Your Guide to Napa Valley Wineries, Part 1
The Napa Valley is only 30 miles long and a handful of miles wide. Still, it’s packed with attractions and distractions that can be hard to know where to start. There are several ways to plan a visit depending on who is going and for how long. Are you looking for a leisurely, reflective journey, or a broader introductory experience? Whatever your preference, we’ve got you covered with these destination recommendations.
Fast forward to part two of our comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries.
These places are the most tried, the blue chips, the tried. They live up to the hype, both in terms of quality wine and visitor experience.
Donn & Molly Chappellet, one of the founding wineries of Napa Valley, was among the first to plant vines on the high hillsides of Pritchard Hill, founding the vineyard in 1967. Their six children are involved in the vineyard. The organically grown estate is rewarded with tranquil surroundings and views 1,800 feet, over Lake Hennessey and beyond. Options for visitors range from vineyard walks to vineyards to more in-depth tastings. By appointment only; chappellet.com.
Home to Insignia, one of the valley’s most prestigious exclusive red wines, the hillside winery of St. Helena was originally built in 1974 and has recently been spectacularly redone. A great start is a terrace tasting, a personalized, sit-down tasting of the producer’s Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast wines. More in-depth experiences offered throughout the year address topics such as blend, single vineyard wines, and aromas. By appointment only; josephphelps.com.
Quintessa, nestled in the heart of Rutherford, produces just one wine, a classic of his estate, using organic farming practices. It is such a unique site of varying appearance and elevation that you have to see it to be understood. An estate tasting is one way, or you can think big and book the Quintessential Quintessa experience in one of the winery’s private pavilions that overlooks Dragon’s Hill. It offers a chance to dig into block-specific barrel samples and library wines. By appointment only; quintessa.com.
Tucked away in a hillside pocket is Shafer, the pioneer of Hillside Select’s Stags Leap District. It invites visitors to soak up everything slowly and intimately in its relaxed tasting room. Seated tastings take place at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays. Lasting 90 minutes, it is an exploration of five wines and includes a discussion on viticulture and winemaking. By appointment only; shafervineyards.com.
Family-run and certified organic, this magnificent estate in the heart of Sainte-HÃ©lÃ¨ne allows only a few visitors at a time to better showcase its house and gardens, its property and its elegant and long-aging wines. Visits of the property and seated tastings of its Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon in depth in a comfortable setting. By appointment only; spottswoode.com.
Check out part two of our guide to Napa wineries
Food and wine pairing experiences
Wineries with an artistic side
Tasting of old vintages, rare bottles
Word of mouth favorites
These places could be called hipster attractions or cults. But for the most part, these are small wineries, producing a limited number of wines from meticulously cultivated sites – and mostly estates.
Surrounded by some of Andy Beckstoffer’s finest Cabernet vineyards under the Mayacamas chain, Anomaly is a coveted location, offering winemaker Mark Porembski gravel-grown grapes capable of imparting grace and structure. Tasting by appointment in the stone cellar from 10 am to 4 pm Monday to Saturday; anomalyvineyards.com.
Mac Watson revived a brand originally started by his late mother, Ann Macauley Watson, in the 1980s. The vineyard is located on a small road on the Silverado Trail in Calistoga, not far from where winemaker Kirk Venge elaborates the wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and a new Chardonnay are the stars. By appointment only; macauleyvineyard.com.
The historic Mayacamas has been nestled in the folds of Mount Veeder since 1889, and it offers the best chance to enjoy the appellation’s scenic wilderness and wines. Reaching heights of 2,400 feet and spread over 475 acres, its Cabernet is defined by intensity and freshness in equal measure. By appointment only; mayacamas.com.
Built at the foot of Mount George in Coombsville, on a winding Napa road, Palmaz is a Bauhaus-inspired architectural gem dedicated to gravity winemaking. Tours wind through multiple layers of an underground cave, followed by a seated tasting of five wines including the cellar’s limited edition Riesling, each paired with appetizers. By appointment only; palmazvineyards.com.
Located near the main road to Sainte-HÃ©lÃ¨ne, this producer employs a mother-son winemaking team dedicated to the Bordeaux-inspired reds grown on the estate, irresistible whites and memorable clear wine. Tours include a walk and sip through the property and cellar, ending with a seated tasting in the lounge. By appointment only; younginglewood.com.
Off the beaten track
As advertised, these wineries can take a while to find, but they provide opportunities to see Napa’s back roads, hidden curves, and vistas, places most visitors rarely go.
Antica Napa Valley
This 1,200-acre Atlas Peak estate is the Napa Valley home of the Antinori family, involved in winemaking in Tuscany and Umbria for 26 generations. They make Sauvignon Blanc and two Cabernets, as well as a small amount of other wines. Private tours and tastings are seated and overlooking the surrounding mountains. Visits by appointment (up to 8 people) at 10 am and 3 pm, Monday to Friday and Saturdays in summer; anticanapavalley.com.
Cain vineyard and cellar
No more than four people at a time are greeted on the windy roads of Spring Mountain to visit Cain. Hiking boots are recommended for the steep, multi-aspect vineyard tour that brings the importance of the mountain terroir to life. Cain Five is the signature wine, a blend of the five red grape varieties of Bordeaux. By appointment only; cainfive.com.
The Hess collection
At the foot of Mount Veeder, Hess has it all, offering excellent food, wine and art in its expansive location. His wines in small series are available only at the cellar, as well as a range of culinary pairing experiences. Consider a tour and a three-course lunch, or a wine and chocolate pairing. The Museum Walk is a guided tour of the Hess Collection Art Museum that also includes a tasting. Reserve in advance; hesscollection.com.
With a newly completed estate after 20 years of finding the right place, Lokoya has always been focused on mountain-grown cabernet sauvignon. It produces four bottlings from four of the valley’s famous mountain appellations. Now he has a home 2,000 feet above sea level on Spring Mountain, the former site of the historic 77-acre Yverdon estate and vineyard. Famous local architect Howard Backen designed the winery. By appointment only; lokoya.com.
Family estate Volker Eisele
Tucked away in the Chiles Valley at the eastern end of Napa Valley, Volker Eisele is a 60-acre estate that has been organically grown since the 1970s. Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux reds make up most of the estate, with a hint of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Come for a leisurely seated tasting with one of the Eiseles themselves. By appointment only; volkereiselefamilyestate.com.