For some, Napa Valley means adventures. For others, it means culinary delights. Another class thinks of it as a private oasis. What do the three crowds have in common? They probably enjoy a glass of wine while in the area.
There are hundreds of venues to consider, but what unifies them all is that each feels like home in its special way. Some have stacks of books whereas others are simply well-stocked cellars. With such a broad range, everybody is sure to find something they like. With about 375 wineries and 90 urban tasting rooms in the area, finding the right place to uncork is no challenge.
That said, there is a certain etiquette to be observed. For example, darker denim should be versatile enough to get you through the day. Dress in layers to avoid getting warm.
Our readers likely know the basics of a wine tasting. Rule number is to relax and enjoy. After that, it’s important to take a glance at the clarity and color of the pour. Gently swirl and sniff. The swirl unleashes its scents. Sip, relish, and spit in the dump bucket (or else you will be tipsy!).
Protocol and regulations aside, a trip to Napa Valley is about living in the moment and enjoying the finer points of life. Crafting the perfect wine has been a challenge for thousands of years, and the folks in Napa Valley have it down.
#VISITNAPAVALLEY isn’t just a tourist board tagline; it is a way of life. We’ve selected the best 10 Napa Valley wineries, and our list isn’t exhaustive in the slightest. These are just small tastes of the rich and full-bodied experiences to come when you spend the day in Napa Valley.
1. Make the First Stop the Nickel & Nickel Winery
The Oakville-famous Nickel & Nickel Winery is full of personality, though you will have to arrive early to enjoy it. The hours for this venue are limited to 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. Remember that tours and tastings are by appointment; if you’d rather not sip wine in the am, RSVP accordingly.
This romantic winery has it all: romantic gardens, historic buildings, and splendid architecture. The wine list doesn’t disappoint either. Whether you want cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or syrah, it’s an option.
Here, a 90-minute guided winery tour and tasting sounds grand. You’ll be able to scope out the farmstead, barrel cellar, and winery. If you’d prefer a tasting, a 90-minute option exists as well. The program outlines how even a mile difference in soil distance can have a big impact on wine.
Big spenders may opt for the private terroir tasting which features eight 100% varietal, single-vineyard cabernet sauvignons from Napa Valley’s best. Of course, cheese and charcuterie are included.
A guest can become a wine club member for free tours and tastings for a party of four or less. To cut back on the tasting fee, one may invest in a six-bottle purchase or buy a single-vineyard wine.
2. Give Joseph Phelps Vineyards A Go
The friendly folks at Joseph Phelps Vineyards are ready to extend a warm welcome with a wide array of options for tastings every day of the week. Even if checking in isn’t your thing, curbside pick-up provides a safe bet.
This is a family-owned establishment, founded in 1973. What started as a cattle ranch purchase is now an all-in-one wine experience extravaganza. The family’s journey from small farm to Freestone-adjacent winery is long and winding. It ends with a lovely pinot noir and chardonnay.
Its red Bordeaux variety, Insignia, was first made in 1974 and has gained the most fame since. The establishment is open during the week from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. On weekends, it closes an hour earlier at 4:00 pm. Tours and tastings, as well as food and wine pairings, are currently by appointment. All things considered, a private event may be the way to go!
Schedule a Terrace Tasting to try the best in Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast wine while the Wine Educator outlines the processes step by step. Visitors can also try their hand at winemaking while learning how to blend Insignia.
3. St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery
In Rutherford, CA, the St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery is a Napa Valley staple. People cannot stop raving about sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, and other estate blends in red and white. This winery takes the cake when it comes to exploration and education.
The programs and tours are designed just as much as for the rookie as they are the old pro. Committed to artistry not only in wine, the venue maintains an art gallery on the property as well. Certified Napa Green, St. Supéry Estate Winery and Vineyards follows the rules and regulations to produce wine that meets standard practices.
Currently, visitors can come with an appointment if booked with the property’s concierge. While on the line, they should ask about the interactive wine experiences on the calendar. There are limited hours here: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Wednesdays. Current programs like the “Five Bordeau Varietals and Your Five Senses” as well as “A Taste of the Estate – Wine & Food Pairing” make the winery worth checking out.
4. The Hess Person Estates Showcase Regality
On Redwood Road in Napa, CA, The Hess Collection, sits on Mount Veeder where nature, sunlight, and a slight breeze combine to create an ambiance that rivals paradise itself. Keep your phone camera on panoramic mode because the photos will you take will require it.
This place is a little more adventurous than the others. For example, if a high-performance ATV ride is part of your “perfect Napa Valley trip,” then this establishment will not disappoint.
Some people said winemaking at an elevation didn’t make sense. Donald Hess didn’t listen to those people back in 1978 when he started a winery in a historic 1903 building. Now, an empire stands in the place of that negative feedback.
Is there an art collection? Yes, there is! And, it isn’t just some random local art on display. It’s said to be one of the best in the world according to ARTnews Magazine.
Because the family has been at this for decades, generations of Hess folk have committed to helping Donald’s original vision live on. Open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, tours and tastings are available by reservation or appointment.
