Oenophiles have been making the pilgrimage to Napa Valley for wineries since the 1970s. Encompassing the city of Napa, as well as quaint towns like Rutherford, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga, this epicurean hot spot has gained even more notoriety in recent years, leading to a boom in tourism and widespread growth. Verdant vineyards extend in every direction. There are high-end hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants, and a scenic wine train. By Lindsay Cohn
Despite the influx of buzzy things to see and do, though, the biggest draw continues to be the wine. And it’s not just about going to the store and picking up a bottle. The whole reason people visit Napa Valley is to savour red, white, and rosé at a spectacular winery where the grapes go from vine to glass on the premises (or nearby). But with more than 400 wineries in Napa Valley, the options are almost dizzying. That’s why we’ve narrowed it down to the 10 best wineries in Napa for a tasting. (Just be sure to book in advance as all our top picks are by reservation only.)
Best wineries in Napa Valley
Frog’s Leap Winery, Rutherford
Rooted in sustainable, dry-farming practices and traditional winemaking techniques, Frog’s Leap produces balanced, terroir-driven wine that continually earns accolades from critics and casual drinkers. Surrounded by 200 acres of vines, the Vineyard House porch is an utterly enchanting setting to enjoy a flight of classics, new releases, or rare vintages, paired with a tasty complimentary snack plate. Grab a glass of your favourite wine for a walk through the organic gardens and fruit orchards.
Tres Sabores, St. Helena
Family-run, female-led, and dog-friendly Tres Sabores feels like what we’d assume Napa was all about a few decades ago: a dedication to agriculture, the craft of winemaking, and enjoying the fruits of that labour in a beautiful, natural environment. The owner and winemaker, Julie Johnson, will happily show you around the 35-acre estate that spans old vines, gardens, and olive groves and sit down for a tasting (the Burgundian-style zinfandel is particularly memorable) and seasonal lunch afterward.
Tamber Bey Vineyards, Calistoga
Set in the middle of a working horse ranch in off-the-beaten-path Calistoga, family-run Tamber Bey Vineyards offers one of the most unique experiences around. The focus is on wine first, but the owners’ love for all things equestrian adds a wonderfully rustic charm that’s endearing. Guests can tour the production facility, which was originally a covered riding arena, and do a wine and savoury cookie pairing in the courtyard of the stables.
AXR Napa Valley, St. Helena
AXR Napa Valley is a pre-Prohibition estate with a fairy circle of redwoods in the heart of St. Helena. So, from a history and scenery perspective, it’s pretty enchanting. The juxtaposition between heritage and the modern, boutique atmosphere makes for a memorable visit. Winemaker and partner Jean Hoefliger puts his heart and soul into crafting wine. Visitors can sample the flagship lineup and new releases in the main house, private veranda, or outdoor patio.
Cliff Lede Vineyards, Yountville
A gem where winemaking, art, and music coalesce, Cliff Lede Vineyards ranks among the most entertaining estates in Napa Valley. A larger-than-life Two Hearts sculpture stands in the courtyard. Rotating exhibits adorn the walls of the tasting lounge. Vine blocks brandish the names of famous songs like “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Whole Lotta Love.” Aesthetically, it’s a hit with the Instagram crowd. But the wine very much holds its own, especially the flagship Poetry cabernet sauvignon.
Alpha Omega, St. Helena
Since opening in 2006, Alpha Omega has forged on with a sustainable and quality-over-quantity mindset. Its annual production of 15,000 cases is far less than that churned out by big-name wineries each year. The result? Super-expressive Bordeaux-style wines that taste like the true essence of the land and are best enjoyed on the sunny St. Helena tasting room terrace while gazing at the burbling fountains and the Mayacamas Mountains in the distance.
Palmaz Vineyards, Napa
Tucked away on a 600-acre estate a few miles outside of downtown Napa, Palmaz Vineyards proudly fuses tradition and technology. The rolling vineyard landscape is stunning, but the coolest part has to be the private guided tour of the massive, multilevel wine cave, which extends into the rock of Mount George. The innovative gravity-flow winemaking process results in a smooth, nuanced cabernet sauvignon that goes down almost too easily.
Beringer Vineyards, St. Helena
Beringer Vineyards is a place steeped in firsts. It was one of the first to operate using hand-dug caves and cellars and the first to give public tours back in 1934. It’s also a great first stop for newcomers to wine country. (The knowledgeable staff will teach you the ins and outs of tasting and happily answer any questions.) Of course, longtime Napa visitors will also appreciate the warm hospitality and impressive array of quality pours.
Cakebread Cellars, Rutherford
Even with so many other notable grape varietals popping up, cabernet sauvignon remains king in Napa Valley. Located along the iconic Highway 29 wine route, Cakebread Cellars has a very notable reputation for producing this widely recognisable homegrown favourite, in addition to excellent chardonnay. The wine and tasting experience — whether you prefer to sip in the charming countrified rooms or outdoor courtyard — is consistently stellar. Guided tours of the winery and grounds are also available.
Honig Vineyard & Winery, Rutherford
A leader in sustainability, Honig does a wonderful job of making eco-friendly winemaking palatable to a broad audience — and we mean that quite literally. This family-owned Rutherford winery employs a host of environmentally responsible practices, from managing water use to solar power to employing woolly weeders (sheep as natural lawn mowers). Tour the sustainably farmed vineyard to see how things are done before sitting down for a biodynamic flight on the shaded garden patio.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
Main and Feature Image Credit: Courtesy of Palmaz Vineyards