Wineries

Daniel Sogg

How to choose? That's the dilemma. Napa Valley contains well over 200 wineries, and most welcome guests with tours and tasting rooms. While enticing, the wealth of options can be overwhelming for all but the savviest of insiders.

Wine Spectator has eliminated the guesswork. We've focused on producers that offer something distinctive, such as a noteworthy history or spectacular vistas, in addition to the most important element, an entertaining, informative experience. This list just scratches the surface. Napa has dozens of other properties worth visiting, such as Clos Pegase and Hess, which have superior art collections, and Pride, with views from the top of Spring Mountain. But the following estates are some of our favorites and represent an excellent reference point.

As a general rule, larger wineries, such as Mondavi, Niebaum-Coppola and Beringer, have longer hours, with regularly scheduled tours and more tasting and educational facilities. Smaller estates often receive guests by appointment only, because there's a good chance the tour guide is also an owner with work to do around the cellar. Certainly, both small and large estates can present a memorable experience. Always be sure to call ahead (and visit winery Web sites) to determine what's available and when, because hours and options change seasonally and even from day to day. And because county zoning restrictions forbid picnicking at all but a few Napa estates, it's wise to confirm before packing a basket.

At each of these properties expect affable staffs that are passionate about wine and know their stuff. Most vintners charge a fee for the tour or tasting. But given the depth of information conveyed and the quality and variety of wines poured, visits to these properties are among wine country's great bargains.

Please note that prices, hours of operation and wine availability can often change, and we recommend that you call ahead before you go.

For more wineries worldwide, see our Winery Search database.

Truchard Vineyards
3234 Old Sonoma Road
Napa, CA 94559
Telephone: (707) 253-7153
Website: www.truchardvineyards.com
Open: Mon-Fri, 9–5, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $15

Set on a quiet stretch of Carneros off Old Sonoma Road, this redwood winery is a mom-and-pop operation with a touch of elegance. Proprietors Tony and Jo Ann Truchard live a few steps from the winery, and the tour leads visitors through their vineyards and an elaborate cave system that adds another facet to the homespun atmosphere. In the tasting room, visitors can try an array of wines, including Truchard's very good to outstanding Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Storybook Mountain Vineyards
3835 Hwy. 128
Calistoga, CA 94515
Telephone: (707) 942-5310
Website: www.storybookwines.com
Open: Mon-Sat, 9–5; tours by appointment
Tasting Fee: $25

The name is no misnomer: Storybook Mountain evokes the spirit of a fairytale and is named for its founders, the Grimm brothers (not of fairytale fame), who launched the winery in 1883. Jerry Seps, a retired history professor and Storybook's current owner, and his family lead the tours through the steep hillside vineyard to the caves excavated by Chinese laborers in the 1880s. The tour ends with tastings of Zinfandel and Cabernet in the caves. The tasting fee is $25 per couple, but it is waived with the purchase of any bottle.

St. Clement Vineyards
2867 St. Helena Hwy. N.
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (800) 331-8266
Website: www.stclement.com
Open: Daily, 10–5, by appointment; tours, Mon-Fri at 10:30 and 2:30, Sat-Sun at 10:30
Tasting Fee: $20 - $25

The patio at the base of this 19th-century Victorian mansion offers an impressive vista of the valley floor vineyards stretching east. Indoors, there's an intimate tasting bar where you can sample new releases and purchase wines; St. Clement produces very good to outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, among other varietals. A charming stone winery, housing gleaming winemaking equipment, lies behind the house. For barrel samples, a historical overview of the winery and tastings of current releases, take the guided tour.

Turnbull Wine Cellars
8210 St. Helena Hwy.
Oakville, CA 94562
Telephone: (800) 887-6285
Website: www.turnbullwines.com
Open: Daily, 10–4:30
Tasting Fee: $10 - $20

There’s something wonderfully simple and unfussy about Turnbull, which has a basic, stand-up tasting at a counter amid a beautiful garden setting. There’s also a second, reserve tasting room that focuses on Turnbull’s bold reds. Linger a while to tour the complimentary art gallery, featuring black-and-white photography.

Rutherford Hill Winery
200 Rutherford Hill Road
Rutherford, CA 94573
Telephone: (707) 963-1871
Website: www.rutherfordhill.com
Open: Daily, 10–5; Tours daily at 11:30, 1:30 and 3:30
Tasting Fee: $10 - $30

Set on a lofty plateau above Napa Valley, this winery is housed in a formidable redwood barn that could easily double as an airplane hangar. In the airy tasting room, visitors can sample new releases and reserve wines only available at the winery. There is history here, too, as this was once the old Chateau Souverain, built in 1973 by Joseph Phelps during his days as a construction contractor. For a look at the winery and cave interiors, take one of the guided tours. The cave opens to reveal 40,000 square feet of high-ceilinged tunnels burrowed into the hillside, through which visitors take a brief walk. The winery makes very good Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Pride Mountain Vineyards
4026 Spring Mountain Road
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 963-4949
Website: www.pridewines.com
Open: Wed-Mon, 10:30–3:45, by appointment; closed Tues; tours daily, 10, except Tues and Sun
Tasting Fee: $10 - $75

The directions to Pride Mountain Vineyards include ignoring your GPS, which will advise you to turn around before you get there. The views alone are worth the long drive up, but stay to experience this producer’s terrific wines and warm hospitality. Pride is located at the summit, which straddles Napa and Sonoma—once there, you can stand with a foot in each county. There are a few different experiences available, but consider taking a tour or enjoying a more private tasting in the cozy Summit Room. Leave some extra time to hike around the 235 estate acres and check out the ruins of Summit Ranch Winery, the original winery built there in 1890.

