Napa Valley, the world famous wine growing region of California is a must for any wine enthusiast. Located only an hour north of San Francisco and 2 hours from South Bay, Napa Valley is a pleasant all day experience. Located in Napa Country, it rose to the first rank of wine regions with France by local winery Chateau Montelena winning the “Judgment of Paris” in 1976. The movie Bottle Shock documents the story in a comedy-drama when California defeated French wine in a blind taste test. Great movie to watch to get into the spirit of Napa Valley.
There are so many wineries to visit for wine tasting that you will not have the time in a single day or even a weekend to visit and experience all. It is something you should do over the course of few months while you work out of Silicon Valley. Wine tastings range from 20-30 USD and you get to try up to 5 wines pending on the winery. It is worth upgrading your tasting to the premium/reserve (you have to ask) so you get to try the top end limited edition wines for additional 10-15 USD.
My favorite wineries in Napa Valley for enjoying wines
Before digging into my favorite wineries, something to keep in mind. Wines change year to year. So what was/is great for me when I went there might not be in few years time. You remember how there are great years and bad years in wines. Keep that in mind. Here is a list of all the wineries in Napa Valley – http://napavalley.com/wineries/alphalistings.html
Take note of closing hours. The most important Once you get into the groove and start enjoying your time in the wine country time will fly. You do not want to arrive at a vineyard only to find out it is closed/closing for the day.
1. Silver Oak Cellars
The best Californian Cabernet Sauvignon I have ever tried hands down. There is only 1 wine tasting package and it includes wines as old as 8 years and over 100 USD per bottle.
We picked up a 12-year-old Cab here because it tasted sooooo good. Also the price reflected its vintage. If you love your cabs you will fall in love with Silver Oak wines.
Address: 915 Oakville Crossroad, Oakville, CA 94562
Closes: 5:00 pm
2. Beaulieu Vineyard
Their premium/limited edition are wines are superb. If you go there ask for the “premium wine tasting” not the standard. You won’t be disappointed.
Address: 1960 St Helena Hwy, Rutherford, CA 94573
My favorite wineries in Napa Valley for the environment / history
3. Chateau Montelena Winery
Chateau Montelena is where it all started for Napa Valley. This is where history was made when they won the “Judgment of Paris” in 1976 putting California on the map as a place of great wineries in the world. Also the architecture of this place is stunning.
2. Sterling Vineyards
Sterling Vineyards is an experience in itself. You get whisked by a Gondola lift up the mountain to Sterling’s wine processing plant. You do a self walk tour through the buildings stopping over at wine stations for a taste of different wines each time. You can choose the standard wine tasting (5 wines) or add the premium to it which includes an additional 3.
The only down side is that if you do not want to drink you still have to pay for the standard wine tasting experience since transport in the Gondola lift is included in the price.
Closes: 4:30 weekdays & 5:00 pm weekends
1. Silver Oak Cellars
As mentioned above, not only do they have great Cabs but there is something about this place which feels good to be inside, the atmosphere.
Where to eat in Napa Valley
- Gott’s Roadside – Outdoor Burger & Beer. Not far from BV (Beaulieu Vineyard) and opposite to Merryvale Vineyards. 1207 Foothill Boulevard, Calistoga.
- Buster’s Southern BBQ – You will smell it before you see it. The Tri-Tip Sandwich is their signature dish and really good. Watch out for the dude cooking BBQ outside and the Harleys parked around a shack. 933 Main Street, St. Helena.
- Bouchon Bistro – A lot more upmarket than the 2 above. You need to book ahead but the food is great. It is the sister restaurant to the world-famous French Laundry (located few houses up the road). Their bakery next door is also great for macaroons. 6534 Washington St, Yountville.
If your intent for the trip to Napa Valley is wine tasting than aim to eat at the 1st two above so you don’t burn wine tasting time. Maximise your time for wine tasting since most vineyards close at 5pm (that’s before the sun sets in summer). Otherwise if you want a romantic get away in the wine country and are staying locally there for the weekend than Bouchon or French Laundry is a good bet and plan to spend around 2-3 hours there pending on what you eat.
Before you head out to Napa Valley
Prepare for your trip
- Watch Bottle Shock to get into the spirit of Napa Valley and get some history lessons.
- Plan your route – plan to visit 3-4 wineries.
- Take plenty of water to drink after each winery visit. Otherwise you will dehydrate from the grog and get a headache spoiling the day.
- Plan your vineyard visits using maps.google.com so you can plan the route in an efficient manner.
- Read below how to save yourself money!
Buying wines – save yourself money
Before you jump and buy a bottle or case of a wine you like, google it. You may find it cheaper. far cheaper, to buy it online. Hey the winery still gets their profits from the sale via these channels but you also get to save a lot of money.
I saved 40% buying Beaulieu Vineyard Private Reserve Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 07 from garyswine.com (note I have no affiliation with them). Also bought the The French Laundry Cookbook for 50% less from Amazon than at one of the popular wineries (no names mentioned) where it 1st caught my eye.
Happy Wine Tasting!