Kristin

Kristin
My buddy Kristin, with whom I'll be shooting some BEER2WHISKEY videos, and me at the awads dinner for this year's Texas Truck Rodeo.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Little Wine, a Little Craft Beer and a Whole Lot of Nissan's Murano: A Napa Valley Outing


Historically my Decembers are relatively quiet; usually very boring, really. Even my dot-com clients that require a steady stream of content grow relatively quiet the last month of the year. December usually provides an opportunity to catch up with other projects or just decompress a bit. Not so this past December.

As recently as October I was bemoaning to fellow motoring-press road warriors that I was going to miss Platinum Medallion status with Delta by a significant amount. Boy, was I wrong. Suddenly the invites to December media events came pouring in. When the smoke cleared, I wound up being away from home 21 days of the month, including my 8-day Christmas vacation at my sister's in New Mexico. I was awash in media trips: three to the California coast and one to Austin, Texas. I wound up blowing past the 75,000-mile requirement for Delta's Platinum status with more than 1,000 miles to spare.


Sandwiched into my travel schedule between events for the Chevrolet Trax and Kia Sorento was an excursion to California's Napa Valley for the Nissan Murano.

Nissan makes Nashville its North American home base, building roughly 85% of the product it sells in the U.S. in this country. Among that number is Murano, assembled at Nissan's plant in Canton, Mississippi. Having visited that plant, I can tell you it's quite amazing.


Here're a few things you should know about the third-generation Murano: AWD is available and about 55% of Muranos going out showroom doors have been AWD. It features an all-new IT system with smart phone-esque controls. A power panoramic moonroof is available. With a coefficient of drag of 0.31, it cheats the wind roughly 16% more effectively than the previous Murano. This contributes to the nearly 20% improvement in the new Murano's fuel efficiency: It delivers an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Nissan offers it in four trim levels all using a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 to turn the wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Some other facts: It has an active grille shutter to enhance mileage. A power rear liftgate and heated outboard mirrors are available. Front and outboard rear seats are based on a NASA design to reduce fatigue. A rearview camera is standard. Pricing begins at $29,560 for the FWD S and climbs to $40,600 for the Platinum AWD model.

This is a seriously good-looking crossover. Nissan views Murano as sort of a traveling sitting room, and is targeting empty nesters. It is uber spacious and comfortable (It has a best-in-class rear cargo volume of 39.6 cu.ft. with the seats in place and nearly 70 cu.ft. with the second-row seats down.). Nissan mapped out a drive route for us that took us to the Pacific coast, and included a variety of road and traffic conditions. I felt right at home behind the wheel, as well as in the front-passenger seat. This is a remarkably hospitable cabin. 

My cottage at The Carneros Inn.
Nissan put us up at The Carneros Inn in the town of Napa. It's owned by Plumpjack winery. I've stayed there a few times and always found it comfortable and relaxing. Most Napa visitors are in search of a lifestyle getaway. The Caneros Inn provides such an experience. The bulk of the guest accommodations are stylishly furnished cottages. 

My cottage's outdoor fireplace.
 Each has both indoor and outdoor fireplaces and an outdoor tub. The convertible shower can be rapidly converted from indoor to outdoor as well. I took my morning showers indoors, but made the switch to outdoors when showering for dinner. The tiled bathroom floor was heated. I could have gotten very used to this place.

Nothing like an outdoor shower in 50-degree temps to get the blood circulating!
I had to chuckle, though. As with all upper-crust California lodgings, The Carneros Inn encourages guests to save water by hanging towels back on their racks after each use, indicating a willingness to reuse rather than laundering them. Here's the thing: Coaxing hot water out of the shower is something akin to sucking a watermelon through a knothole. I would have to start the water running at least 10 minutes before I was ready to step into the shower to ensure at least some degree of warm water. When I was in a rush, I would turn on every hot-water faucet in the place to hurry the process to eight minutes. I can't imagine washing my towels required less water than a hot shower. 


Now you might think that being in Napa meant swimming in wine. Well, I like wine. I like it a lot, but my love of craft beers motivates me to seek them out wherever my travels take me. My driving partner and I managed to sneak off for an hour or two and visit a couple of nearby craft breweries after the organized ride and drive. We visited the Hispanic-owned Carneros Brewing Company where I enjoyed a Morena Ale. Then we were off to Napa Smith Brewery. We had both been to Napa Smith previously when Subaru rented the entire place out to host a dinner last year for its WRX media event. There we had its Nitro Bourbon Barrel-Aged Porter. Good stuff!


With Nissan marketing Murano as a lifestyle crossover, the choice of a venue to introduce it to the media couldn't have been better than Napa. Great wine and wonderful craft beers: I was in Heaven!

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