Karl and Mary Wolf, a friendly couple who are also colleagues showed me a bottle of wine they received as a gift recently, a 1997 Jarvis Cabarnet Sauvignon. They wanted my opinion on how good I thought this was. While I knew nothing about the particular vintage, I certainly had an opinion on the winery, and it has to be prefaced with the “new” style of visiting the touristy California Wine Country.

You see, in the old days (1980’s and early ’90’s) when tastings were totally free or really cheap, what we used to do was get in the car and hit as many wineries and taste as many wines as our livers allowed. We then returned with hazy memories of what we had just been through. Then the Napa-Sonoma wineries wised up and decided to charge ridiculously large amounts for their tastings. Now driving up and down the Valley and hitting the maximum number of wineries may not only get you a DUI, but it is certain to put you on the brink of bankrupcy!

So the new style of visiting the area, especially for those of us fortunate enough to be within a close driving distance, is to pick one or two wineries and learn them in depth by doing a tour. You are more likely to get clear memories for your money this way, and remain reasonable in what you spend.

If you agree with me on that point, Jarvis is one of those must see tours. Secluded in the eastern foothills that border the Silverado Trail, this winery is entirely underground. Carved in the shape of a giant wheel with spokes connecting it in various points, a visit to this place reminds one of a James Bond movie. Multicolored fiberoptic cables adorn the ceilings (the owner appaerently is a fiberoptic magnate). The place features the most memorable toilets you will ever see, and a creepy underground banquet room complete with a Juliet-style balcony where musicians can perch. Their wine is good, but pricy. I never bought any. Just tasted there.

And so I sounded like Mr. Know-it-all when I went on a long discussion of Jarvis with the Wolf’s and they got the earful they wanted from me. Now I will await the feedback on what they thought of it. I will let you know, it they ever open the bottle and tell me about it.

M. Senegor