Take a Napa Valley Wine Tour – No Passport Required, by AL Henderson

Lists of the most prestigious, diverse, interesting, not to mention delicious, wine making regions will certainly include California’s Napa Valley. This relatively small valley (it’s a tiddler really) produces many of the top-rated wines and wine makers anywhere. It has prestige and luxury built into its brand. Visitors pile in and luxuriate in the world’s leading wine paradise. They cycle, drive and even train travel their way through the region. Some will walk, some will stagger. Napa Valley is the very best and thanks to its deserved reputation, you won’t find yourself alone in the valley.

It was not always so. The wine making story of this place is littered with tales of struggle and misery as well as a host of curious personalities and their individual battles. It was not necessarily easy establishing the Napa Valley’s reputation.

I have enjoyed the very good fortune to visit and live in this beautiful locale. I have even hosted tours through many of its highlights. Returned now to Scotland, it is still my privilege to take many wine fans on California wine tours without the need to travel. At A Case of Wine (Fine Wine at Fair Prices) our Napa Valley Wine Tour is a tutored tour where I will escort you through a fine selection of Napa Valley wines and guide you through the past and present of this wonderful place. And with environmental concerns at the forefront of Napa wine makers’ thinking, we can take a peek into the future too. I will pour you fine wines and discuss their properties and heritage.

The tour is recommended for groups of six upwards and can be hosted at your home, office or anywhere really. The price for this special wine experience is £80 plus the cost of the six wines poured (approximately £100 but more for older, rarer wines and vintages). The tasting generally lasts about ninety minutes. To find out more, discuss the wines available or to book, please email me, that’s AL@ACaseofwine.co.uk I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Three other tastings are currently available:

USA v France – 1976 revisited

California Coast

What the New World does best.


AL Henderson, February 2020.

Al left his heart in Santa Barbara

I left my heart in Santa Barbara.


Yes, I know Tony Bennett’s mellifluous tones lament San Francisco, of which I’m very fond too. In fact, I remember my first trip to San Fran well – quite amazing since I was only 3½ years old. We had flown from Prestwick, via Boston and New York, and eventually landed on the other west coast. It was rainy, it was just like landing back in the west of Scotland. Then I remember the wonderful warmth that swaddled the little me, a radiant heat that seemed new and gorgeous. I remember thinking I’d flown all the way to heaven.

I’ve been back many times to California and though I enjoy the cities, yes, even the seemingly endless sprawl of LA, I prefer to get out into the country and soak up the pace of life in some of the more rural counties. None is better, to my tastes, than Santa Barbara. I fell in love with its beaches, its Spanish architecture, the galleries and outdoor markets, tree-lined beaches, sapphire blue skies and then, eventually, inevitably, the vineyards and the wines.

It was around about the time that the movie Sideways came out, but unlike many, the movie maker was not my informer. I found it myself on a tour around Los Olivos when my buddy and I went for a tour. He was driving and I wholeheartedly took advantage of this happy twist, and imbued like a thirsty student, eager to learn. I discovered that Viognier is the name of a white grape and more importantly, that I enjoyed it. I liked the balance of many of the wines and in the gentle heat and light breezes I enjoyed Santa Barbara Viognier or Rhone grape based white blends, with gusto – and local breads and cheeses alongside. It w

as all very artisan and although corporate America was behind some of it, that’s not what I tasted.

At A Case of Wine we always try and stock some wines from Santa Barbara. I really enjoy showing that county’s wines, sharing some memories and evangelising about its credentials for potential visitors. This month we are enjoying Cambria Winery Viognier. It’s elegant, gently honied and freshly fragrant from vineyards in Santa Maria. Perfect with soft goats’ cheese served under a satisfying sun or as a Scottish winter approaches, leaning against your Aga. With such great wines and its leisurely lifestyle, it’s Santa Barbara that calls to me.