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Napa Valley and Sonoma County, located only about an hour’s drive from San Francisco, are home to some of the most renowned wineries in the world – and with an average temperature of 70 degrees year-round, there is no off-season.
But with over 400 wineries to choose from, where do you start?
Not to worry; we have you covered. These are the wineries you must visit when you’re in California Wine Country.
1. Domaine Chandon
This 42-year-old winery, the first French-owned sparkling wine venture in the United States, spans 800 acres in Yountville. Domaine Chandon has some still wines, but its main production is sparkling wine. Two spectacular offerings are Blanc de Noirs and e’toile Brut. Be sure to take your tasting outside on the terrace; it’s surrounded by plush greenery and offers a beautiful view.
The ride up the winding roads of Napa is almost as impressive as the Jarvis wines that await you. The winery’s outside is understated, but don’t be confused: Go through the front door and you’ll be overwhelmed by the 45,000 square feet of cave tunneled through Vaca Mountain. If you’re looking for a great red, be sure to try the Flagship Cabernet Sauvignon. On the other end of the spectrum, a great white would be the Finch Hollow Chardonnay. Be sure to schedule in advance; visits are by appointment only, and they have limited tours available.
3. Gloria Ferrer
A seat with a view. That’s the best way to describe Gloria Ferrer, where every seat outside has a panoramic view of the vineyards. Gloria Ferrer is not the first sparkling wine house in Sonoma, but it was the first to plant Champagne clones. For a clean and fresh sparkling wine try the Royal Cuvee Brut. Before taking your seat to enjoy the tasting, buy a charcuterie and cheese plate. The options are endless.
You don’t want to miss this one. Newton sits on a hillside property overlooking Napa Valley – the view from the top is awe-inspiring and it has an astounding Asian inspired garden – so head for your tasting early and give yourself time to wander through the property. The intimate tasting room holds very few people, so you’ll get a real understanding of the property, founders, and of course the wine. The 2012 unfiltered chardonnay and 2012 unfiltered merlot are great options.
5. Rodney Strong
Located in Healdsburg, Rodney Strong was founded in 1959 and sustainably farms 14 estate vineyards. A great wine to try when you’re there would be the Alexander Valley, Estate Cabernet. Be sure to bring a glass of wine or two out to the terrace, where you can pair your flight of wine with local cuisine and gaze over the extraordinary vineyard setting.
6. Ferrari Carano
Step onto the patio of Ferrari Carano and you’re no longer in Healdsburg. It’s like you’ve been transported to Europe. From the pillars to the vibrant flowerbeds, you have to stop to take it all in. The best spot for a tasting is in the Enoteca, an underground cellar where you can sip the smaller production, hard-to-find wines, like their pinot noir and chardonnay. On the way out take a stroll along the footpaths, ponds and waterfalls. The beauty is astounding.
7. Lambert Bridge
Another Healdsburg winery is Lambert Bridge, which is little known but won’t be for long. From the scenic drive through the foliage to the sprawling front yard set with picnic tables, you’ll be hard pressed to leave. The Chambers Vineyard Rosé 2013 is a refreshing way to start the day. The employees are knowledgeable and friendly and will help you find the perfect bottle for your taste.
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The Best of Napa
How well do you know America's most famous wine region? Well, if the name Diamond Mountain doesn't sound familiar, you need to know more. Here, a selective guide to Napa's 14 subregions (called AVAs), with the top wineries and key grape varieties in each.
The Napa Valley has become the most famous wine region in the United States. And Napa&aposs vintners have presented such a unified front that it&aposs easy to forget that the valley is a collection of 14 subappellations, or American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), each with its own distinctive personality. Just as Gevrey-Chambertin in Burgundy produces Pinot Noirs more powerful than those of neighboring Chambolle-Musigny, Napa&aposs Spring Mountain District creates Cabernets that are denser and more structured than those made just next door in St. Helena.
One reason Napa vintners may not pay much attention to AVAs is that those in the valley tend to be quite large a single AVA can encompass many soil types and microclimates. Plus, the Napa trend toward voluptuous wines with plush fruit and generous oak can overshadow the nuances of terroir. But careful tasting proves that AVAs do matter. What follows is a comprehensive AVA guide identifying the key characteristics of the wines, as well as the top wineries and a few great stopping points along the way for the Napa traveler. Note that most of the wineries listed here are open only by appointment, so be sure to call ahead.
The Carneros AVA is a Napa anomaly. While most of the valley has a warm climate, ideal for Cabernet, the cool, breezy climate of Carneros is better suited to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Though Pinot is Carneros&aposs key grape, many early plantings produced mediocre wines. Then phylloxera struck in the late 1980s and vineyards had to be replanted. The result, ironically, was much better Pinot Noir. Longtime Carneros names Saintsbury, Acacia and Carneros Creek are making better wines than ever, newer entrants like Robert Sinskey are producing Pinots that are pure and refined, and longtime Carneros sparkling-wine producer Domaine Chandon has a delicious new Pinot, Ramal Road Reserve.
As for Chardonnay, one star vineyard is Hyde, a source of top-notch fruit for Patz & Hall and David Ramey, among others. Grower Larry Hyde has also debuted a label of his own, HdV, in conjunction with Aubert de Villaine of the famed Domaine de la Romanພ-Conti. They are producing minerally Chardonnay, rich Syrah and a Merlot-dominant blend. Syrah and Merlot also perform extremely well in certain Carneros sites: Two brilliant examples from Hudson Vineyards are Havens&apos Hudson T Syrah and the Merlot-based wines of Arietta.
The dramatic terrain of Diamond Mountain District, one of the northernmost appellations in the Napa Valley, is steep and rocky. The soils are mostly volcanic, and the climate is influenced by ocean breezes and fog, resulting in large temperature swings between day and night, which help to preserve the acidity of the grapes.