Dave Gruffy, the current Hess winemaker, focuses on flavor. His colleague, Chad Hendrickson, uses organic and sustainable foodstuffs in the kitchen, complementing the perfect cup of vino. Together, they produce an experience that’s not only romantic but also unforgettable.
5. Don’t Skip the Beringer Vineyards
A not-so-hidden St. Helena, CA gem, Beringer Vineyards is an establishment in Napa Valley. It’s been there since 1876, so it deserves some respect as the area’s oldest. With 145 years of experience under their belt, Beringer surpasses the guests’ expectations. The large property isn’t just breathtaking, it’s a registered historic place. The original 17-room Rhine House mansion is modeled after the owner’s prior home on Germany’s Rhine River.
Beringer might be too easily remembered as the wine of our aunts, uncles, and grandparents, but that is because it won major awards in 1986 and 1994. Today, the great-great-grandson of the founder is the winemaker, so heritage runs strongly throughout the grounds.
Open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, tastings are available for walk-in patronage. Tours do not require an appointment either. It’s also one of the few on our list that is both family and pet-friendly.
6. Chateau Montelena
Calistoga’s pride is the Chateau Montelena. Another specialty from the 1970s, this winery won a special award known as “Judgment of Paris” in 1976, putting Napa Valley on the map once and for all. Today, it’s a historical giant under CEO Bo Barret and winemaker Matt Crafton.
The Barret family has been in the picture for five decades. With that kind of experience, little can go wrong. Today, the hours of operation are from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm, so a little breakfast-slash-brunch option remains open here. Tours are self-guided; tastings are by appointment. N.B. There is a small discount for doing a tasting on Monday through Thursday.
Visitors will revel in the on-site picnic area (limited to members only), displayed art, and extensive wine list. Just remember that reservations are highly recommended as walk-in availability for tastings is very limited.
The best way to enjoy a tasting is to go with the Library Tasting. Uncommon wines are sampled with the best vintage classics the Chateau has to offer.
7. Chimney Rock Winery
What happens at the Chimney Rock Winery stays at the Chimney Rock Winery. Here, Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker, runs the ground with care and compassion. Winemaking occurs without intervention, giving way to the Stags Leap soil to do its job on its own. What comes as a result is a wine that is so softly balanced and cohesive, it’s too fine for words.
Anybody can stop by to try the fine creations from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm although tours and tastings are by appointment. Even better, you can bring your furry friend along for the ride as the establishment is labeled pet-friendly.
The wine du jour is the cab sauvignon. Request a tasting in the cozy and clever tasting room, cool and shady patio, or intimate private salons.
8. Chandon Represents Napa Sparkling Wine on the List
In Yountville, Chandon is the place to be, especially if you adore sparkling wine. This place has been pumping it out since 1974. The California earth, native sunshine, and current Director of winemaking, Paulin Lhote, work together to produce sparkling wines that are fresh, crisp, and delicious.
Yountville itself is worth a visit as a small and friendly town near the rocky hillside. Chandon’s property adds to the appeal with bucolic gardens and sultry patio spaces, perfect for a moment of tranquility and bliss.
The wine shop is open every day of the week from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Tastings are an option from Thursday through Sunday (with glass/bottle options on Monday). Get access with an appointment or as a walk-in. There are no tours, but culinary add-ons can go with tastings.
The property isn’t reserved for small-town acts. Seven meeting rooms, a 750-person banquet space, a 900-person reception area, and a 250-seat theatre make this retreat great for a big corporate outing or wedding.
9. Odette Estate Winery is a Sustainable Option
Another Napa Valley-centric option is the Odette Estate Winery . Over the last four decades, Odette Estate Winery has produced an array of award-winning wines deserving of praise. Estate-grown wines remain a priority at this Stags Leap District establishment. Arrange for a tasting between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Food and wine pairings remain an option, but as is the case for tastings and tours, an appointment must be made. Plan ahead for the best results.
The amenities are standard, but fit the ticket for some: art, EV charging stations, and scenic views get the venue on our list. Family-friendly and pet-friendly, the Estate makes more sense for some guests more than others. It is labeled as green and sustainable, though!
10. Laird Family Estate is the Family-Friendly Choice
On Solano Avenue, in the Oak Knoll District, there’s a Napa locale that suits the bill for families who love families: the Laird Family Estate. The pyramid-inspired winery finds itself nestled into its vineyard with impressive views of both the Vaca and Mayacamas mountains.
On the grounds, a tasting room offers an extraordinary backdrop for a purely “educational” experience (aka wine tasting delights). Picnicking and wine-by-the-glass (or bottle) may entice the masses as well.
Experiences are affordable, too. A mixed wine flight currently rings in at $30. A red-wine version runs for $40, and with food, it’s $75. The hours of operation are on par with the rest, open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Tastings and tours are by appointment, but interested parties are encouraged to inquire about a barrel tasting. The family, pet, and picnic-friendly winery checks a lot of boxes for those who are hoping everybody has a fun time.
Napa Valley offers a connection with the earth through rich wine, savory food, and scenic views. Choosing the right place to soak it all in may be difficult, but these 10 starting points should empower you to make the perfect pairing.
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