My 2019 Napa Valley Winery Guide

The question I get asked most is “what Napa wineries should I visit?” I’m not surprised by the question as there are more than 500 wineries in Napa Valley to choose from. To help you map out your Napa itinerary or inspire your next vacation, I’m sharing my guide of where to find the best wineries in Napa Valley.

Clif Family

Food Truck Wine + Food Experience Family Owned Outdoor Area Sustainability Focus No Appointment Required

The family that brings you Clif protein bars also makes suburb wine! Their winery seamlessly weaves together the family’s passion for cycling, food, and wine with many unique guest experiences. Rent a bike from their Velo Vino tasting room and take a self-guided tour of St Helena’s backroads. Start the journey with an espresso and end it with a wine tasting and lunch. Make sure to try the ever-changing farm-to-table menu from the Clif Family Bruschetteria food truck that features arancini, polenta, and various seasonal bruschette, among other Italian-inspired plates. The wines are all delicious but a few of my favorites are their Rosé of Grenache, Dry Gewürztraminer, and Kit’s Killer Cab.

Chateau Montelena

Historically Important Picturesque Estate + Grounds Tours Available

Chateau Montelena was made famous by putting California on the map during the 1976 Judgement of Paris Tasting when their Chardonnay beat out a lineup of fine French wines in a blind tasting. While Montelena’s Chardonnay is still worthy of its distinction, it was actually the winery’s reds that impressed me most. Aside from their wines, the 19th century chateau is worth a visit in itself. Plan some time to walk around before or after your tasting to see the beautiful grounds as well, or reserve Chateau Montelena’s estate tour and tasting for $50 per person.

Domaine Carneros

Picturesque Estate + Grounds Outdoor Area Tours Available Food + Wine ExperienceSustainability Focus By Appointment

For sparkling wine lovers, Domaine Carneros is a must for your Napa Valley itinerary. Founded by Champagne Taittinger in 1989, Domaine Carneros looks like it belongs in the French countryside with is grand, multi-tiered staircase, manicured gardens, and marble covered interior. Make a reservation for tableside service on their terrace overlooking the rolling hills of Carneros, inside the chateau’s salon, or in the winery’s new glass garden conservatory, called the Jardin d’Hiver. Domaine Carneros is a sparkling wine house at its core but also creates some tasty still wines. My favorite wines in their portfolio are La Reve Blanc de Blancs, Brut Rosé, and The Famous Gate Pinot Noir.

Del Dotto

Cave Tour Italian Varieties Wine + Food Experience By Appointment Family Owned

If you ever wondered the effect oak aging has on wine, make a reservation for the Cave Experience and Barrel Tasting at Del Dotto Winery and Caves in St Helena. Your wine educator will take you behind the curtain on a walking tour of the winery’s beautiful Venetian-style caves complete with grandiose chandeliers, brick archways, and rows of oak barrels. In typical Italian fashion, Del Dotto expertly pairs its wines with delicious food crafted by executive Chef Joshua Schwart and his culinary team. You’ll have the chance to taste the winery’s house-cured meats, fresh from the oven pizza, cheese, and any other seasonal bites on the menu. You may not want to schedule this tasting close to meal-time!

Duckhorn

Seated + Private Tastings By Appointment Cheese + Charcuterie Available • Outdoor Area 

I visited Duckhorn during my first visit to Napa Valley in 2016 and it remains one of my favorite wineries to visit today. Their specialty is Bordeaux varieties and they are well known for their flagship wine, Three Palms Merlot, which was named Wine Spectator’s #1 wine of the year in 2017. Their Cabernets and Sauvignon Blanc are equally impressive. Make a reservation to enjoy a selection of current releases at your private table on their wraparound porch. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day in wine country.

Frank Family

Family Owned Wine + Food Experience Seated + Private Tastings By Appointment • Dog Friendly Outdoor Area 

Winery owners, Rich and Leslie Frank are no strangers to the red carpet. Rich’s Hollywood resume includes a decade as president of Walt Disney Studios and executive of Paramount pictures before that. Leslie is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has covered many major news stories from 911 to Hurricane Katrina to the Michael Jackson trial. This power couple now manages the day-to-day operations of their historic Calistoga winery, which was once the site of the old Hans Kornell Champagne Cellars. Frank Family Vineyards honors the building’s history by continuing to handcraft four artisan sparkling wines using the méthode champenoise in addition to producing superb Cabernets and Chardonnays. Taste these winery-exclusive reserve wines at their charming yellow craftsman house turned tasting room.