Diamond Mountain District is best known for its big, structured Cabernets, exemplified by the enormously concentrated wines of Diamond Creek Vineyards. Once known for tannins that took years to unwind, Diamond Creek Cabernets have become more approachable in recent vintages, and though their tannins are still present, they&aposre riper and finer.
While Diamond Creek still sets the standard for the AVA, other producers are making exciting wines too. The Davies family of the Schramsberg sparkling-wine empire released its first Cabernet in 2004 here under the J. Davies label. Dyer Vineyard turns out a full-bodied Cabernet with a hint of chocolate, while Von Strasser produces a notable Bordeaux-style blend called Sori Bricco that displays impressive minerality. And Sterling Vineyards&apos Cabernet from its Diamond Mountain Ranch vineyard has never been better.
There is no actual Spring Mountain. This mostly forested AVA, just above St. Helena, is not a mountain but a saddle of land between Mount Veeder and Diamond Mountain District. The name comes from the area&aposs numerous natural springs. Grapes have been grown here since the 1870s, but only in the past decade or so did the region&aposs reputation start to soar. Much of this is thanks to Cabernet, and that&aposs what counts in Spring Mountain—powerful, rich, dense, dark Cabernet. Some of the best include delicious Cabs from Barnett Vineyards (its Rattlesnake Hill wine is particularly expressive of Spring Mountain) and even more intense versions from Pride Mountain Vineyards and Frias Family (its Cabernet has loads of vivid fruit that temper its powerful tannins). Other notable producers include established names like Robert Keenan and Spring Mountain Vineyard (both back in good form after some lackluster years) and newer ones such as Terra Valentine and Fantesca, all of which are helping to make Spring Mountain one of Napa&aposs most exciting AVAs.
Spring Mountain District is also the source of some memorable whites, including Smith-Madrone&aposs great Riesling (the best in California), Pride Mountain&aposs excellent Viognier and the pioneering Stony Hill&aposs long-lived Chardonnay.
The St. Helena AVA is still struggling to establish an identity. So far, Cabernet Sauvignon is the district&aposs most important grape, and Spottswoode is its star producer, turning out elegant and restrained wines. In fact, elegance and restraint tend to be the hallmarks of St. Helena Cabernet (a little surprising, as St. Helena is one of the hottest places in the valley).
Whitehall Lane Winery produces superb Cabernet from Leonardini Vineyard, and Beringer&aposs St. Helena Home Vineyard bottling, from the winery&aposs original vineyard, which Jacob Beringer purchased back in 1875, is dense and velvety. Several new wineries are producing some of the AVA&aposs best Cabernets they include Bressler, Parry Cellars, Hundred Acre and Hourglass (whose rich Cabernet has surprisingly fine tannins).
Rutherford, though an AVA only since 1993, was the source of California&aposs most outstanding wines during the mid-20th century. These days Rutherford doesn&apost have neighboring Oakville&aposs feeling of flashy newness, but this venerable AVA still produces wonderful wines.
The best vineyards lie west of Highway 29, yielding fruit for rich, dense Cabernet-based wines such as Flora Springs Rutherford Hillside Reserve, Niebaum-Coppola Rubicon, BV Reserve, Grgich Hills Cabernet and Hewitt Vineyard Cabernet. Rubicon typifies the intense flavors of Rutherford&aposs west side, as do the BV Reserve and the Hewitt, though those wines taste a shade riper than Rubicon. Hewitt&aposs sibling, Provenance Vineyards, makes a Cabernet from a site east of Highway 29 near the Silverado Trail that has a hint of herbaceousness. Quintessa, also east of 29, combines lush fruit with firm structure.
As for the "Rutherford dust" scent or flavor often ascribed to Rutherford Cabernets, even the AVA&aposs vintner group, the Rutherford Dust Society, claims the term "has come to reflect an enduring commitment to quality, as opposed to any sensory component in the appellation&aposs wines." In other words, the phrase sounds good but doesn&apost mean anything.
The controversy over Stags Leap District—the appellation name and its boundariesgan in the mid-1980s and lasted through the decade. It was a well-publicized and often public dispute. And a few vintners continue to grumble that some vineyards which weren&apost included when the AVA was approved in 1989 should have been.
But politics aside, a distinct resemblance can be found in many of the Cabernets from the district, and the most likely reason is climate. Stags Leap is heavily influenced by the cool breezes that swirl through its knolls and crags and give the district an exceptionally long growing season.
Stags Leap District Cabernet is typically described as "an iron fist in a velvet glove." The best are delicious when young and capable of aging quite well Shafer Vineyards&apos Hillside Select Cabernet is a prime example. In fact, the Hillside Select bottling sets the standard. Stag&aposs Leap Wine Cellars, which first brought fame to the area, still does a fine job with Cabernet, and Silverado Vineyards makes full-bodied, dramatic wines. Newer wineries with tremendous potential include Quixote and the eponymous Cliff Lede Vineyards, whose owner recently opened the area&aposs only hotel, the tiny Poetry Inn.
It used to be easy to spot a Cabernet from Mount Veeder: It was the wine with the hard green (unripe) tannins. The problem was that some parts of the district were simply too cool for Cabernet grapes to fully ripen. This problem is now pretty much a thing of the past. Cabernets from Mount Veeder are still intense and structured, but today&aposs winemakers have been able to craft wines with finer and riper tannins. One reason is that they are growing Cabernet in the warmer areas, leaving the cooler places to grapes like Merlot and Syrah, which require less heat.