Rubicon Estate / Inglenook
1991 St. Helena Hwy.
Rutherford, CA 94573
Telephone: (707) 968-1100; (800) 782-4266
Website: www.rubiconestate.com
Open: Daily, 10–5
Tasting Fee: $25 - $75

There’s no denying the glamour that Rubicon Estate owner Francis Ford Coppola has brought to this spectacular property. The Inglenook château, completed in 1887, already had a remarkable history when Coppola purchased it and brought his own family’s extraordinary accomplishments into the mix; it’s the only winery in Napa with an Oscar on display. To relax with a glass or bottle of wine with tableside service, duck into the Mamarella Wine Bar. For a broader look at the Rubicon estate wines, head to the tasting room for a flight (if you can get past all the extraordinary merchandise for sale there). Either way, do not forgo the estate tour to learn the inspiring story of Inglenook and the property’s 130-year history and to check out some of Coppola’s movie mementoes. The must-try here is the flagship Rubicon bottling, a complex Cabernet-based blend.

Peju Province Winery
8466 St. Helena Hwy.
Rutherford, CA 94573
Telephone: (800) 446-7358
Website: www.peju.com
Open: Daily, 10–6
Tasting Fee: $15 - $45

Outside, a long line of sycamore trees, gardens, fountains and sculptures offer plenty of photo opportunities. Inside Peju, there is plenty more to look at—an art gallery, an antique stained-glass window and shopping—and multiple tasting spaces; be sure to make a reservation if you want a tasting of older library wines. It all has a quirky, colorful, friendly vibe, and the staff is very accommodating.

Chappellet Vineyard & Winery
1581 Sage Canyon Road
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 963-7136; (800) 494-6379
Website: www.chappellet.com
Open: Daily, 10–4, by appointment; tours and tastings, 11; tastings only, 10, 1, 2, 3
Tasting Fee: $25 - $35

Perched 1,200 feet up atop Pritchard Hill, Chappellet, founded in 1969, affords visitors the stunning vista of Lake Hennessy and parts of the valley, justifying a detour from Highway 29. Chappellet's version of hospitality is friendly and down-to-earth. If the weather is nice, tours include a short hike through the vineyards and, en route, an explanation of the winery's commitment to sustainable agriculture and solar power. The tasting includes about five wines, including the iconic Pritchard Hill Cabernet blend and Signature Cabernet and costs $25 ($35 with a tour). The winery produces outstanding to classic Cabernet and Chardonnay.

Rombauer Vineyards
3522 Silverado Trail
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (800) 622-2206
Website: www.rombauer.com
Open: Daily, 10–5
Tasting Fee: $10 - $25

The deceptively small hilltop tasting room at Rombauer Vineyards hides a busy hub of activity. An anthill-like complex reveals catwalks through three levels of barrel and tank storage into a 25,000-square-foot network of caves. Rombauer produces 50,000 cases annually, including very good to outstanding Chardonnay. Head to the tasting room to try (and buy) new releases, and purchase older vintages and large-format bottles.

Freemark Abbey Winery
3022 St. Helena Hwy. N.
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (800) 963-9698
Website: www.freemarkabbey.com
Open: Daily, 10–5; tours by appointment
Tasting Fee: $10 - $50

Freemark Abbey is on the site of a winery that was founded in 1886. It began its current incarnation in 1967 and is best known for its benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon from Bosché Vineyard. The winery is just north of St. Helena, in the western foothills, and it shares a small plaza with the unaffiliated Silverado Brewing Company.

Etude Wines
1250 Cuttings Wharf Road
Napa, CA 94559
Telephone: (707) 257-5300; 877-586-9361
Website: www.etudewines.com
Open: Daily, 10–4:30; reserve tastings daily, 10, 1, 3, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $15 - $35

Etude’s tasting room, located in a stone building and former distillery, is a sleek and fresh spot with artful modern architecture and an open patio and picnic area. A wall display of the property’s different soil types gives insight into Etude’s estate Pinot Noir vineyards. In addition to walk-in tastings and seated reserve tastings, they offer a wine-and-food pairing, with savory bites to complement the local wines made by Jon Priest.

Clos Pegase
1060 Dunaweal Lane
Calistoga, CA 94515
Telephone: (707) 942-4981
Website: www.clospegase.com
Open: Daily, 10:30–5; tours at 11:30 and 2
Tasting Fee: $20 - $50

Architect and designer Michael Graves is behind the building at Clos Pegase, which dates to the late 1980s. His postmodern, Greco-Roman design with massive pillars is both simple and warm, and the terra-cotta colors glow in the sun. Playing off of the meticulous landscaping surrounding the winery, the building is interesting to look at from every angle. Modern sculptures by Henry Moore, Jean Dubuffet and others surround the building and fill a courtyard, and there’s a collection of 20th-century paintings inside the visitor’s center. Self-guided tours are encouraged, and a booklet is provided to help you explore. Guided tours sans tasting cost $10.

Acacia Vineyard
2750 Las Amigas Road
Napa, CA 94559
Telephone: (707) 226-9991; (877) 266-1700
Website: www.acaciavineyard.com
Open: Mon-Sat, 10–4, Sun, 12–4, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $15

Acacia pioneered single-vineyard Carneros Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs beginning with its foundation in 1979. Today, it owns 150 acres of estate vineyard and sources from other sites in Napa and Sonoma as well. Tucked into the side of a hill, with views out to San Pablo Bay, the Acacia tasting room offers a cozy tasting experience of their Pinots, Chardonnays and other varieties by an attentive staff. On a nice day, the tastings spill onto a charming picnic spot overlooking their vineyards.

