Nothing says fine wines like Napa County. Here one can find the most exquisite (and expensive) wines known to man. Only 2% of the world has a climate like Napa, and only Napa has the growing conditions so perfect for fine Wines. Relatively small, with the absolute perfect conditions for wine, make one question whether divine intervention is at hand. Surrounded west and east by mountains, the Napa Valley biome maintains a moderate temperature that’s protected from wind and rain.
With all this going for Napa, it’s no surprise Napa wine won first place at the famed Judgement of Paris in 1976, by a panel of French judges. It goes without being said, it gets no better than Napa Valley wine! With so many amazing vineyards in Napa it can be hard to choose which ones to visit. To save you the time here’s some of our personal recommendations for your tour. To see a full list of Napa wineries check out the Information Page, or get in touch by email and we’ll help build your itinerary!
A visit to Arkenstone isn’t convenient, unless you happen to live in the tiny town of Angwin, nor is it cheap, at $100 per person. But if you’re after a deep dive into some distinctive, under-the-radar wines, there are few better options in Napa Valley than this family-owned spot. The red wines, especially the Cabernets, are powerful and concentrated; Arkenstone also happens to make one of Napa’s finest Sauvignon Blancs.
You might call Cain the anti-Napa Valley winery. Although this Spring Mountain producer specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, it crafts its wines in a distinctively Old World style less about fruit than a melange of earthy, wild qualities. Cain also produces, unusually, a multi-vintage red wine blend that represents a great value. Plan ahead for a visit here — it takes a while to climb the rugged Spring Mountain road to the top — and make sure you’re not in a rush. They don’t accept groups larger than four. This is a place to linger and learn.
One of just a few California wineries located atop Pritchard Hill in Napa’s eastern mountains that is open to the public, Chappellet would be worth visiting for the views alone. Good thing, then, that the longstanding winery produces beautiful wines, from its flagship Pritchard Hill Cabernet to an old-vine Chenin Blanc. The main winery is a striking building, cavernous and triangular. Take a vineyard tour if you have some extra time.
Wine may be the first passion of Cliff Lede, who founded his namesake winery in 2002, but the vintner also loves classic rock, and named blocks of his estate vineyard after favorite songs like “Cinnamon Girl,” “Nights in White Satin” and “Ziggy Stardust.” You’ll even notice a painted crosswalk outside the winery that bears a strong resemblance to a certain Beatles album cover. The winery feels luxurious, with indoor and outdoor seating and a gallery of rotating art.
Gamling & McDuck
While the rest of Napa Valley is unwaveringly focused on Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamling & McDuck prefers to focus on the other Cabernet — Cabernet Franc, that is. This winery is an ode to France’s Loire Valley, where Cab Franc and Chenin Blanc reign supreme. A comic book-like illustration of the wine label’s history by co-founder Adam McClary is on display in the eclectic space, which stays open until 11 p.m. on Saturdays.
Nestled in the Mayacamas foothills, Hendry Ranch crafts a more diverse range of wines than most Napa wineries — and all from its estate, no less. That makes Hendry a good place to taste Albarino, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir in Napa, though the winery’s greatest strength really is Zinfandel. (Separately, it also produces Primitivo, a clone of Zin.) Basic tastings are available, but the best way to experience this family farm is by booking a property tour.
Four years after a 6.0-magnitude earthquake toppled its historic wine cellar, Mount Veeder’s Hess Collection finally unveiled its restored — and improved, to the tune of $5 million — new winery and tasting room, called Lion’s Head. An additional commercial kitchen has now enabled Hess to offer food-and-wine pairings in the peaceful courtyard just outside the new cellar. Hess is one of those California wineries that has it all, from a casual tasting bar that welcomes walk-ins to private chocolate pairings and lengthy ATV vineyard tours. Hess also draws visitors for its top-notch art museum, to which admission is free.
Spring Mountain, in Napa’s western hillsides, is home to many outstanding — and longstanding — estate wineries. Robert Keenan, founded here in 1974, is among the mountain’s stars. In addition to the obligatory Cabernet Sauvignon, the winery excels with Cabernet Franc and what it calls “Mernet,” a Cab-Merlot blend. Reservations are required (though staff is happy to try to fit you in last-minute if you call ahead, as long as there’s space), but unlike many elaborate hillside estates in Napa, the Keenan experience is easy and laid back — and much less expensive than comparable experiences at just $25.
For a last-minute stop near the end of the day in Napa Valley, drop into Merryvale, conveniently located on the main drag of Highway 29 and open — without a reservation! — until 5:30 p.m. every day. Seated tastings in the tasting room are relaxed and comfortable, but you’re also welcome to buy a bottle of wine to enjoy outdoors here.
California Governor Gavin Newsom and philanthropist Gordon Getty co-own three Napa Valley wineries through their PlumpJack Group (and that’s not to mention a number of San Francisco wine shops and bars, including Wildhawk and Forgery). Odette Estate, named for the late French wine critic Odette Kahn, is the latest jewel in their crown, and the winery is an accomplishment in ecological design, having earned a LEED Gold certification.
Young Inglewood is truly a family affair: Mother-son team Jacky and Scott Young make the wines; dad, Jim, manages the vineyard; daughter, Mary, works on special projects. Originally part of a Mexican land grant, the property has been farmed organically by the Youngs since 2007. In addition to some elegant, finessed versions of Chardonnay and red Bordeaux varieties, the winery produces a “vin clair,” essentially a rosé of Merlot and Malbec with a nod to Champagne-style winemaking. This may be the only place in Napa where you can find Aligote, a minor (and delicious) white grape from Burgundy, France.