Nevertheless, Mount Veeder is still well known for Cabernet and does produce a few great ones, such as Lokoya&aposs𠅊n intense wine that needs time to open. The Hess Collection Cabernet is more approachable. (Hess owns more vineyard land in Mount Veeder than any other producer.) Another venerable Mount Veeder producer, Mayacamas Vineyards (built in 1889, and known under that name since 1941) still turns out earthy, rich Cabernets that can age forever, while Mount Veeder Winery makes a big, muscular, Bordeaux-style blend.
Other Mount Veeder wines to look for include Provenance&aposs outstanding, concentrated Merlot from Paras Vineyard (also the source of Jade Mountain&aposs smoky Syrahs), and tiny new Lagier Meredith Vineyard&aposs Mount Veeder Syrah.
Although the first Napa Valley vines were planted in Yountville in 1836, the area only earned AVA status in 1999. That&aposs only one of several surprising facts about Yountville. Another is that its biggest winery, Domaine Chandon, doesn&apost make any Yountville-appellation wines. Finally, while Cabernet Sauvignon is the most important grape of Napa, Yountville produces a range of wines, everything from Chardonnay to Zinfandel. Even so𠅊nd despite the fact that the climate here is actually a little cool for heat-loving Cabernet—the appellation&aposs best-known wines are Cabernet-based.
Christian Moueix&aposs Dominus is one of these. Firm and even a bit austere in some vintages, Dominus is also classic Yountville Cabernet: elegant and balanced, neither a fruit bomb nor a tannic monster. A few newer Yountville wineries, like Gemstone, Rocca Family Vineyards and Keever Vineyards, are turning out more generous wines. The newest Yountville entrant, Kapcsándy Family Winery, is particularly promising: The 2004 Cabernet-Merlot blend, made by the famed Helen Turley, is concentrated but also elegant.
Oakville is the Malibu of Napa Valley, home to all the newest stars. The older celebrities—Robert Mondavi Winery, Silver Oak Cellars and Opus One—still have many loyal fans but have been overshadowed lately by new luminaries like Harlan Estate, Dalla Valle, Screaming Eagle, PlumpJack and Rudd Estate.
Oakville&aposs appeal is easy to understand: Its Cabernets are powerful wines with a strong sense of place. That clear Oakville character is a surprise, considering the enormous size of the AVA, which stretches from the western side of the valley and the Mayacamas Mountain range across the valley floor to the east side and the edge of the Silverado Trail. There are differences between east- and west-side wines (the former are ripe and dramatic, the latter more graceful), but most Oakville Cabs have a remarkably similar aroma, a subtle minty-cedary character.
The concentrated wines of Harlan Estate and Bond, Bill Harlan&aposs new project, are among the best of the west side, as is Far Niente&aposs dense, fleshy 2001 Cab. Screaming Eagle is one of the most sought-after Cabernets from the east side, though Dalla Valle wines are also among the best. Other outstanding east-side Cabernets include Joseph Phelps&aposs Backus Vineyard bottling and Nickel & Nickel&aposs Stelling Vineyard Cabernet.
Howell Mountain was the first subappellation in Napa Valley to earn AVA status (in 1984). Unlike the mountain appellations on the west side, which start at a 400-foot elevation (some vineyards barely rise above Highway 29), the Howell Mountain AVA, in the eastern Vaca Range, begins at 1,400 feet, above the fog, meaning warmer mornings and cooler afternoon breezes.
While Howell Mountain is known for Cabernets, it is also home to some notable Zinfandels. The Cabernets are concentrated and structured, and many have a subtle herbaceous character that ranges from cedar to dill to black olive, while the Zins are intense but, thanks to the climate here, rarely overripe.
Dunn Vineyards, with its powerful, tannic Cabernets, first brought attention to Howell Mountain in 1979. Beringer Vineyards is also a significant presence and renowned for its Bancroft Ranch Merlot and its three single-vineyard Howell Mountain Cabs. Other top Cabs include those of Cornerstone Cellars, Lokoya (which makes several mountain appellation wines), Robert Craig, O&aposShaughnessy Estate and Howell Mountain Vineyards. Ladera Vineyards is a promising newcomer. The best Zins, brambly and elegant, come from Howell Mountain Vineyards, a partnership between the owners of Beatty Ranch and Black Sears Vineyard the peppery Black Sears bottling is the star.
Laurie Daniel travels regularly to the Napa Valley for her weekly wine column, which is published in several California newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News. (Additional Where to Go information reported by Erika Lenkert.)
Where to Stay in Napa Valley
In Napa, I was ecstatic to stay at Meadowood, a luxury resort in St. Helena. The property has the most serene spa, a three Michelin-starred restaurant called The Restaurant, croquet lawns, walking golf-course, three pools, seven tennis courts, and hiking trails.
I stayed in a cozy cabin, tucked in the woods with gorgeous woodwork, giant bathtub, and a cozy fireplace. The service is impeccable! They also delivered my room service in a picnic basket and that was such a charming detail I will never forget.
After a day of wine tasting, there really is nothing better than coming back for a relaxing evening at Meadowwood.
I also had the most relaxing massage and could have spent the entire day in the spa!
As Napa’s leading white variety, it’s common to find chardonnay sitting alongside cabernet in a tasting room. Winemaking techniques vary widely in Napa, allowing for different expressions of this malleable grape, from lean and crisp to voluptuous and full-bodied. Napa Valley chardonnay is probably best-known for its award-winning turn during the 1976 Judgement of Paris, when Chateau Montelena’s wine beat out French competitors.
Wine to try: Chateau Montelena, Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Top 10 Wineries in Napa Valley
Our Calistoga bed and breakfast is the perfect home away from home and starting point for your Napa Valley Wine Country getaway. With dozens and dozens of incredible nearby wineries to choose from, it is impossible to narrow it down to one short list. We could easily have made this a Top 100 list but for the sake of time, 10 of our top recommendations are listed below in no particular order. Your wine tasting adventure starts here!