Silver Oak Cellars
915 Oakville Cross Road
Oakville, CA 94562
Telephone: (800) 273-8809; (707) 944-8808
Website: www.silveroak.com
Open: Mon-Sat, 9–5, Sun, 11–5; tours by appointment
Tasting Fee: $20 - $50

The stately stone winery bears little resemblance to the old, run-down dairy farm it was when founders Ray Duncan and former Christian Brothers winemaker/monk Justin Meyer purchased the property in the early 1970s. Silver Oak also maintains a winery and extensive vineyard holdings in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley. The Sonoma wines, as well as the Napa Valley Cabernet, are sold at the Oakville facility. Collector sets, including verticals and large-format bottles, can be purchased here.

Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards
680 Rossi Road
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 963-8600
Website: www.connvalleyvineyards.com
Open: Mon-Fri, 10–4, Sat, 10–2, by appointment; tours Mon-Fri, 10, 12, 2, 4, Sat, 10, 12, 2
Tasting Fee: $10 - $25

Set in a beautiful, narrow valley east of Napa's main benchland, and hidden by hills, Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards has the feel of a frontier homestead and is off the tourist radar. Todd Anderson has taken over the winery formerly run by his father, Gus, and his mother, Phyllis. When Gus founded Conn Valley in 1983, he planted the vineyards and built the family's modest home and winery, and led all of the tastings and tours himself. Today the guided tour of the grounds includes a peek inside the winery (frugally housed in a small green tin structure) and a visit to the low-ceilinged caves and surrounding vineyards. Straightforward and friendly, the Andersons are clearly passionate about their wines and the land that produces them.

Beaulieu Vineyard
1960 S. St. Helena Hwy.
Rutherford, CA 94573
Telephone: (800) 373-5896; (707) 967-5233
Website: www.bvwines.com
Open: Daily, 10–5; tours, 11 and 2:30, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $15 - $50

Beaulieu Vineyard is a must-stop when you’re in the area, and a convenient one, too, with two tasting rooms across the parking lot from each other. The comfortable main tasting room doesn’t require an appointment for BV’s standard tasting of four wines for $15. More serious Cabernet lovers will be drawn to the Reserve tasting room, where Cabernet tastings are offered in a more elegant and quiet setting, including a tasting comparing wines made from various clones (historically, Clone 4 and Clone 6 bottlings have been among the best from BV). The winery also offers history-focused tours, barrel tastings, and retrospective tastings that dig into older vintages of bottlings such as the iconic Georges de Latour Private Reserve.

Beringer Vineyards
2000 Main St.
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 967-4412
Website: www.beringer.com
Open: Daily, May 29 to Oct. 22, 10–6; Oct. 23 to May 28, 10–5; tours, 10:30, 11, 11:30, 12:30, 1, 1:30, 2, 3, 3:30, 4
Tasting Fee: $15 - $55

A beautiful tunnel of elm trees along Highway 29 announces Beringer. This winery, with its large, well-manicured grounds surrounded by historic buildings, is popular for good reason. Upon arrival, you’ll be handed a map to explore this organized, campuslike estate. For tasting, there’s the lively atmosphere of the old winery, or consider the more elegant setting of the historic Rhine House next door, where you can relax and enjoy a flight of wine on the porch, taking in the intricate woodwork and original stained glass of this 19th-century mansion. To complement the tastings, there are tours that take you into wine-aging caves, manmade in the 1800s to naturally maintain cool temperatures and high humidity levels. The property also includes a picnic area and bocce court, and a gift shop sells sandwiches and other picnic items.

Cakebread Cellars
8300 St. Helena Hwy.
Rutherford, CA 94573
Telephone: (800) 588-0298
Website: www.cakebread.com
Open: Daily, 10–4, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $15 - $45

Dolores and Jack Cakebread are dedicated to educating the public in wine-and-food pairing, and their winery hosts an array of special events and classes aimed at their mission. Cooking classes, pairing dinners and trips to local restaurants and markets, some led by popular food and wine figures, are all scheduled throughout the year. Those who visit the winery can take advantage of various tours, including an introduction to Napa Valley viticulture with a stroll through the 82-acre estate, a step-by-step look at the winemaking process and a guided tasting.

Caymus Vineyards
8700 Conn Creek Road
Rutherford, CA 94573
Telephone: (707) 967-3010
Website: www.caymus.com
Open: Daily, 10–4, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $25

The focus at Caymus is clearly on the wine. This charming, understated winery is located on a quiet road, with a handful of picnic tables out front surrounded by a garden. The by-appointment sit-down tasting is held in a private room around a long wooden table with comfortable chairs. It’s a mix of relaxed and refined. The Wagner family founded Caymus in 1972, and it quickly became one of the world’s most respected Cabernet producers, led by its flagship Special Selection Cabernet. Special Selection is not always on offer, but you will get a chance to sample some of the other terrific wines made by the Wagner family and make a connection with one of this appellation’s signature producers.

Cuvaison Estate Wines
1221 Duhig Road
Napa, CA 94559
Telephone: (707) 942-2455
Website: www.cuvaison.com
Open: Daily, 10–5, by appointment; tours, Fri–Mon, 9:30
Tasting Fee: $15 - $30

Cuvaison’s tasting room in Carneros offers beautiful views and a very modern, open and relaxing setting. Here you can sample the winery’s Carneros-grown bottlings of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot. The floor-to-ceiling windowed walls—overlooking a pond and vineyards—are open to the deck on warm days, and tableside service makes it easy to unwind. Visitors can take a vineyard walk and tasting at the Carneros estate for $30. Cuvaison also has an intimate tasting room and picnic grounds at its historic winery in Calistoga, on the Silverado Trail.

