned from another guide that spending $3,000 on a bottle of wine was “justifiable.” That…Well, I don’t think I’ll ever understand that.

Our final stop was at a “Sparking Wine” winery. Our driver (the best move in the history of wine tasting is hiring a driver) was Hungarian. He delighted in telling us that Hungarian Sparkling wine had a simple recipe:

  • 1 part wine
  • 1 part soda water
  • Mix.

Seriously, the sparkling wine place was nice. I was, however, a little taken aback by a group of tourists who kept taking my picture two tables away. Yup. That was strange.

All in all, the day was unjustifiably beautiful. My friends were fantastic and the only thing that could have made it better is if I’d been able to share the experience with others.

I arrived anti-wine. I left a fan. Kind of like my shift in attitude toward the Giants. I was in San Francisco for their final win against the Cardinals before progressing to the Series…I’m now a fan (hat and all).

I picked up a Giants hat at SFO on my way out of town. Richard Dreyfus was behind me in line. Shorter than you’d think. But then again, aren’t they all?

Count me in for another trip to Napa. And soon!