- – Visit one of the oldest wine producers in Napa Valley, enjoy barrel samples of Cabernet, Take a tour, and visit the Heritage Room to learn more about the history of wine in Napa. – This is a simple and authentic family-owned vineyard where you can schedule a private tour and tasting hosted by the family. – Stop for lunch at this winery and order from a full menu of gourmet food. Have a picnic on their expansive lawn or relax on Adirondack chairs under the oak trees. – Visit for wine tasting or a guided tour of their authentically-built, 13th century Tuscan-inspired castle and winery. Taste their wide selection of hand-crafted wines, available exclusively at the Castello or on our website. (Save with our Tour of Castello di Amorosa special) – This winery is known for Napa’s best Cabs, and is the oldest winery on Pritchard Hill. Take an informative 90-minute tour with tastings included, and even sample their new releases!
- – This winery specializes in high-quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs that you can taste on their sun-filled deck while lounging under a shady umbrella. is one of the more unique tasting experiences located right in downtown Calistoga. Taste wines with fruit sourced from Knights Valley and Sonoma Coast in this historic Calistoga National Bank building dating back to 1909. –This winery specializes in handcrafted, limited-production Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Chardonnay, and is located at the foot of Calistoga’s Oat Hill in California’s Napa Valley. – Sip some wine in a 1930s era gas station in the Napa Valley town of Calistoga, California. – Coach Dick Vermeil, who led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory in 2000, frequents the tasting room, and you might even catch one of his games on the big screen TV during your wine tasting experience here.
After a day of tasting the wonderful wines of Napa Valley, come back to your luxurious room at Calistoga Wineway Inn or Craftsman Inn for some relaxation and a great night’s sleep.
Fire damaged an upper deck, storage shed, and vineyards. Visit their website to purchase wine directly.
Behrens Family Winery
The winery burned, but the tank barn and tasting room there are still standing. Wines are currently offered by allocation.
Bremer Family Winery
The vineyard was burned, but its historic buildings (including an 1891 vintage structure that was the original headquarters of Sutter Home) survived. Visit their website to purchase wine or join the club.
This Howell Mountain winery was completely destroyed, but damage to the vineyards was minimal. Contact them directly to inquire about wine.
Cain Vineyard and Winery
The Spring Mountain winery lost almost all its buildings, including its main winery and a barn built in the 1970s. Visit their site to inquire about purchasing wine.
Castello di Amorosa
Though they lost their wine storage building in the fire, the main castle structure survived undamaged and the winery is currently open for tastings.
The winery was completely destroyed. Contact them to inquire about wine.
Lost three houses, but the tasting room remains. Visit their website to join the mailing list.
The fire burned everything around the winery, however the winery building, tasting room, caves, and historic barn were saved. The winery has resumed tastings.
Dutch Henry Winery
The winery experienced extensive damage. Visit their website to inquire about wine.
The entire vineyard was destroyed. Contact them directly to inquire about purchasing wine.
Fairwinds Estate Winery
The tasting room sustained extensive damage and is currently closed. Visit their website to order wine for shipping.
The fires reached the outdoor tasting deck and some equipment, but the winery and houses on the property were not impacted. The winery has resumed tastings.
Flying Lady Winery & Estate
The entire 13-acre winery was destroyed. Contact them directly to inquire about wine.
The winery facility and 162-year-old guest house were lost. Contact the winery to inquire about wine.
Landscaping and some winemaking equipment were lost, but the winery building survived. Wines are available to purchase online.
A production building, some winemaking equipment, and one of the two residences on the property were destroyed. Wines are available to buy online.
The majority of the winery was badly damaged. Visit their site to inquire about wine.
The property has been completely destroyed. Contact the winery directly to inquire about wine.
Phifer Pavitt Winery
The Glass Fire destroyed several structures on the property, but the winery survived. Current releases are available to buy online.
Ritchie Creek Vineyard
The Spring Mountain winery was badly damaged, including its winery and a storage building that contained most of its wine.
School House Vineyard
A house on the property was destroyed. Wines are available to purchase online.
Sherwin Family Vineyards
The 24-year-old family-owned Spring Mountain winery was destroyed. Contact the winery directly to inquire about wine.
Spring Mountain Vineyards
The main winery, caves, and mansion survived, but the vineyard and an 1873-era winery building were lost. Visit their website to purchase wine.
The property suffered damage, though the winery building and tram are still intact. A reopening date has yet to be determined.
The Mountain House and a good portion of the forest surrounding their vineyards has been lost. The wines are available to purchase online.
The winery’s Lookout House was lost, but the vineyards were not damaged. Visit their website to purchase wine.
Tofanelli Family Vineyard
The majority of the vineyards as well as a 120-year-old barn were lost, in addition to the winery’s family home. Contact the winery directly to inquire about wine.
One stop on the three-hour immersive Estate Tour at Jordan Winery.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery
There are culinary components weaved into most Jordan Vineyard & Winery experiences and events, but the Estate Tour & Tasting is by far the most comprehensive. Following a light Champagne breakfast, this three-hour exploration takes you aboard a luxury sprinter van on a tour of the 1,200-acre estate. You’ll make several stops along the way: the culinary garden and apiary of Executive Chef Todd Knoll, a lake for the first food and wine pairing—a tasting of two Jordan Chardonnays with two bites and estate olive oil—a block of vineyards for an educational stroll and finally, Vista Point. Situated on a hilltop at 650 ft. elevation with 360-degree views, Vista Point is the site of the final food and wine pairing, involving a tasting of two Jordan Cabernet Sauvignons to enjoy with a bento box filled with bites, such as Knights Valley Black Angus beef roasted in horseradish leaves, mizuna greens with estate honey miso vinaigrette and local cheeses. This year, the finale food pairing is served in locally-made pottery that uses the soil from the Jordan garden. Available Thursday-Monday at 9:45 a.m., May-October. $125
The main course at Silver Oak’s food pairing in Healdsburg.