Domaine Carneros
1240 Duhig Road
Napa, CA 94559
Telephone: (707) 257-0101; (800) 716-2788
Website: www.domainecarneros.com
Open: Daily, 10–5:45; tours, 11, 1, 3, appointments recommended
Tasting Fee: $16 - $250

There’s no better way to soak in Carneros than by sitting on the terrace of Domaine Carneros with a glass of sparkling wine in hand. The winery, set gracefully on a hill, was designed to evoke the 200-year-old, Louis XV-styled Château de la Marquetterie, which Champagne’s Taittinger family has owned since before World War II. The tableside service on the patio allows visitors to sit back and feel the signature Carneros breezes while sampling Domaine Carneros wines by the glass, flight or bottle. Munch on the complimentary almonds or dig into the well-priced selections of cheeses or caviar. The intimate Balcony Package for two is a private tasting of top cuvées overlooking the vines, for $250. Inside, a painting of Madame de Pompadour dominates the foyer leading to the marble-floored, high-ceilinged tasting room.

Domaine Chandon
1 California Drive
Yountville, CA 94599
Telephone: (888) 242-6366
Website: www.chandon.com
Open: Daily, 10–5; tours at 11:30 and 3:30
Tasting Fee: $18 - $32

Unless you're already an expert on bubbly, you'll learn a lot at Domaine Chandon: The 35-minute tour glories in the uniqueness of sparkling wine production, from the enzymatic breakdown of yeast cells in bottle to the VLM—"very large machine"—used to clarify the wine. Though Chandon is a large, busy operation, the serene patio dotted with modern sculpture invites relaxation; the winery’s sparkling wines are available for tasting, as well as various still wines. After your tour and tasting, plan to stick around for lunch or dinner at étoile restaurant.

Far Niente
1350 Acacia Drive
Oakville, CA 94562
Telephone: (707) 944-2861; (800) 363-6523
Website: www.farniente.com
Open: Daily, 10–3, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $50

Far Niente is one of Napa’s most elegant estates, with beautiful grounds and a deep history. A visit includes a winery tour and tasting of current release and library Cabernets and Chardonnays, with a seasonal cheese match. The 40,000 square feet of wine-aging caves are spectacular, as is the carriage house, where you’ll get to peek in on founder Gil Nickel’s car collection.

Heitz Wine Cellars
436 St. Helena Hwy.
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 963-3542
Website: www.heitzcellar.com
Open: Tasting room: daily, 11–4:30; winery: Mon-Fri, 8–5; winery tours by appointment

Tasting Fee: Free

Heitz has been offering complimentary tastings at the site of the original winery since 1961. But in 2002, it opened a new tasting room, off Highway 29; this charming stone building has a cabinlike feel inside, a cozy fireplace and, through the back door, views of vineyards stretching across the valley. The staff is warm and friendly in giving you an opportunity to try their iconic Napa Valley Cabernets and the rare Italian red varietal Grignolino. Tours at the winery itself, down winding Taplin Road, off the Silverado Trail, can be arranged by appointment only.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards
200 Taplin Road
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 963-2745; (800) 707-5789
Website: www.jpvwines.com
Open: Mon-Fri, 9–5, Sat-Sun, 10-4, by appointment; regular tastings, Mon-Fri, 10–3:30, Sat-Sun, 10–2:30; seminar tastings, Mon-Fri at 11 and 2:30, Sat-Sun, 11 and 2
Tasting Fee: $20 - $55

The framed plans for Joseph Phelps Vineyards bear a message: "The road to success is always under construction." Very apt for former Denver construction company owner Joe Phelps, whose winery produces Insignia, one of Napa's best Cabernet-based blends. There's a delightful Insignia blending session, a single-vineyard Cabernet seminar and a barrel-tasting seminar. You can also test your acuity in identifying aromas common in wine.

Merryvale Vineyards
1000 Main St.
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 963-7777
Website: www.merryvale.com
Open: Daily, 10–6:30
Tasting Fee: $15 - $65

Merryvale has a great location in downtown St. Helena, within walking distance from many shops and restaurants. Its spacious tasting room, with dark wood and dim lighting, contains a long bar. As big as the space is, it still maintains an intimate feel, with a friendly staff, a large selection of gift shop items and plenty of different wines to taste. For an even more personal experience, book a reserve tasting or wine-and-cheese seminar.

Opus One
7900 St. Helena Hwy.
Oakville, CA 94562
Telephone: (707) 944-9442; (800) 292-6787
Website: www.opusonewinery.com
Open: Daily, 10–4, by appointment; tours daily at 10:30 and 1:30
Tasting Fee: $30 - $40

The stunning exterior of Opus One looks like a cross between a rocket launchpad and a Mayan temple. Cofounded by Napa's Robert Mondavi and the late Baron Philippe de Rothschild (of Bordeaux's Château Mouton-Rothschild), the $26.5 million winery features a gravity-flow system that moves Opus One's signature Bordeaux-style red deep underground to a breathtaking semicircular barrel room. (A tour along with a tasting costs $40.) The oval, or "barrel shape," is a theme played over and over again in the design of the rooms, the ceiling of the tasting room and even the handles on the entryway doors. The decor of the great salon combines 18th-century French pieces, including a de' Medici mirror, with contemporary bronze furniture designed by Philippe Anthonioz of Paris.

Pine Ridge Vineyards
5901 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone: (707) 253-7500; (800) 486-0503
Website: www.pineridgewinery.com
Open: Daily, 10:30-4:30; tours at 10, 12 and 2, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $20 - $40

This picturesque site is tucked into a hillside along the Silverado Trail. There’s a basic, stand-up sampling of wines at a tasting bar, but you can upgrade to a tasting that focuses on Pine Ridge’s Cabernets from different appellations. Consider making an appointment for one of the tours, which take you through the winemaking process, into the cave for a barrel sample and cheese pairing, and give you a chance to explore the grounds more thoroughly.

