I’ve lived in Napa, CA for almost three years and have to admit that before this magical city became my home I didn’t really have much of an appreciation for wine. When I was younger, I loved my beer and as I got older I always preferred a red apple vodka martini or two. It didn’t help that I chose my grocery store wine based on how much I liked the label! That’s how everyone chooses a good wine, right?! Wrong! Just ask any of the 4.5 million people who visit our over 500 wineries in Napa Valley annually!
As I began to visit different wineries and enjoy tasting the many different varietals – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Sauvignon Blanc being my favorites, I really began to have a much greater appreciation for wine and finally understood what the big deal was all about! As I became more interested in wine tasting, it became very important to me to be sure that what I was drinking was vegan. Turns out that many of the wines I loved were not animal friendly at all. Part of the winemaking process includes a “fining” process. To a lay person like you and me basically a fining agent is added to the wine and it attracts grape particles, dead yeast cells and can even remove some tannins to make the wine more drinkable. All of that seemed reasonable enough to me until I found out that many of the fining agents used include blood powder, casein (milk protein), egg whites, isinglass (fish bladders) and gelatin. But do not despair, the great news is that there are vegan fining agents available for winemakers to use – carbon, bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, silica gel and plant casein are all good alternatives.
As part of my promise to you to eat, drink and shop my way through Napa Valley, I recently visited Mason Cellars and tasted their incredibly tasty vegan wines. Mason Cellars tasting room is located at 714 First Street near Oxbow Public Market. Their delightfully fruity releases include the citrusy Mason Sauvignon Blanc, the intense grapefruit Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc, the crisp apple Three Pears Pinot Grigio, seasonal berry 60 North Merlot and the earthy Mason Cabernet Sauvignon. Just delicious!
Instead of using animal proteins, the winemaker Randy Mason uses bentonite clay to fine his wines. His goal is to create the finest wine possible, make it consumer friendly (we vegans thank him for that!) and price it fairly so everyone can enjoy his passion. With wine ranging from only $10 – $24 a bottle, Randy has made his wine accessible to almost everyone! If you stop by between 11 and 5:30 Thursday – Monday you can also enjoy complimentary wine tastings.
You will also have the pleasure of meeting Jon who is in charge of the tastings. His knowledge of the wines is exceptional and he is very friendly! The tasting room is also very dog friendly. In fact, if you come in with your four legged family, Jon is going to be sure that you all feel welcome! I also had the opportunity to meet their much loved office dog Cabo. She was rescued by Laura, the office manager and gets to spend her days hanging out at the Mason tasting room.
Randy’s wife Megan is in charge of the design and set-up of the delightful tasting room. Come in and take a look at the local artists showcased while you are sipping wine. I enjoyed all of the pieces but I did have my favorite!
It was really hard to choose a favorite wine but I settled on a bottle of the Merlot and Pinot Grigio to enjoy at home. And I will definitely be back for more!
On Tuesday, September 16th at 6 p.m. PST I invite you to join me on Tout Suite’s live program. Napa Valley Vegan will be featured on this episode. I will be discussing my vegan adventures through Napa Valley and will be preparing Butler’s BBQ soy curls and pairing it with Mason Cellars vegan wines. If you would like to be a part of the live audience or join us from the comfort of your own computer click this link to register! I would love to see you there!