Silver Oak Alexander Valley
One of several new wineries in Alexander Valley , Silver Oak Cellars recently completed construction on a state-of-the-art, green winery, tasting room and chef’s kitchen on Highway 128 in the heart of the region. While the tour of the LEED-certified winery and American oak barrel cellar is impressive, the Silver Oak Food & Wine Pairing is not to be missed. The experience begins with a tour of the tasting room, estate vineyard and culinary gardens and then moves on to the best part: four bites, like fried oysters or Liberty Farms duck leg confit, are prepared by chef Dominick Orsini and paired with current releases of Silver Oak and Twomey wines. Available Wednesday-Saturday at 11 a.m. $90
Chalk Hill is one of the best Sonoma wineries with food pairings. Includes a tour of the estate’s organically-farmed culinary garden.
A true farm-to-fork experience, Chalk Hill’s Culinary Tour & Tasting starts with an amuse bouche and tour of the estate’s organically-farmed culinary garden. There, you’ll see the inspiration for the ensuing four-course, seating tasting set amongst panoramic views of the estate’s 1,300 stunning acres of vineyards and natural wilderness. A total collaboration between chef Dave Thater and Chalk Hill’s Master Sommelier, each dish is carefully crafted to complement the glass it’s matched with. Available Tuesday-Saturday at 10 a.m. $120/$96 club members.
DRY CREEK VALLEY
Seghesio’s Chef’s Table experience pairs four wines with four dishes. Photo courtesy of Seghesio Family Winery.
Seghesio Family Vineyards
Italians have long mastered the art of food-friendly wines and Seghesio, founded pre-Prohibition by an Italian immigrant, proudly carries on the tradition. Offering a taste of Italy in California wine country, Seghesio’s Chef’s Table experience pairs Italian varietals, plus zinfandel, with four seasonal dishes. Some are even old family recipes, like sausage and spinach ravioli with chestnuts and grana padano. Available Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. by appointment. $80/$65 club members
Located in the heart of Dry Creek Valley, just across from the historic Dry Creek General Store, Amista is a small family winery that’s often overlooked. Visitors can enjoy chardonnays, zinfandels, syrahs and blends with bites and local cheeses in its Discovery Wine & Food Pairings experience. The menu features five canapés, each paired with a wine, such as salmon and creme fraiche with chardonnay and a zesty meatball with zinfandel. $50
Lambert Bridge brings in a local chef for their Chef’s Table Series each month. Photo courtesy of Lambert Bridge.
Once a month, Lambert Bridge partners with a local Sonoma County chef and puts on their Chef’s Table Series . The visiting chefs, handpicked from popular restaurants like Valette, Brass Rabbit and Backyard, prepare a multi-course, seasonal menu to enjoy al fresco alongside Lambert Bridge current releases. $125/$95 club members
Located a block off the Healdsburg Square, Williamson Wines has something for everyone with an array of food and wine experiences to choose from. They’re best known for their complimentary Fridge Foods & Wine tasting—while most winery pairings aren’t home cook friendly, this offering demonstrates how wines can pair with the everyday foods you might find in your fridge. For $50, the Icon Wines & Culinary Delights tasting matches plates with Williamson’s finest, small production wines, while as its name suggests, the Rhône Wines & Savory Bites tasting ($65) dives into Rhône varietals like syrah, roussanne and grenache. If Bordeaux wines (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, etc.) are more your jam, the Meritage Tasting ($75) delivers.
RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY
The elegant Bubble Room at J Vineyards hosts a five-course food and wine pairing.
J Vineyards & Winery
One of the only Sonoma wineries with food pairings served in an actual restaurant setting—and one of the first to implement a comprehensive wine and food program—the J Bubble Room plays host to an elegant, five-course meal complete with heavy-handed wine pairings (both sparkling and still). The menu changes every six weeks and wine pairings range from only one sparkling wine in the flight to several, so if you’re expecting bubbles with your lunch, call ahead to confirm. Courses may include delicacies, such as scallops with cauliflower romanesco, Liberty duck with Matsutake and smoked Eye of the Goat beans with avocado and crispy onions. Available Thursday-Sunday with seatings between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. $125/discounted pricing for club members
MacRostie’s Elevated Tasting, only offered on Sundays.
MacRostie Estate House
This glass-walled, modern farmhouse-meets-tasting lounge in the Russian River Valley is a Sonoma County favorite among design geeks. Only offered on Sundays, the Elevated Experience begins with a tour of the property, followed by a tasting of six wines—a mix of single-vineyard chardonnay and pinot noir from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Pairings are simple but elegantly presented, from a caprese salad skewer to marinated nuts. This tasting is typically hosted in the MacRostie Estate House’s private room, which opens to a side terrace with beautiful views of hillside pinot noir vines. But if you prefer to dine al fresco, guests can request a table on the front terrace, overlooking MacRostie’s nascent, river-facing Thale’s Vineyard. Available Sundays at 11 a.m. $75
Of all the Sonoma wineries with food pairings, this one might be the most creative. When it comes to sushi, you’re likely thinking sake, but Dutton-Goldfield wins for most original Sonoma County experience with their Wine and Sushi Flight . Pairing single vineyard wines with an assortment of sushi rolls from Sebastopol’s Sushi Tozai, Dutton-Goldfield demonstrates wine’s flexibility to pair with all kinds of food. If you prefer cooked food, try the Beast & Pinot Tasting , offering a selection of their top pinot noirs with a lineup of local “beasts” from both land and sea. $40/ $20 club members
Rodney Strong’s five-course Vine to Table Experience.
