Best Napa Valley Wineries to Visit
This family-owned winery on the main tourist route along Highway 29 has made its name with high-end single-vineyard Cabernets from famous vineyards like Beckstoffer To Kalon and Beckstoffer Dr. Crane. The rustic-chic, barn-like tasting room offers current releases for $50 and a tour and tasting for $65; there are also private tastings by appointment. Arrive in nice weather and sip on the panoramic terrace.
Alpha Omega Winery, 707-963-9999
One of the oldest producers in the valley, BV offers tours of the original winery building, which dates back to 1885. These are followed by barrel samples of Cabernet and a stop in the new Heritage Room, which chronicles the history of wine in Napa.
Beaulieu Vineyard, 707-967-5200
One of the top large wineries in the world, Beringer has long done an exceptional job of producing a substantial volume of reliably high-quality wine, from the entry level bottlings to the often extraordinary Private Reserves. Its impressive, 1884 fieldstone Rhine House, housing the tasting room, is a Napa Valley landmark. There are various tasting and tour options; try the $55 Taste of Beringer Tour, which includes a barrel sampling in the old, hand-dug caves and a guided, sit-down tasting.
Visitors can assess leaf shape and cluster size and otherwise analyze 17 grape varieties in the demonstration vineyard here. Drop by for a walk-in tasting room ($20-$50 depending on the flight).
Black Stallion Winery, 707-253-1400
The nicely understated Cabs at this family-owned vineyard are some of the valley's best values. Plus, private tours and tastings are hosted by the Buehler family.
Buehler Vineyards, 707-963-2155
The views of the valley floor are glorious from this super-sustainable, LEED Gold–certified winery, located on Howell Mountain. Guests can taste Cade's superb Sauvignon Blanc in its chic outdoor living room.
Cade Estate, 707-965-2746
Cakebread, a familiar sight on Highway 29 in Rutherford, was one of the moving forces behind Napa’s revival in the 1970s, and scored a runaway success with its luscious style of Chardonnay, plus full-flavored reds. Cakebread (it’s the family name, by the way, not a wine descriptor) is serious about its guest experience, and offers a range of tastings, tours, educational experiences and food pairings.
This sleek winery in St. Helena is a destination in itself, with the Brasswood Bar + Kitchen serving “Wine country comfort food” Wednesdays through Sundays, the Rosgal Gallery (call ahead), and of course the tasting room itself, plus the clubby Winemaker’s Den private room, available by appointment.
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).
This is the oldest winery on Pritchard Hill, a stunning, high-elevation area known for producing some of Napa's best Cabs. Chappellet's extensive 90-minute Vineyard Tour and Tasting includes a walk through the organic vineyards and a seated tasting of new releases.
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
Clif Family Winery
The Clif family, of energy bar fame, makes excellent wine as well. Rent a road bike from the Velo Vino tasting room and do the 24-mile Cold Springs Loop, past Clif's organic farm and vineyards, with espresso before and a wine tasting after. Clif Family Winery has also introduced a food truck, The Clif Family Bruschetteria, which is typically parked outside their tasting room. The truck serves numerous variations of bruschetta along with other Northern Italy–inspired fare. Much of the produce is sourced directly from the Clif Family Farm.
Clif Family Winery, 707-968-0625
Each of Cliff Lede's vineyard blocks is named for a rock song. Get a backstage pass for access to limited production wines, including “High Fidelity” and “Rock Block” offerings. The lounge also features rotating art exhibits. Prior reservation required.
Cliff Lede Vineyard, 707-944-8642
Clos du Val
For many years this foundational Stags Leap District winery was known for an austere style favored by its fans, but at odds with many of its neighbors. But beginning with the superb 2012 vintage, the winery started to produce reds in a richer, more velvety style that, as the winery puts it, “embraces the Napa Valleyness” of the wines. You can taste the evolution at the lovely winery in a variety of settings—there are picnic tables, pre-reserved private cabanas, and a just-drop-in tasting room with current releases.
Clos du Val, 707-261-5251
Make an appointment to taste through library samples of older vintages of winemaker Cathy Corison’s fantastic Cabernet Sauvignons. Tasting flights include our current release and selected library vintages, available exclusively at the winery.