Robert Mondavi Winery
7801 St. Helena Hwy.
Oakville, CA 94562
Telephone: (888) 766-6328
Website: www.robertmondaviwinery.com
Open: Daily, 10–5; art exhibition daily, 10–4
Tasting Fee: $25 - $55

Robert Mondavi Winery is an essential destination for all wine lovers, especially first-time visitors to Napa, and there’s an air of excitement there. Founder Robert Mondavi was instrumental in defining the importance of wine education and hospitality as part of the Napa experience. You’ll recognize the iconic building shown on the labels, with the stucco arch framing the vineyards beyond. Entry-level tours and tastings focus on the basic elements, but more private tours, cellar tastings of older vintages and tastings that pair wine with chocolate or cheese are also available. The staff creates a friendly and relaxed atmosphere in which questions are welcome.

Schramsberg Vineyards
1400 Schramsberg Road
Calistoga, CA 94515
Telephone: (707) 942-4558
Website: www.schramsberg.com
Open: Daily, tours and tastings, 10, 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $45 - $70

Schramsberg is one of Napa’s oldest wineries, founded in 1862 by German immigrant Jacob Schram. Now the Davies family owns it and has turned it into one of the most prestigious sparkling wine houses in California. The grounds are reminiscent of a nature sanctuary, with views of a historic Victorian mansion, running springs and a frog pond. The informative tour steers through the mysterious 120-year-old, moss-covered caves, whose walls are covered with pick-ax marks left by the Chinese laborers who dug them. The tour includes a comprehensive explanation of Schramsberg’s sparkling wine process and a relaxing sit-down tasting.

Shafer Vineyards
6154 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone: (707) 944-2877
Website: www.shafervineyards.com
Open: Mon-Fri, 9–4; tastings at 10 and 2, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $45

Classic is the word that describes a visit to Shafer. From the dramatic vineyards and landscape to the winery architecture and personal attention from the staff, Shafer provides one of Napa's richest winery experiences. Visitors learn about the history of the winery, which was founded by John Shafer in 1972, and sit down for a casual tasting of five exceptional wines, including Shafer's highly regarded Hillside Select Cabernet. The tasting room's wall slides open, so on nice days guests can sip their pours alfresco.

Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery
1902 Madrona Ave.
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 963-0134
Website: www.spottswoode.com
Open: Tues and Fri, tastings and tours by appointment: 10
Tasting Fee: $25

Spottswoode is located at the edge of a residential area not far from downtown St. Helena. A tour takes in the charming, late-19th century Victorian home of matriarch Mary Novak, surrounded by classic gardens and views of the vineyard. It’s easy to fantasize about living in such a beautiful place with an estate vineyard for a backyard, just a short walk from the family winery facility and barrel building. It’s an intimate and memorable experience—after learning about the history of the estate and the Novak family, you get a chance to sit down and try their wines.

St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery
8440 St. Helena Hwy.
Rutherford, CA 94573
Telephone: (707) 963-4507; (800) 942-0809
Website: www.stsupery.com
Open: Daily, 10–5; guided tours by appointment
Tasting Fee: $10 - $25

Education is the emphasis at St. Supéry, with clever touches such as a 75-year-old Zinfandel vine, preserved with its roots and a cross section of soil, and a two-part "smell-o-vision" station. In part one, four bottles of a specific varietal are lined up in a row to illustrate the diverse range of color, clarity and appearance that are possible in wines made from the same grape. The second half focuses on characteristic wine aromas that visitors can experience by pressing a button and inhaling through a long plastic tube; the Cabernet station, for example, gives aromas of black pepper, bell pepper, cherry and cedar. Visitors can also check out contemporary art and a wine education exhibit. Particularly interesting is the bas-relief map of Napa Valley—an excellent overview of the topography and microclimates of this region. In the tasting room, a range of wines are poured, including good to very good Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
5766 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone: (866) 422-7523; (707) 944-2020
Website: www.cask23.com
Open: Daily, 10–4:30; tours at 10:30 and 2:30 by appointment
Tasting Fee: $15 - $40

Wine history buffs will know that the Cabernet that famously won the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting against French peers was the 1973 Cabernet from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, made by Warren Winiarski. A visit offers a chance to try the current vintage of S.L.V. and the other estate Cabernets, Fay and Cask 23, and to tour the wine caves. It’s a quiet and relaxing estate, and the staff is professional and friendly.

Sterling Vineyards
1111 Dunaweal Lane
Calistoga, CA 94515
Telephone: (707) 942-3344; (800) 726-6136
Website: www.sterlingvineyards.com
Open: Mon-Fri, 10:30–4:30, Sat-Sun, 10–5
Tasting Fee: $25 - $40

Sterling’s brilliant white stucco winery, opened in 1972 and modeled after architecture from the Greek island of Mykonos, stands out spectacularly against a bluff south of Calistoga. A ride on a gondolalike tram starts the tour, and once at the top, you’re greeted at the winery with a glass of wine. Take a leisurely, self-guided tour, punctuated by additional samplings of wine, displays and videos that follow the stages of wine production. Linger on the terrace to admire the panoramic views, and listen to the bells from the towers chime the quarter-hour. At the end of the tour, there’s a tableside tasting.

Cliff Lede Vineyards
1473 Yountville Cross Road
Yountville, CA 94599
Telephone: (800) 428-2259; (707) 944-8642
Website: www.cliffledevineyards.com
Open: Daily, 10–4; tours by appointment
Tasting Fee: $20 - $60

Canadian developer Cliff Lede has been in Napa Valley for a relatively short time, but he's already made a mark. Taking over the old S. Anderson Winery, he had rebuilt it from the ground up by 2005, replanting and expanding vineyards and focusing on Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc, with great success. Winemaker Kale Anderson crafts reds that are plush but concentrated and whites that are rich and vibrant. The wines can be sampled in an elegant California bungalow, and guests are invited to ramble through the sculpture garden and art gallery or take a formal tour of the winery and caves (the tasting and tour together cost $60). Lede is also the proprietor of the nearby luxury accommodations at Poetry Inn.