Rodney Strong Vineyards
Rodney Strong’s five-course Vine to Table Experience features seasonal bites from winery chef Alejandro Garcia paired with five Rodney Strong wines. Between April and October, the food and wine pairing is hosted outside on the winery terrace, boasting umbrella-covered tables, lounge areas, a wood-fired oven and spacious tasting bar—all overlooking the winery’s back lawn (known for its summer concerts) and adjacent estate vineyard. You’ll also get to choose between tasting current releases or library vintages. Available Saturday and Sunday at 12 and 2:30 p.m. $70-90
The Wine & Food Pairing at Kendall-Jackson focuses on five of the estate’s small production and limited release wines—so, not just the chardonnay you see at every grocery store—and pairs them with sizeable plates, like beef short rib pasta and a mushroom and sunchoke soup, sourcing many ingredients straight from their sprawling, four-acre sensory gardens (which, you must explore before you leave). The Jackson Family Wines culinary team released a gorgeous, 288-page Wine Country cookbook in 2018, so trust they know what they’re doing. $55/$41.25 club members
La Crema’s Saralee’s Picnic Experience is like glamping for picnics. Photo courtesy of La Crema.
Designed for a party of four (perhaps an occasion for a double date), Saralee’s Picnic Experience at La Crema isn’t your typical laid back affair on a patch of grass. This is like the glamping of picnics: Guests enjoy a formal seated wine tasting (either inside the gorgeous and refurbished historic barn or outside looking out at the vineyards) alongside a curated picnic basket of cheeses, prosciutto, artichoke and almond tapenade, and more. They even get to take the basket home as a souvenir. $150/$120 club members
Discover how local ingredients can change and enhance the flavors and textures in your glass when you book Arista’s Estate Experience. Start the day with a tour of Arista’s stunning, 36-acre property, including a guided walk with Executive Chef Timothy Kaulfers through the winery’s vegetable, fruit and herb garden. This experience culminates with a five-course food and wine journey at the intimate Estate Pavillion, which boasts views of Mt. St. Helena and sprawling Russian River Valley vineyards. Available Wednesday-Saturday at 12:30 p.m. $155
The Lynmar Experience is a three-course farm-to-table lunch with wine pairings. Photo courtesy of Lynmar Estate.
For the Lynmar Experience , executive chef David Frakes, who spent a decade in Napa Valley as executive chef at Beringer Vineyards, sources from the estate culinary gardens and prepares a three-course, farm-to-table lunch to pair with Lynmar wines (many of which are made from some of the oldest chardonnay and pinot noir vines planted in the Russian River Valley). The meal begins with a light starter, like warm organic popcorn matched with chardonnay, features two heartier plates, such as pan-roasted breast of Sonoma duck, and then culminates in a bonus dessert course. Offered Thursday-Sunday (April 19–November 3). $85/$75 wine club members
Paul Hobbs Winery
Renowned winemaker Paul Hobbs, who cut his teeth under none other than Robert Mondavi in the late 70s, offers a Vineyard Designate Experience that begins with a tour of the 12,000-square-foot winery and surrounding vineyards at his Howard Backen-designed Katherine Lindsay Estate in Sebastopol, which Hobbs named after his great grandmother. Guests then sit down for a tasting of six, highly-limited production and vineyard designate wines, paired with seasonal bites prepared by the winery chef. $145
Gloria Ferrer has built a strong reputation for its sparkling wines over the last three decades and doesn’t disappoint with stunning views of the Carneros wine region’s cascading hills from their expansive winery terrace and Vista Room. The winery offers a myriad of tasting experiences , but only two pair with food: Bubbles and Bites and A Taste of Spain. The sparkling wine experience ($60) begins with a tour and pairs four bites with four wines: three sparkling cuv é es and one pinot noir. The Taste of Spain ($50) on the other hand, explores five Spanish wines, including a Cava, paired with tasty tapas. Available daily at 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Wine club members receive a 20% discount.
The Mayo Family Reserve Room might just be the most robust of all the Sonoma wineries with food pairing experiences on this list, so come hungry. Take in views of Kenwood’s hillside vineyards while you work your way through seven courses—from a Dungeness crab croqueta to winter squash gratin—prepared by executive chef John Locher (who hails from The General’s Daughter an d winery kitchens Beringer and Viansa) and his culinary team. You’ll also sip through seven single-vineyard wines, ranging from a roussanne to a pinot noir and even a late harvest gewürztraminer. The experience also comes at an incredible value, just $50. Available Thursday-Monday.
A food and wine pairing at the historic adobe at Three Sticks. Photo courtesy of Three Sticks.
Settle into Three Sticks’ gorgeous, cozy and historic Vallejo-Castanada Adobe for a unique and cultural Food & Wine pairing. Located on the Sonoma Plaza, this building is the longest-occupied residence in Sonoma and is one of the few remaining from California’s Mexican Period. For the tasting, five wines are paired with five bites prepared by Chef Armando Garcia of nearby El Dorado Kitchen. They had us at a lobster corn dog paired with the Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay. Available Monday-Friday at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. $85
Pinot noir enthusiasts can’t skip the Root 101 Experience at WALT Wines. No car required, this 1,000-mile educational exploration of west coast pinot noir from Santa Barbara to Oregon’s Willamette Valley can be experienced right from their intimate Sonoma Plaza tasting room. Taste the distinct differences in terroir during a comparative tasting of six single vineyard pinots from varying regions, each paired with bites from Sonoma farm-to-table legend The Girl and The Fig, like duck rillettes with housemade fig jam and butternut squash ricotta cheesecake. $60/$40 wine club members
The Scribe Hacienda hosts the Mezze Experience. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rudy.