Founded by Champagne Taittinger in 1989, Domaine Carneros’s impressive, largely solar-powered château amid the rolling hills on Route 12 was modeled on Taittinger’s Château de la Marquetterie back in France. You must reserve ahead for even the basic tasting. But it is worth it, both for the educational experience (the $50 tour, offered three times a day, takes you from the vineyard to the cellar), and for the laid-back atmosphere—you can sip away at a table on the terrace with its sweeping vineyard views. Top-notch bubbly is the thing here, but the still wines are lovely as well.
Domaine Carneros, 707-257-0101
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
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.
Etude's deck is idyllic, with bright white umbrellas and tastings of excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs.
It's a little strange that Failla even allows visitors, considering how sought-after its wines are. Ehren Jordan, one of Napa's most lauded winemakers, often hangs out with guests in his courtyard. Taste single-vineyard Pinots (made with grapes from around the state) in the restored farmhouse or 15,000-square-foot cave.
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
If you’ve driven up Highway 29 into St. Helena you’ve surely seen the Las Vegas-worthy, wavy façade (a cutaway soil profile?) of Flora Spring’s multi-venue tasting room, which is a lovely, drop-in tasting room inside (with some premium tastings requiring reservations.) But it’s also worth bushwhacking a bit off the main drag to the actual winery, a once-abandoned 19th-century stone structure that is also home to the family proprietors. You’ll need an appointment to access its slate of tours and experiences.
Flora Springs, 707-963-5711
Frank Family Vineyards
Proprietor Rich Frank’s resume as one of Hollywood’s long-running inside players includes nearly a decade as president of Walt Disney Studios. His historic Calistoga winery has a notable history of its own—it is on the site of the old Kornell Champagne Cellars and the 19th-century Larkmead before that. Frank Family offers three different tasting experiences, a $40 reserve tasting, a $60 Winston Hill Cabernet tasting, and $85 elevated experience featuring a flight five wines paired with small bites.
Frank Family Vineyards, 707-942-0859
Grgich Hills Estate
Creamy, full-flavored Chardonnays were this Napa icon’s first signatures, and are still the standard-bearers—the basic $25 tasting flight is all Chardonnay—but visitors to this easy-going valley-floor winery (Hills is a partner’s name, not a geographical description) should be sure to get a taste of the lively Fumé Blanc, or the graceful, medium-rich Cab or Zinfandel to get the winery’s approach to making wines of finesse.
Grigich Hills, 707-963-2784
Winemaker Stéphane Vivier, a French expat, uses Burgundian winemaking techniques, like fermenting in enormous French foudres and meticulously sorting grapes after harvest, to make his fantastic Carneros Chardonnays.
When your palate is tired out from tasting dozens of Cabernets, try this fantastic winery. It has Cab, too, but it is definitely the only winery in Napa making floral, strawberry-scented and light-bodied Grignolino, an obscure Italian variety.
Heitz Cellar, 707-963-3542
The elegant, ivy-covered Inglenook Château is a Napa icon, dating back to the 1800s; it was purchased from the Niebaum family by Francis Ford Coppola in 1975. Small-group tours ($75/person) end with a seated tasting paired with artisanal cheeses. Afterward, stop by the perfectly curated shop for tabletop pieces from designers like William Yeoward and L'Objet pour Fortuny.
Long Meadow Ranch
All of the tastings here include samples of the estate's wonderful olive oils, too. Reserve a spot for the Chef's Table ($145), which occurs in a private room and is served with wine pairings. Dishes are tailored to the wines, from Sauvignon Blanc to Cabernet.
Long Meadow Ranch, 707-963-4555
Louis M. Martini
This over 80-year-old winery continues to make exceptional, value-driven Cabernet from both Sonoma and Napa for every vintage. Its tasting room offers a rotating selection of 10 wines.
Louis M. Martini, 707-968-3362
20 small California wineries offer tastings at the Ma(i)sonry collective. Guests can taste from whichever wineries they choose in whichever setting they prefer, from a steampunk-art gallery to a contemporary sculpture garden to a blanket on the lawn.
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
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).
The late Robert Mondavi and the late Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Bordeaux’s Château Mouton Rothschild (and managed today by Mouton) modeled this groundbreaking Napa Valley joint venture winery after a grand cru Bordeaux, albeit one with eye-catching contemporary architecture. The focus here, as back in Bordeaux, is on a single, high-end Cabernet-based blend. You can sample the current vintage by appointment for $50, but the 90-minute tour in a four-person group is well worth the experience at $85.
