California, Wine/Cocktails

Stay Far, Far From Far Niente

Choosing a winery to visit among the seemingly endless list in California can be a challenge. We sought out Far Niente because we enjoy their wines and we embrace the Italian belief of “dolce far niente” … the sweetness of doing nothing.

Google map of Napa Valley showing Far Niente winery
Lucky for us Google maps could find Far Niente

Thank goodness for Google maps because Far Niente is not easy to find. We followed the map despite seeing no signs for the winery and ended up at a closed gate. Fortunately as we pulled close it opened automatically and left us facing THREE roads ahead. The signs pointing us to the parking area were a bit confusing, but we ended up taking the right road. 

It delivered us to a small parking area with a small reception desk under an umbrella (de rigueur in COVID-land). Unmanned, the desk instead contained a small sign that told us to take the stone steps to the pond area for our tasting reservation. We chose the left set of stone steps that led to a small pond we could see from the parking lot. UGH! Seriously … how about an arrow on the sign?

The smaller pond was the wrong pond! We ended up on a mulch-covered path labeled “garden path.” We followed it around and spotted a couple of gardeners taking a break by an equipment shed. They said we were headed in the right direction. We circled all the way around the pond and spotted a MUCH larger pond atthe bottom of the other set of stone steps … the ones we should have taken.

A huge outdoor bar, tables set up for tastings and a bridge to a gazebo offered a charming setting. THIS is what we had expected from Far Niente. It was scenic, shaded and beautiful. 

pond with fountain, stone bridge leading to a gazebo
The scene at Far Niente is idyllic.

“Reed” met us and encouraged us to walk around while he fetched a welcome glass of chilled 2018 Chardonnay. We walked the stone bridge over the manmade pond, paused to enjoy the view, and looked around. As we wondered, “where are we supposed to go?” Reed finally reappeared.  

shaded table set with glasses for a wine tasting
Our tasting table at Far Niente.

He walked us over to a table already set up for our tasting. Six glasses glinted as the sun peeked through the leaves of shade trees. A plate of tiny half-sized bites of four different cheeses was apparently our tasting pairings. Next to the glasses, we noticed a multi-page brochure explaining all the different wine clubs Far Niente offered. This was our third Napa winery and the first to be so blatant about clubs and sales. 

couple smiling sitting at a table set for a wine tasting under a shade tree
Reed snapped a picture as we prepared to taste the wines.

Reed offered to take a picture of us, which we happily accepted, then he poured wine into four of the six glasses and walked away to talk to a small group that was obviously just finishing their tasting and purchasing bottles to take home. 

Far Niente brochure, wine glasses on a table
A brochure invites you to become a Far Niente member.

By the time Reed came back, we had almost given up and discussed trying a couple of the wines and cheeses. We’d taken the time to casually read through the brochure, but since there was no indication of which wines were which and what types of cheeses were on the plate, we waited.

We had begun sipping the chilled glass of Chardonnay when Reed came back over and breezed through the history of Far Niente and the other wineries owned by the family. 

hand holding glass of red wine with pond and trees in the background
Gazing through a glass of Far Niente red.

For about two hours we went back and forth between being essentially ignored and Reed chatting with us about the wines. We enjoyed the scenery and relaxed, but the pace seemed slow even for Italian standards.

At one point a young woman and two friends came in and made quite a show about taking staged photos. Reed and his assistant provided her with props of wine carriers and bottles and glasses while we sat and watched. She was a “social media influencer” who was there for a free tasting so she could write about Far Niente on her blog. 

As a journalist, the whole concept of receiving compensation for blogging leaves me cold. I do stage photos, but try to be relatively low-key about it. It was a little off-putting that we were being ignored while all this was happening. 

One of the wines we tried was quite remarkable. We did end up buying a bottle, but the whole experience was disappointing. We had spent $80 for a tasting experience that amounted to five tastes of wine, a little less than two ounces of cheese and a couple of hours of sporadic attention. Compared to the other wineries we visited, Far Niente lives up to its Italian meaning: Doing Nothing.

Remember, an occasional bad experience just makes you appreciate the good ones even more. 

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. While not every place you explore will leave you smiling, there’s always new opportunities just around the corner.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020 — Unless otherwise indicated, no compensation was received for this blog.

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