Scribe is where the cool kids go, and while hanging on their hilltop is a favorite pastime, their renovated 1850s Hacienda is even more magical. The Hacienda hosts the Mezze Experience—Mezze is a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dining tradition involving small plates and alcoholic drinks—for which Scribe’s culinary team sources their own produce and serves up light and farm-fresh dishes that you won’t feel guilty about later, like roasted winter vegetables with pistachio salsa and German Butterball potato salad . This is a casual experience and the plates aren’t paired with specific wines just enjoy eating and sipping Scribe’s unique and forgotten varietals, like sylvander and riesling, at your leisure. Available Thursday-Monday. $60
It doesn’t get much more authentic than Marimar’s Tapas and Wine Pairing , which pairs four pinot noirs and chardonnays with four tapas that come straight out of proprietor Marimar Torres’ own published cookbooks. Torres came to California from Barcelona in 1975 to plant her Green Valley vineyard and is equally deft in the cellar and kitchen. She has carefully selected flavorful recipes that enhance, not distract from, the flavors in the wine, like Farcellets de Col (cabbage dumplings stuffed with pork, chorizo, pine nuts and raisins) and the sweet Higos Pasos Rellenos con Salsa de Chocolate (figs stuffed with chocolate and nuts in a chocolate sauce). The food pairing experience also comes with sprawling vineyard views from the Catalan-style terrace. $55
The five-course Seasonal Wine & Food Pairing at Ram’s Gate Winery. Photo courtesy of Ram’s Gate Winery.
Ram’s Gate Winery
Known as the gateway winery to Sonoma from San Francisco and the Bay, Ram’s Gate Winery uses their in-house open kitchen as much as possible. You can simply add on a selection of five bites ($20) to their Vineyard Designate Tasting & Tour, or go bigger with the Seasonal Wine & Food Pairing ($130). This experience includes an in-depth tour of the estate and is designed around the wine—Ram’s Gate works with premium sites to craft a diverse line-up of small lot, single-vineyard pinots and chardonnays—as the culinary team thoughtfully creates a menu of five hyper-seasonal courses to enhance each glass, like mushroom linguini with braised oxtails. The next step up from that is The Chef’s Table ($250, by advanced reservation). Great for groups, this interactive experience takes place in the kitchen and includes six wine and food pairings. The Seasonal Wine and Food Pairing is available Thursday-Monday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Patz & Hall
Visit Patz & Hall’s cozy-chic Sonoma House and reserve the Salon Tasting , hosted in an intimate and private room. Enjoy six single vineyard chardonnays and pinot noirs, sourced from some of the best sites and growers around, like Dutton Ranch, Gap’s Crown and Hyde vineyards. The wines are paired with a selection of gourmet canapes, for example, Moroccan spiced lamb on sweet potato, topped with cranberry slaw. After the experience, make sure you take a few moments to walk around the idyllic grounds, which have views of their estate vineyards and the Mayacamas Mountains. Available Monday and Thursday at 10:30 a.m., and Friday-Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. $75
A dish from the five-course Food & Wine Pairing at St. Francis Winery. Photo courtesy of St. Francis Winery.
St. Francis Winery
St. Francis Winery’s substantial, multi-course Wine & Food Pairing by Executive Chef Trevor Eliason is served in a private dining room off the back terrace, overlooking a lawn that opens to an experimental vineyard filled with almost a dozen different grapes. The experience, which has been named Best Restaurant in America by OpenTable more than once, includes five different varietal wines (from a chardonnay, zinfandel and a port for dessert) paired with five elevated, seasonal dishes, like Dungeness crab lumpia and duck confit trotter. Available Thursday-Monday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. $85/$68 wine club members
Pangloss works with local purveyors to create their Seasons in Sonoma food pairing, which matches a flight of three wines with small and seasonal bites, like County Line baby beets with pistachio, honey vinaigrette and spearmint in winter or spiced peach tartlet in summer. This tasting is available in the Lounge of their gorgeous, 4,000 sq. ft. Sonoma Plaza tasting room, housed in a 115-year-old building that has its original redwood and stone walls. $30-50
Napa Valley and Sonoma County are open for visitors right now – but only for outdoor wine tasting experiences and dining in the wake of COVID-19. While it’s a beautiful time to visit the wineries of Napa Valley, and it’s one of the best places to travel in the US right now, there are certain things to keep in mind when planning a Napa trip this Summer or Fall, whether you’re flying in from afar or looking for the perfect romantic California road trip destination.
- Plan your visit well ahead of time. Wineries are operating at low capacity to create lots of space, so book appointments early. Most wineries in Napa and Sonoma are open by appointment only right now.
- Always wear a face covering and social distancing while visiting wineries and downtown areas. Only take off your mask once you’re seated with your group to taste the wine.
- Wineries are doing their part to maintain a safe environment by cleaning frequently and between visits. Make sure you’re doing your part by washing your hands frequently and sanitizing frequently (I like these travel hand sanitizers here) to help keep everyone safe and of course make sure you stay home and away from others if you aren’t feeling well.
Here are the best wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma that are open for tasting right now
This place is SO good, you guys. Their chardonnay may just be my favorite in Napa, and the reds are amazing too. AXR offers private tours and tastings at their beautiful historic estate. Tastings may be hosted on the patio or in the estate house. They’re also able to arrange in-person/virtual combo tastings.
