Just over the mountain from Napa Valley you will find Pope Valley, a rugged rural outpost that runs parallel to its more glamorous sibling. Indeed, if you find the elitist ambiance of Napa Valley to be a bit stifling, then simply take one of the twisting wooded roads eastward over to Pope Valley—you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can turn back the clock to an era when winemaking was a simpler pastime. You might also be amazed by the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc from the historic Pope Valley Winery, which is available for just $5.99 at Trader Joe’s (and a few dollars more at other outlets). You could easily pay more than twice as much for a wine of this caliber. This expressive Sauvignon Blanc offers bright aromas of white grape and summer hay, followed by zingy flavors of peach and citrus with mineral accents. The palate is clean and refreshing, finishing with quenching acidity.
Don’t forget to pack your golf sticks if you decide to visit the area. Napa Valley is loaded with magnificent golf courses such as Silverado Country Club and Chardonnay Golf Club. A lesser known nine-hole course exists at Aetna Springs Resprt in Pope Valley. Historical evidence suggests that at least four holes were established at Aetna Springs as early as 1890. The resort was acquired by the Moonies (yes, the Moonies) in the 1970s, after which it took a quick dive. By the time I first played the course in the late 1980s, it was a desolate stretch of hardpan impersonating a golf course. Aetna Springs was sold to a developer in 2003, after which one observer famously said: “Aetna Springs for years was one of the Moonie brainwashing camps. To have one less public health hazard in Napa County can’t be anything but good.” Aetna Springs Golf Course is currently being renovated and plans to re-open with a new configuration and additional yardage in September. Stay tuned.