Opus One, 707-944-9442
In addition to making bold red blends, Dave Phinney creates the labels for his bottlings and even designed his tasting room. Phinney used rustic reclaimed materials, like pickle barrels and bleacher seats, and brilliantly incorporated a gold-leaf painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who also makes an appearance on his Veladora Sauvignon Blanc bottle, in a window.
Orin Swift, 707-967-9179
Everything about Paul and Betty Wooll's secluded, Cabernet-focused winery is state of the art, from the glass-and-stone cellar to the 11,000-square-foot cave drilled into the side of Howell Mountain. Yet the building manages to blend into its natural surroundings.
For its 5x5 Tasting, winemaker Michael Beaulac and chef Susan Lassalette worked together to pair the winery's five estate Cabernet Sauvignons (from five different appellations) with five small dishes, like walnut-cranberry bread with duck rillette or lamb merguez on gougères.
Pine Ridge, 707-252-9777
Just off the Silverado Trail in Rutherford, the Quintessa winery is barely visible from the road—it's built into the hillside. Quintessa only releases one Bordeaux-style blend every year, but visitors have the chance to taste a three-vintage vertical of wine paired with cheese.
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
Robert Craig Winery
Robert Craig's Tasting Salon, in downtown Napa on the Napa River, is centrally located, but for a more thrilling experience, sign up for its Howell Mountain Experience. It takes guests up to the nine-and-a-half-acre vineyard site above the fog line at an elevation of 2,300 feet.
Robert Craig, 707-965-1201
To visit Napa without a stop at Robert Mondavi's mission-style winery in Oakville is to miss a significant piece of wine history. To celebrate Robert Mondavi's 100th birthday in 2013, the winery installed a tasting bar in its Vineyard Room, which also acts as a gallery for guest artists.
Robert Mondavi, 707-226-1395
Robert Sinskey Vineyards
The Perfect Circle Tours at Robert Sinskey Vineyards start with a walk through the organic garden, a glass of wine in hand. It ends with a tasting and small bites, often from a wood-fired oven, by F&W Best New Chef 1996 Maria Helm Sinskey. They occur twice daily and are reservation only.
Robert Sinskey, 707-944-9090
Ambitious pioneers David Graves and Dick Ward helped prove that the Carneros region above San Francisco Bay wasn’t just sheep grazing land: With its warm afternoons and cool breezes, it was ideal territory for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their winery off Route 121, Saintsbury (named for a legendary English connoisseur) is an ideal place to experience the Carneros, a few miles but sometimes seemingly a world away from central Napa. Book a reservation (required) and enjoy the seated, $35 five-wine tasting in the gardens or—depending on the weather—in the cellar.
A visit here includes a sampling of four sparkling wines (served at the White House on numerous occasions), a tour of the 125-year-old caves and a lesson in Champagne's méthode traditionelle.
It's nearly impossible to buy Shafer's coveted Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon unless you're on the mailing list, but every guest who books a visit to the winery can purchase up to two bottles after tasting four of its signature red wines.
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
The hospitality room is in a sweet cottage among the vines. Tours take in the gardens, a pre-Prohibition stone cellar and the winery, where visitors can taste the great Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc.
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Beginning 1971, Stag's Leap poured samples of its fantastic Cabernets in a tasting room down the road from the vineyards that produce the wine. But in 2014 the winery opened a new building and visitor center, designed by Barcelona architect Javier Barba, with floor-to-ceiling views of its vineyards as the centerpiece.
Stag's Leap, 707-261-6410
Stony Hill Vineyard
This is the opposite of the packed, big winery tasting rooms. The McCrea family’s artisan winery tucked away high on Spring Mountain is one of California wine’s hidden treasures. Visits here (by reservation; $45) are personal—chances are a family member or longtime winemaker Mike Chelini himself will walk you around the place and pour your wine in the ranch house. The Chardonnay’s, defiantly non-oaky, non-buttery, are among California’s very finest, from vines planted in 1947. But the newly offered Cabernet Sauvignon is superb as well.
Stony Hill Vineyard, 707-963-2636