I purchased a Groupon for a party of four for a chocolate and wine pairing at Rutherford Ranch Winery. I should’ve known better, but I figured I’d give the place a try. I travel to the Napa Valley about six times a year so I’m always looking for new wineries to try and discover. There was nothing enjoyable about this experience.
The grounds at the winery are pretty, lots of shade trees and a nice outdoor deck (which we were told — repeatedly — was for “wine club members only.”). Upon arrival, it was difficult to get anyone to help us. The entrance is also a store, so all the employees were busy helping customers, answering phones or manning the cash register. We stood around for a while just waiting to get someone’s attention. When we FINALLY did, the greeting was less than friendly. We were shown to our reserved seating area, a really comfy, fluffy couch in a sunny atrium area. It was a very relaxing place for a wine tasting.
Our hostess came over and before she poured even the first drop of wine, she started selling the wine club. You want to talk about a hard sell? This was crazy! She kept on and on and on about the club and the shipments and how we just HAD to join, etc. etc. Finally I got her to stop by saying “um, we haven’t even tasted your wine, how about we taste it first before we commit to a club?” That stopped her temporarily but even after the first pour she kept on with the hard sell.
She did ask us what types of wine we like and tried to customize our tasting to fit our tastes. She even brought out a sample of some of the reserve wines. I did appreciate her willingness and efforts to please our palates, but none of the wines here matched our tastes. I was tasting with my husband, my mom and my aunt. We all have different styles of wines that we enjoy, yet none of us liked anything that we were poured. That rarely happens (I’ll even enjoy the sparkling white zinfandel at Sutter Home)! It’s no secret that I’m a wine snob of sorts and I do enjoy the finer wines, but I hate to say that these wines were seriously undrinkable.
When we’d take a sip and pour (as we do at all wineries where we taste, we are here to try wines not to get plastered), she became increasingly annoyed and seemed to be a little offended! She kept repeating “do you like wine with food?” Um, yeah, I love wine any day, any way! Her response? “Well, this wine will taste good but you need to have a steak with it, it doesn’t taste as good by itself.” That’s such a load of crap, a great wine is great just by itself. I drink wine with no food accompaniments all the time!
Fast forward to a few more wines, whites and reds, all just as disappointing as the last. Miss hostess kept on trying to hard sell the wine club and just wouldn’t take the hint. To try to foster a more personal relationship with us (no doubt in an effort to sell the wine club), she started asking about where we lived and what we like to do — SO SHE COULD ASSURE US THAT THE WINE CLUB COULD SHIP TO OUR STATE! Seriously!
Then she mentioned an offhand comment about Utah, saying that “it’s legal for them to have multiple wives but illegal for us to ship wine there.” We have a vacation home in Utah and spend a lot of time in the state, and it annoyed us that she’d say something so completely ignorant because no, polygamy is NOT legal in Utah. It bothered my husband more than me, so much so that he was upset and couldn’t really enjoy the rest of his tasting.
The only saving grace of this tasting experience was the chocolate pairing. All of the handcrafted chocolates were delicious, but none of them made the wines taste any better.
Our hostess seemed more than a little miffed that we left without purchasing any wine, but it was just so awful and I refuse to buy something that I don’t enjoy. I would’ve even been embarrassed to give this wine as a gift! We did purchase a couple of bags of the chocolate to take with us because it was far better than the wine.
If the wines had been better and the experience more pleasant (instead of feeling like a wine club timeshare presentation pitch), then I’d recommend this winery. Sadly, I recommend you avoid this one.
Note: We fully paid for our wine tasting experience at this venue, it was not comped.