Cain Vineyard & Winery
3800 Langtry Road
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 963-1616
Website: www.cainfive.com
Open: Mon-Sat, 7–5, by appointment

Tasting Fee: Free

The scenic serpentine drive from St. Helena to Cain takes about 25 minutes, and the rustic stone winery, set atop a mountain plateau high above the valley, is worth the journey. At complimentary, appointment-only tastings, new releases are poured for visitors; the winery produces Cabernet- and Merlot-based blends. You'll notice that tasting here is a cozy, casual affair—a welcome contrast to the sometimes-tumultuous tasting-room scenes in less rarefied venues.

Chateau Montelena Winery
1429 Tubbs Lane
Calistoga, CA 94515
Telephone: (707) 942-5105
Website: www.montelena.com
Open: Daily, 9:30–4
Tasting Fee: $20 - $40

Best known for its Chardonnay and Cabernet, Chateau Montelena is a dramatic, château-inspired 19th-century stone structure that resembles an old European castle. The winery is a convincing, although comfortable, fortress. There's a moat and two islands, each with an Asian-inspired pavilion, and numerous Chinese bridges. Guests can take a self-guided tour of the premises for free, but stepping through the heavy wooden doors into the cool, cavelike winery adds another wonderful dimension to the experience. Current releases are poured upstairs, in a snug, wood-paneled tasting room.

Chimney Rock Winery
5350 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone: (800) 257-2641
Website: www.chimneyrock.com
Open: Daily, 10–5; tours by appointment
Tasting Fee: $20 - $90

Built in 1989 by Hack and Stella Wilson, the winery at Chimney Rock is a reflection of the years the couple spent in South Africa, complete with Dutch gables and French Huguenot touches. The gardens out back are filled with fist-sized roses, and the cozy tasting room serves good Fumé Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. When industry giant Anthony Terlato assumed ownership of the winery in 2004, he retained Chimney Rock's giant sculpture of Ganymede—mythic hero and cupbearer to the gods. Tastings range from a basic flight of new releases to a private tour of the vineyards and a picnic lunch for $90.

Paraduxx
7257 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone: (866) 367-9943; (707) 945-0890
Website: www.paraduxx.com
Open: Daily, 10–4
Tasting Fee: $25 - $55

Paraduxx’s Zinfandel-based blends are on display in this contemporary, modern tasting room with a loungelike feel. The tasting fee provides a relaxing tableside experience that pairs cheeses with a vertical of Paraduxx, and you can reserve blending and pairing sessions as well. The seating areas are spread out, with plenty of spots inside or out, comfortable furniture, vaulted ceilings and large windows. The staff is so friendly and the setting so relaxed, you’ll want to linger.

Louis M. Martini Winery
254 S. St. Helena Hwy.
St. Helena, CA 94575
Telephone: (707) 968-3362; (800) 321-9463
Website: www.louismartini.com
Open: Daily, 10–6
Tasting Fee: $15 - $30

Friendly and reliable, Louis M. Martini’s tasting room offers a no-frills, stand-up counter tasting, where the knowledgeable staff will answer your questions without any pretension. For three generations, the Martini family has been making solid wines from Napa and Sonoma, heavy on Cabernets and other reds such as Zinfandel.

Napa Wine Company
7830-40 St. Helena Hwy.
Oakville, CA 94562
Telephone: (707) 944-1710
Website: www.napawineco.com
Open: Daily, 10–4:30
Tasting Fee: $25

One of the valley's premier custom-crush facilities makes wine for dozens of different labels, including Adastra and Crocker & Starr. Visitors can sample up to five different brands in the tasting room, and stock up on wines from producers such as Ghost Block, Pahlmeyer, Liparita Cellars and Pavi Wines. Reservations are only required for tastings with parties of six or more.

PlumpJack Winery
620 Oakville Cross Road
Oakville, CA 94562
Telephone: (707) 945-1220
Website: www.plumpjackwinery.com
Open: Daily, 10–4
Tasting Fee: $15 - $25

Part of the Getty family-and-friends-owned PlumpJack restaurant and resort portfolio, the winery, surrounded by whimsical, spiraling fences, displays a kind of planned disarray. The tasting room, which builds upon a theme of absurdity and elegance, pours current releases for a small fee. Although the winery may look like a stage prop, the wines themselves have depth and carry a serious price tag; PlumpJack consistently produces very good to outstanding Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2009, PlumpJack opened another winery, CADE, in Angwin, with winemaker Anthony Biagi at the helm.

V. Sattui Winery
1111 White Lane
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 963-7774
Website: www.vsattui.com
Open: Daily, 9–6, spring, summer, fall; daily, 9–5, winter
Tasting Fee: $5 - $10

V. Sattui, a family-owned winery since 1885, is located just south of St. Helena along Highway 29. The grounds also encompass a 2-acre, tree-shaded picnic grove and a large gourmet cheese shop and deli featuring nearly 200 imported and domestic cheeses, meats, homemade salads and desserts. After a trip to the tasting room, where you can sample good to very good Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, visit the gift shop for locally made artwork and unusual gifts.

Robert Sinskey Vineyards
6320 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone: (707) 944-9090
Website: www.robertsinskey.com
Open: Daily, 10–4:30; tours by appointment
Tasting Fee: $25 - $60

This winery may be located in Cabernet country, but Pinot Noir is king here. Sinskey farms 200 acres in the cooler Carneros region in addition to the 5 acres on the estate, which are planted with the Bordeaux varieties that Sinskey also bottles. The vineyards are organically cultivated. The tasting room is done in rustic stone and redwood, and boasts a ceiling that soars to 35 feet and large windows affording views into the cellar. Some tastings come with food pairings from the vineyard’s gardens and local purveyors. Guests can tour the culinary gardens, cellar and caves.