Frog’s Leap

Seated + Private Tastings Wine + Food Experience Family Owned Sustainability Focus Dog Friendly • Outdoor Area 

A visit to Frog’s Leap is as charming as the winery’s name itself. Guided tastings are available in their red barn or relax at a private table on the back porch of the Vineyard House. Watch as butterflies flutter from the winery’s organic garden and breathe in the fresh aroma of flowers no matter the time of year. If you’re lucky you may get a visit from winery dog, Abbie, who takes her job as tasting room greeter very seriously. Frog’s Leap is famous for its Merlot, but I also enjoy their older vintage Cabernets, and nothing beats a splash of their Sauvignon Blanc on a hot summer day.

Hall

Art Exhibit Picturesque Estate + Grounds Standing + Seated Tasting Options Family Owned Sustainability Focus Outdoor Area

You can’t drive along Highway 29 in St Helena without noticing a larger than life bunny leaping from the grape vines. This playful sculpture is one of many in the eclectic art collection spread across the grounds and inside the Hall winery and tasting room. The contemporary design makes an interesting backdrop for tasting the amazing Cabernets that Hall has to offer. Start with a guided tour of the estate where you will learn about the history and artistic vision of Hall then enjoy a seated tasting in a private salon. The most memorable wines for me were the Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon and Jack’s Masterpiece Cabernet Sauvignon, created by Hall’s former winemaker and current President, Mike Reynolds.

Newton

Amazing Views • Winery Tour + Tasting • By Appointment • Sustainability Focus 

This secret garden atop Spring Mountain in St. Helena is one of Napa Valley’s hidden gems. Founded by Dr. Su Hua and Peter Newton in 1977, this stunning property encompasses elements of each of their homelands – a Chinese gate, a pagoda, a London phone booth, and pristine English gardens. The winery is credited with pioneering unfiltered winemaking in the U.S., a technique used to enhance flavor and the character of the wine. Their unfiltered Chardonnay is now a favorite of mine. The tour and tasting takes you around the estate, through the gardens, and into the winemaking facility before concluding in their tasting room with incredible views of the valley below.

Round Pond

Amazing Views Wine + Food Experience Olive Oil Tasting By Appointment Family Owned Outdoor Area

The impressive palm tree-lined entrance to the Round Pond Estate in Rutherford may be what draws visitors in initially, but the tasting experiences is what keeps them coming back. With 357 acres of surrounding vineyards, a sustainable vegetable garden, an olive mill across the street, and an onsite kitchen, Round Pond has become a master on both the wine and culinary stage. I joined them last summer for their weekly “Il Pranzo” experience which begins with a walking tour of the garden and olive grove followed by a wine-paired lunch featuring house-pressed olive oils, local cheeses, charcuterie, and produce from the garden served family-style on the winery terrace.

Schramsberg

Cave Tour Historically Important By Appointment Family Owned

Schramsberg is my go-to winery to visit with out of town guests. Who doesn’t love to start the day with some bubbles? The Cave Tour and Tasting at this historic sparkling house is an educational exploration into the winery’s 125-year old caves that now house over 2 million aging bottles. It’s a great introduction to the vast world of sparkling wine covering topics like the classic method of sparkling wine production and ending with a tasting of a delicious lineup from both the Schramsberg and Davies Vineyards portfolios. Reserve this tasting well in advance as space books up quickly.

 

Tamber Bey

Picturesque Estate + Grounds Outdoor Area Family Owned

While winemaking is the primary focus at Tamber Bey, they also have a passion for race horsing. Tamber Bey is located at the Sundance Ranch in Calistoga, a world-class equestrian facility that is home to over 45 horses. A visit to the winery includes a secluded seated tasting in their courtyard followed by a walking tour of the ranch. You’ll get a chance to meet their many rescue horses and maybe even one or both of their vineyard cats, Cali and Stoga. It’s the perfect winery for the wine and animal lovers out there!

Trinchero

Picturesque Estate + Grounds Wine + Food Experience Seated + Private Tastings Outdoor Area • Family Owned

The recently renovated tasting room at Trinchero Napa Valley creates a relaxing yet posh setting for a wine tasting. It is lively and stunningly designed in a modern-California style. Their tasting experiences are educational and engaging and focus on the winery’s vineyard designated Bordeaux varieties. During my visit, I had a chance to compare Malbec from both Atlas Peak and Mt. Veeder as well as taste a young Merlot from a concrete egg. After your tasting, be sure to walk the beautiful grounds overlooking their estate vineyards, relax in one of their many porch or tree swings, or reserve the estate’s bocce ball court for some wine country fun (available exclusively to Legacy club members).

 

 

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