Napa Valley is synonymous with great wine. More than 400 wineries call it home. One of the hardest parts about visiting is deciding where to go once you’re there. Hundreds of wineries are open to the public. Some are historic, while others like Raymond Vineyards have a modern feel. Large or small, wineries want you to enjoy yourself while you are there.
And be sure to save room in your suitcase for the new favorite bottles that will inevitably be making the trip home with you!
Caymus’ velvety, full-throttle Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon was among Napa’s first “cult Cabernets” back in the 1970s, and it’s still going strong under the third generation of the Wagner family to run the operation. Visitors to their beautiful old fieldstone winery tucked away off Conn Creek Rd. Pay a $50 per person tasting fee to sample five wines produced by the Wagner family (who also make Conundrum, and Mer Soleil among other labels).
9. Sterling Vineyards
Getting to Sterling Vineyards is almost as fun as actually being there. Come with a fully charged camera, to capture the views as you make your way up to the winery aboard Sterling Vineyards aerial trams. A one of a kind experience in Napa Valley, the view changes with the seasons. Once visitors arrive at the top, they can explore the winery with a glass in hand. The self-guided tour takes visitors through the winemaking process from growing grapes in the field to pouring wine in your glass. When it’s time to go, the aerial tram will be waiting to deliver you back to the vineyard floor.
8. Chateau Montelena
This winery is famous as a location in the movie Bottle Shock. A fictionalized account of the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting when Montelena’s Chardonnay upset a roster of great French wines. The Chardonnay is still very worthy, but most visitors will arrive at Montelena’s gorgeously sited, 19th century stone château thirsty for the famous Cabernets and Zinfandels. There are numerous tasting and tour experiences on tap, from the $30 current release tasting (reserve ahead) on up.
Château Montelena, 707-942-5105
7. Domaine Chandon
Chandon is one of the few wineries in Napa Valley with a food menu to complement its sparkling wine list. Purchase wine buy the flight, glass or bottle then settle into the festive patio or find a quiet spot in an Adirondack on the expansive lawn under the oak trees.
Domaine Chandon, 888-242-6366
6. Duck Horn
Duckhorn, one of the pioneers of Napa’s modern era, first struck gold with Merlot, notably its famous luxury bottling from Three Palms Vineyard, which remains its flagship. The winery also has a following for palate-flattering Cabs and Sauvignon Blancs. Though the main portfolio tends toward the expensive, there are more affordable wines well worth enjoying under the Decoy and Canvasback labels. Reserve ahead and taste five current releases for $35, or opt for various limited bottle tastings.
5. Far Niente
At $75 per person, this tour and tasting may actually be one of the best bargains in the Valley. The fieldstone winery, an 1885 National Register landmark was lavishly restored by the Nickel family, who own the property, dug its famous wine caves and planted its lovely gardens. The tour takes it all in, but the wines themselves are the real draw.
Far Niente, 707-944-2861
4. Newton Vineyard
The vineyard tour of Newton’s sustainably farmed property on Spring Mountain is epically beautiful. Wander through classical English gardens, ride around in a six-wheeler, then look out over all of Napa from beside Pino Solo (a lone pine at the peak of the estate), while tasting Newton’s wines. At $100, it’s expensive but worth it.
Newton Vineyard, 707-204-7423
3. Odette Estate
A high-style, new Stag’s Leap winery from the high-profile team (Gordon Getty, Gavin Newsom and Napa Valley veteran John Conover) behind PlumpJack and Cade, this is a gorgeous contemporary winery in a dramatic location under the Stags Leap Palisades. Make an appointment to taste the extraordinary, top-level Cabernet Sauvignon (though taking a bottle home will cost you in the triple digits).
2. Raymond Vineyards
International wine mogul Jean-Charles Boisset has injected new life into this Napa Valley mainstay since he purchased it in 2009, and has taken it generally upmarket, lead by the flagship Generations Cabernet Sauvignon. He has also turned Raymond into one of the Valley’s most impressive visitors’ destinations, with a range of innovative programs like Winemaker for A Day (blend your own Cabernet), Theater of Nature (a presentation of biodynamic farming on a two-acre demonstration plot), and the Corridor of the Senses (which conveys wine textures and aromas).
Raymond Vineyards, 707-963-0869
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1. Spring Mountain Vineyard
A picturesque property with old olive trees, rose gardens and wonderful views high above Napa Valley. Spring Mountain is a modern combination of several 19th-century vineyard properties, and uses the impressive, wedding-cake Victorian Miravalle mansion for its hosted, sit-down tastings. All the tastings, including the $40, 45-60 minute, five-wine tasting include the top-of-the-line Bordeaux blend Elivette. Note that Spring Mountain requires 24-hours notice for reservations.
Spring Mountain, 707-967-4188