Spring Mountain Vineyard
2805 Spring Mountain Road
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 967-4188; (877) 769-4637
Website: www.springmountainvineyard.com
Open: Daily, 10–4, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $25 - $100

Spring Mountain Vineyard is one of the most picturesque places in all of Napa, with meticulously cared for grounds. There’s plenty to take in among the caves, vineyards, greenhouse and gardens, while the property’s Villa Miravalle, built in 1885, is one of the more splendid historic mansions around. There are a few tasting choices, from a basic stand-up tasting to options more intimate and refined, including an opportunity for a sit-down tasting in a chandeliered room in the villa.

Del Dotto Vineyards (Atlas Peak location)
1055 Atlas Peak Road
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone: (707) 963-2134
Website: www.deldottovineyards.com
Open: Both properties: Sun-Thurs, 11–5, Fri-Sat, 10–5, by appointment only; tours, Sun-Thurs at 11, 11:30, 1, 1:30, 3, 3:30, Fri-Sat at 10, 10:30, 12, 12:30, 2, 2:30
Tasting Fee: $30 - $60

At Del Dotto, they love oak, and a visit to the winery's 19th-century caves proves it. Their hour-long tour, one of Napa's more distinctive and educational, offers samples of the same Cabernets (mostly from Del Dotto's vineyard in Rutherford) stored in different vessels. The barrel options include Missouri oak cured for years and premium Colbert barrels so visitors can distinguish how different containers affect wines differently. The knowledgeable staff is relaxed and affable, and the tour concludes with tastes of bottled wines in the caves. A second estate and caves, lavishly decorated with Italian marble and Venetian chandeliers, recently opened in St. Helena, off Highway 29, and likewise offers cave visits and barrel tastings.

Darioush Winery
4240 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone: (707) 257-2345
Website: www.darioush.com
Open: Daily, 10:30–5; tours by appointment
Tasting Fee: $20 - $300

Owner Darioush Khaledi grew up in Iran's Shiraz region, where wine grapes grew abundantly until the Islamic revolution. His father made wine as a hobby, and as a 6-year-old, Khaledi used to sneak sips from the barrel. In 1997, Khaledi purchased the former Altamura winery on the Silverado Trail. After five years of construction, the lavish 22,000-square-foot Darioush was born. Meant to evoke the ancient Persian city of Persepolis, the winery was built with Persian straw travertine stone, and 18-foot columns topped with depictions of bulls greet visitors at the main entrance. In the visitor's center, ancient Persian decorations are blended with modern touches such as skylights, suspended lighting and a 20-foot-high indoor wall of rolling water. The tasting bar has a swank nightclub aura, and in the caves, several special tastings are offered. One is a private pairing of five Darioush wines with five cheeses. Another is probably the most astounding example of hospitality in Napa, the $300 Quintessential Wine Experience, in which guests are invited to relax in Khaledi's private cellar and select a bottle from his collection of great wines, including top-growth Bordeaux, to be served alongside Darioush wines and fine Champagne. The wines balance Bordeaux-like elegance with rich California ripeness; Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Shiraz dominate production, followed by Viognier and Merlot.

Laird Family Estate
5055 Solano Ave.
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone: (877) 297-4902, ext. 26
Website: www.lairdfamilyestate.com
Open: Daily, 10–5; tours by appointment
Tasting Fee: $10

From the outside, Laird Family Estate, a $6 million winery north of the city of Napa, appears to be a single entity. Yet beneath its earthen berm is an underground colony of 60 smaller wine companies that use it as a custom-crush, winemaking and barrel-aging facility. A walk through the cellar reveals that Cornerstone, Hill Family Estate, Peter Franus and Selene also call this home. Under the Laird Family label, consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs makes outstanding Chardonnay and Cabernet and very good Pinot Grigio, among other varietals. Architect Jon Lail, who owns Lail Family Vineyards in Napa Valley, with his wife, Robin, designed the winery. When the vines on the berm are in bloom, the structure is barely visible from the road, save its green copper roof.

Paloma Vineyard
4013 Spring Mountain Road
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 963-7504
Website: www.palomavineyard.com
Open: Daily, 10–4, by appointment

Tasting Fee: Free

There is no tasting experience more intimate than Paloma’s, in which proprietor Barbara Richards invites you into her home for a tasting on her back porch, overlooking the 15 acres of vineyards she personally tends. “Most people that work in the tasting rooms have never been in the vineyards, but I’ve been out there for 25 years,” she explains. As hummingbirds flit by, enjoy a taste of wine while Barbara answers questions about tending the land and what it takes to make a Wine Spectator Wine of the Year, an honor the Paloma Merlot earned in 2003. At Paloma’s elevation of more than 2,200 feet, you can admire Howell Mountain, all the way east across the valley.

Quixote Winery
6126 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone: (707) 944-2659
Website: www.quixotewinery.com
Open: Tues-Sun, tastings and tours by appointment: 10, 12, 2, 4
Tasting Fee: $25

The architecture of Quixote follows an unfamiliar set of whimsical rules. Vienna architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser insisted on no straight lines and on incorporating natural features of the landscape, such as planting the roofs with grass and trees. The shining gold-leaf dome, idiosyncratic lines, bright colors and judicious splashes of mosaic come together in a joyful package. Proprietor Carl Doumani’s Quixote label focuses on red wines, powerful Petite Syrahs in particular. Inside, his art collection of photographs and paintings is equally intriguing.

