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A guided tour without the bus

November 27, 2002|David Shaw | Times Staff Writer

If you're a relative neophyte in the world of wine and are about to fly to visit Napa Valley for the first time -- or maybe even the second or third -- here's a suggestion:

Buy the CD "Napa Uncorked," put it in your suitcase, pop it into the CD player in your rental car -- or your car, if you drive the whole way -- and by the time you get to Napa, you'll no longer be a neophyte.

The 97-minute, two-disc set takes listeners on a 30-mile guided tour of California's best-known wine region, starting in Napa, going north to Calistoga and back. Narrator David Hyde Pierce mixes in some history, some tasting tips, a simplified explanation of the winemaking process, even a few hints on how to translate a wine label.

Pierce mentions more than 30 wineries and discusses the roles played by virtually all the great figures who helped make Napa Valley what it is today--Gustav Niebaum, Charles Krug, Jacob Schram, the Beringer brothers, Louis Martini, Georges de Latour, Andre Tchelistcheff and Robert Mondavi.

Pierce, a stage, film and television actor perhaps best known for his TV portrayal of Frasier's snooty brother Niles, tries too hard, at times, to be clever. When he mentions "Rutherford dust," he quickly adds, "No, no. Vacuum cleaner salesmen need not rush to the scene." When he describes the battle between Robert and Peter Mondavi, he calls it "Rocky meets the Blues Brothers ... 'Gone with the Wind' meets 'All My Children.' "

Knowledgeable wine lovers and veteran visitors to Napa Valley won't find anything new or exciting on this CD, but at least Pierce doesn't take himself (or wine) too seriously. That makes it easy to listen to -- all the more so because of the soft jazz and blues on 21 cuts on the two discs.


"Napa Uncorked," is available for $19.99 from CD Roam in Los Angeles,, from and select wine stores.

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