Book a tasting at AXR (tell them Jetset Christina sent you!): (707) 302-8181
Alpha Omega Winery
Alpha Omega’s spacious terrace is ideal for outdoor tastings. Reservations are required for all experiences. Maximum party size is six guests.
Artesa Vineyards & Winery
This is one of my favorites! Such a gorgeous winery, and delicious summery wines. Seated tastings and private tours are available by reservation with optional food pairings that can be ordered day of.
Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. by reservation only
The iconic Napa staple, Beringer, is offering various outside experiences throughout our scenic property. Try a seated luxury experience on the Veranda at the historic Rhine House. Or try a tasting on our Promenade in front of the original winery. Tastings are 21 and over. Looking for a family experience? Enjoy a glass of wine in the Plaza or Backyard.
Open Thursday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment only
Another one of my absolute favorite chardonnays. I just booked a tasting here for when I go to Napa later this month.
They are offering private tastings for up to 6 guests in the gardens and nine private tasting rooms.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by appointment only
Book a tasting by phone: (800) 588-0298
Email (tell them you found out about them from Jetset Christina!): [email protected]
Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa is one of the best Napa wineries to go with a group, or any first-timer visitor to Napa – it is GORGEOUS, and they’re currently open and offering a variety of wine tasting experiences like the Diamond Estate Tour and Reserve Tasting and the Il Passito Seated Reserve Tasting. Visit their website at www.castellodiamorosa.com for more information.
Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Another one of my favorite spots in Napa is Caymus – they have a gorgeous outdoor garden area that is open right now. From the moment you arrive until your departure, your safety is our highest priority. They’ve also put into place touch-less Apple Pay and Android Pay to make things even safer.
Open daily 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by appointment only
Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood
Duckhorn’s phenomenal Napa Valley wine tasting at Duckhorn Vineyards has beautiful outdoor settings and vineyard views, so social distancing here is easy.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., reservations required, attendees must be 21 or older
Tastings will be conducted on Grgich’s super-cute Ranch House patio with increased health and safety procedures designed to promote a safe environment in the age of COVID. Please call the winery at (707) 963-2784 to book your tasting.
9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by appointment only
I love wine tasting at HALL – it’s sleek, contemporary, and their wines are SO GOOD. They also have one of the best outside wine tastings in Napa. Their art of Cabernet tasting flights are available in all of their beautiful outdoor locations.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment only
Current alfresco wine tasting experiences include:
Book a tasting: (707) 431-5250 , tell them Jetset Christina sent you!
Photo from Jordan’s Picnic Days, from their website
Head straight to the outdoor Terrace Tasting featuring a selection of Joseph Phelps current release wines, including their world-famous Insignia. This is a great outdoor, safe, relaxing and intimate Napa Valley wine tasting experience.
Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment only
Current Hours: 10 am to 3 pm, Thursday through Monday by appointment only
If you’re looking for a winery that will blow your mind (with its wines, its views, and its technology), Palmaz is it. Their tagline is ‘the fusion of tradition and technology’ and that’s exactly what tasting there is about. It is a GORGEOUS winery is tucked away all by itself in Napa and is owned by an Argentinean family, who have a love for food, and, of course, meat!! Their legendary Argentinean cookout parties are what club members rave about, and when you join their wine club you even get a beautiful traditional steak knife.
I recommend Palmaz to anyone looking for a really unique tasting, with AMAZING wines.
6 persons maximum, by appointment only.
To make an appointment: 707-226-5587 or [email protected] (as always, tell them Jetset Christina sent you!)
Kelly Fleming Winery (Calistoga)
This absolutely stunning property is open and it is a small production, cult-following wine that you will want to take CASES home of. The caves are absolutely breathtaking and Kelly’s eye for design is felt throughout the stunning property. They only take 8 visitors a day so it’s a super exclusive tasting – Loved this spot.
Highly recommend their ‘big pour’ cabernet sauvignon.
Hands down one of my all-time favorite cabernet sauvignons and a must-do stop on any trip to Napa. Silver Oak is open for an outdoor wine tasting experience under the covered patio or in our courtyard. Seated tastings by appointment only.
Reservations: Not needed for Signature or Vineyard Select tasting, required for other tastings or groups of 7+
Varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
While there are a few other wines available, the vast majority of the La Crema production is Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and they definitely do both well. There is an estate to visit, but also a tasting room in downtown Healdsburg, which is where I enjoyed sampling the wines and purchasing a bunch to enjoy at home.
BEST Local Winemaker
Heidi Barrett continues her three- year streak as Napa Valley’s favorite winemaker. It’s no surprise as this Berkeley native has been making wine in Napa since the early 1980s, breaking the glass ceiling by reaching early acclaim as winemaker for Screaming Eagle, one of California’s notable cult wines. She now either makes wine or consults for numerous labels and is currently touting her own, La Sirena and Barrett & Barrett, a brand created in partnership with vintner husband and Industry icon Bo Barrett.
Sarah Fowler • 2nd
8466 St Helena Hwy., Rutherford
Rudy Zuidema • 3rd
Best Outdoor Wine Tastings in Napa Valley
Come for the wines, stay for the scenery. Napa Valley is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and nothing pairs better with our world-class wines than picture-perfect views. From rolling hills framed by majestic oaks to sweeping mountain views and gorgeous gardens, here are some of the best places to enjoy an outdoor wine tasting with a side of scenery in Napa Valley.
Please remember to travel responsibly. Advance reservations are required at all wineries, and masks are mandated throughout Napa County. Find all the health and safety info you need to plan your visit here.
Soak up stunning views from the very top of Pritchard Hill with an outdoor tasting at Chappellet. Pre-book a picnic table and bring your own picnic lunch to enjoy a leisurely afternoon overlooking Napa Valley and Lake Hennessey.