Castello di Amorosa
4045 N. Saint Helena Hwy.
Calistoga, CA 94515
Telephone: (707) 967-6272
Website: www.castellodiamorosa.com
Open: Daily, Nov. to Feb., 9:30–5, Mar. to Oct., 9:30–6; tours by appointment
Tasting Fee: $17 - $68

Castello di Amorosa is the obsession of its owner, Dario Sattui (who also owns the always-crowded V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena). Sattui took his inspiration from medieval Italian castles, incorporating every detail he could think of, from handmade ironwork to the 850,000 imported European bricks in the castle. There are more than 100 rooms on eight levels, a moat, drawbridge, torture chamber and chapel. The crowded parking lots on the weekends give it a bit of a Disneyland vibe, but it’s a spectacular building that’s worth touring. It’s also popular with families who just want to gawk at it from the outside, snap some photos and let the kids chase chickens in the surrounding vineyards.

Ma(i)sonry
6711 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599
Telephone: (707) 944-0889
Website: www.maisonry.com
Open: Sun-Thurs, 10–6, Fri-Sat, 10–9; tastings by appointment
Tasting Fee: $10 - $35

Private tastings can be arranged in this renovated residence turned tasting room and gallery space near downtown Yountville. The design mixes a private club atmosphere with the feel of an art exhibit. The combination of Italian masonry; a collection of large, for-purchase paintings; sustainable-wood furnishings; bold modern art pieces; and antique furniture give an air of archeological chic. The tasting room, gallery and private garden were conceived by Blackbird Vineyards proprietor Michael Polenske; in addition to Blackbird wines, there's a rotating list of flights available from other boutique labels, such as Brown Estate, Lail, Pedras and Tor.

Silenus Vintners
5225 Solano Ave.
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone: (707) 299-3930
Website: www.silenusvintners.com
Open: Daily, 10–4, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $15 - $45

If you're searching for a hidden gem, there's no need to drive all over the valley to find it. Silenus is a custom-crush facility that's home to many boutique producers, and the tasting room offers a daily menu of their wines. Some of the labels you may know; others may be newcomers. The lineup includes Cielo, Coleman, Ideology, Modus Operandi and Virage. The tasting room is a sunny spot with a walnut-wood bar and expansive views of the vineyards and garden.

Alpha Omega Winery
1155 Mee Lane at Highway 29
Rutherford, CA 94573
Telephone: (707) 963-9999
Website: www.aowinery.com
Open: Daily, 10–6
Tasting Fee: $20 - $65

This spot has just the right touch of swank, with modern and chic furnishings, excellent customer service and highly recommended Chardonnay, Cabernet and blends. On a nice day, you can relax with your wine on the comfortable patio that’s located next to an impressive fountain, and take in lovely views of vineyards and the mountain range to the west. Or book one of the private tasting options, which include reserve wines with a barrel sample, vertical tasting, cheese pairing or wine blending.

Mumm Napa Valley
8445 Silverado Trail
Rutherford, CA 94573
Telephone: (800) 686-6272; (707) 967-7700
Website: www.mummnapa.com
Open: Daily, 10–4:45; tours daily at 10, 11, 1 and 3
Tasting Fee: $7 - $65

Sitting on the patio at Mumm with tableside service, a flight of Mumm’s bubblies and the valley stretching before you is one of the most relaxing experiences in Napa. The by-appointment Oak Terrace tasting is a step up in a more private, comfortable setting, with water misters to keep you cool on a hot day and samples of Mumm’s library wines. The complimentary Fine Art Photography Gallery always offers an exciting collection to browse, and the winery tour will answer any questions you have about the sparkling-wine process.

CADE Winery
360 Howell Mountain Road South
Angwin, CA 94508
Telephone: (707) 965-2746
Website: www.cadewinery.com
Open: Daily, 10–4, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $20 - $30

Perhaps the most innovative and thoughtfully designed winery in Napa, CADE is the latest project from PlumpJack proprietors Lt. Governor of California Gavin Newsom and composer and financier Gordon Getty. This LEED-certified Howell Mountain eco-winery is one of the greenest in the country, down to details like insulation made from shredded blue jeans. For $20 ($30 for groups of 10 or more), you get to taste a few releases. If commitment to the environment is your passion, try to get a tour to marvel at the winery's design (don't miss the impressive scalloped ceilings in the caves, which are shaped like PlumpJack's signature shield).

Round Pond Estate
875 Rutherford Road
Rutherford, CA 94573
Telephone: (888) 302-2575; (707) 302-2575
Website: www.roundpond.com
Open: Daily, 11–3:30, by appointment
Tasting Fee: $25 - $250

Though a relative newcomer to the Rutherford Cabernet landscape, Round Pond has made some exciting wines, at appealing price tags. An avenue of tall palm trees announces the entrance to this winery, setting the tone for a stylish and memorable experience. The most basic of the tastings gives you a chance to sample three wines paired with appetizers in one of Napa’s most modern and chic tasting rooms. An outdoor terrace with sweeping views overlooking the valley is so relaxing a spot that you won’t want to leave. For a longer stay, check out their brunch, lunch or dinner tasting options or the estate tour. Round Pond also operates an olive mill across the street, offering tours as well as tastings of their olive oils, red wine vinegars and citrus syrups. Once a month, the winery offers their Twilight Tasting & Dinner package, a tour, tasting and meal for $250.

Terra Valentine
3787 Spring Mountain Road
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: (707) 967-8340
Website: www.terravalentine.com
Open: Daily, 10–4, by appointment; tours, 10:30 and 2:30
Tasting Fee: $30

The charmingly quirky Terra Valentine winery intertwines semi-Gothic, Romanesque touches and Greek mythology into a building that seems straight from a storybook. The setting is equally enchanting, with the peaceful ambience of a nature sanctuary. Take in the stained glass and other design details and enjoy the wines in a sit-down tasting in an oak-paneled Victorian-style parlor room.

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