"Beyond the hedonism of tasting these wines -- and the hedonism of tasting these wines is going to be off the charts -- I think there will be two very important ideas that come out of this," says wine educator and "The Wine Bible" author Karen MacNeil as we share a bottle of Stony Hill 2012 Napa Valley Gewurztraminer over lunch.
"To see if the vintners themselves believe there is some reason that these wines scored as highly as they did; and to see if the people enrolled in the event think there is a ribbon going through the wine.
"Is there a commonality that causes a wine to be considered great?"
MacNeil is one of the top wine authorities in the United States -- "The Wine Bible" has sold 700,000 copies since 2000 -- and we're two of a privileged few taking part in a 1,000-point wine tasting event, featuring 10 Napa Valley wines that each received a perfect 100-point score from Robert M. Parker Jr. of "The Wine Advocate."
"Since Robert Parker began, there have been 369 wines in the world that have been given a perfect 100 score.
"Something like 130 of these are in the U.S. Of that 130, 119 are in California and of the 119, 68 are from the Napa Valley," says MacNeil.
Located 60 miles northeast of San Francisco, Napa Valley is around 30 miles long and ranges from one to five miles wide -- about one-eighth the size of Bordeaux.
Despite a 6.1-magnitude earthquake on Aug. 24 that resulted in damage ranging from a few broken glasses to structural damage to some buildings and equipment, 2014 is already looking to be another excellent and abundant vintage.
September is the most exciting time to visit.
As wineries gear up for harvest, pickers move through sun-drenched vineyards, hand-dropping fruit to improve the quality of the final crop; equipment, already cleaned and prepared, stands idle at winery buildings, ready to process the fruit.
The Napa Valley Experience -- organized by the nonprofit, 500-member Napa Valley Vintners association from Sept. 7-10 -- is arguably the most sensational event taking place this harvest season.
The experience includes tastings at some of the valley's most scenic and most celebrated wineries; home visits with prolific personalities; wine blending workshops; farm-to-table dining; and, the climax, the first public 1,000-point tasting ever to be held anywhere, as far as MacNeil or Napa Valley Vintners are aware.
The vintages selected represent a cross-section of appellations.
They were chosen exclusively from the 2000s; vintners rather than winemakers will attend the tasting, ensuring discussion is philosophical rather than chemical.
The story of each wine -- and the magic of the experience -- are central to the experience.
When I eat with celebrated vintner Michael Honig at Michael Chiarello's Bottega in the foodie mecca of upscale Yountville, he has a treat to share -- a bottle of the Honig 2010 Westside Trio Cabernet Sauvignon, a limited edition Premiere Napa Valley auction label, which he cradles in the crook of one elbow.
"We work with a number of different vineyards around the valley, as well as own our own, so when it comes to Premiere we take grapes from three different vineyards," says Honig. "We call it the Westside Trio. We do not make this wine normally."
Marked Auction 16, lot 15, the label is also hand-initialed by winemaker Kristin Belair.
"Only 240 bottles were made," he adds, pouring the ruby red liquid into my glass.
During a pit stop at my lodging for the next three nights -- the stunning, vintner-owned, forest-cocooned Meadowood property in St. Helena -- I have time to appreciate the events of the day and the beauty of my surroundings.
From lush lowland orchards to lofty terraces overlooking lush green alleys, Napa is filled with pretty views.
When I join vintner Agustin Huneeus at his terra-cotta-colored home within Quintessa's vineyards, he offers me a cup of tea and explains why the aesthetics of the region -- accentuated by Valley's organic development and agricultural land trust -- are special.
"There is real farming here, it's not Disneyland -- it's real," he says. "Vines started developing, the people starting coming, then Napa started something that in the world now is pretty prevalent -- opening the cellars to tourists.