A Guide to Napa Wine Tasting
Less than an hour Northeast of San Francisco lies an oasis wine enthusiasts long to experience at least once. For a wine-tasting getaway unlike any other, the rolling, sun-drenched hills of Napa Valley are the place to be. Within an inexhaustible assortment of wineries, each with its unique charm.
Come along as we explore Napa Valley’s best wines and the ten wineries you must experience.
The Best Wines in Napa Valley
Napa Valley is home to hundreds of wine varietals, though a few stand out with one reigning king.
These are the ten top wines to taste when exploring California’s beloved wine country and the notable winery for each.
With dark crushed cherry and tobacco notes, Cabernet Sauvignon is the rich, bold red wine that remains the top dog among Napa wineries. This wine is excellent with burgers, lamb, eggplant parmesan, mushrooms, and cheese platters.
Check out Grade Winery for a great selection of Napa’s reigning grape.
Dryer and slightly more acidic than Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is another must-try red wine when visiting Napa. This bolder red wine tastes decadent with meaty pasta drenched in red sauce, steak, and chocolate lava cake.
Markham Vineyards is a popular choice for a Merlot tasting experience.
Opposite Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is a lighter-bodied, spicy red wine with herbaceous aromas mixed with cherry and plum notes. This wine tastes excellent with garlic chicken and lasagna.
With raspberry, cherry, vanilla, mushroom, and forest floor notes, Pinot Noir is lovely on its own or with earthy mushroom dishes. Pinot Noir is usually associated with Sonoma. However, the thin-skinned grapes thrive in Napa’s cooler climate.
Check out Charles Krug Winery for a truly exceptional Pinot Noir.
While Cabernet Sauvignon is the favored wine, the full-bodied, fruit-forward, peppery Zinfandel is by far the most historic. ”America’s heritage grape,” as it is sometimes referred to, comes from old vines planted before Prohibition.
For a version true to its legacy, try the Zinfandel from Robert Biale Vineyards.
Is white wine your preferred sipper of choice? A clean, crisp Sauvignon Blanc is perfect for outdoor tasting during Napa’s breezy summer months. With tropical notes and an irresistible zest, taste this wine over at Grgich Hills Estate.
Petite Sirah may historically be used as a blending grape, but many stunning variations from old vines prove it can stand on its own. With an inky color, dense textures, and an expressive bouquet of dark fruits, taste this unique wine at Turley Wine Cellars.
As Napa Valley’s leading white wine, Chardonnay is just as prevalent in tasting rooms as Cabernet Sauvignon. From lean, crisp, and tropical to bold, full-bodied, buttery, Napa Valley Chardonnay is best known for its award-winning wine from the 1976 Judgement of Paris.
Check out Stony Hill Vineyard for a remarkable Chardonnay.
Pinot Bianco and Greco
With fresh notes and bright acidity, Pinot Bianco and Greco are two of the most well-known Italian wines in Napa Valley. French wines may seem to reign supreme here, but did you know that Massican Winery in Helena is dedicated to crafting great Italian wines?
You might mistake the sparkling white wine from Domaine Carneros Vineyard for Champagne, and we wouldn’t blame you. This winery is renowned as a small grower and producer of méthode traditionnelle sparkling wine and Rosé, meaning the wine undergoes a second fermentation inside the bottle. We will explore more of this gorgeous estate in a moment. For now, look forward to the sparklers this breathtaking chateau has to offer.
Now that we’ve looked into some of Napa Valley’s top wines for sipping, let’s explore where you might want to experience these fine wines first-hand.
Napa Valley Wineries to Visit
With so many wineries in Napa Valley to visit, it’s hard to choose a top ten, let alone just one. Here is just a sampling of the many vineyards tucked away in the iconic wine country.
1. Domaine Carneros
A landmark estate winery and chateau in California, Domaine Carneros is famous for using methode traditionalle for its sparkling wine production. This is the same method used by traditional French winemakers for crafting the golden bubbles of Champagne. Other great wines to look for here include a fabulous Pinot Noir.
Step into timeless luxury at Domaine Carneros as you take in the open air of the breathtaking chateau.
2. Seven Stones Winery
With over 500 cases of singular Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Seven Stones Winery's 45-acre estate hosts some of the best vintages of Napa’s favored varietal.
3. Hess Persson Estates
Hess Persson Estates was founded in 1978 on the historic grounds of Napa’s oldest winery, grapes thrive in Mount Vedeer’s high elevation, aging beautifully. Enjoy majestic panoramic views of the vineyards, a museum and gallery, and the famous three-course tasting menu as you sip in luxury.
4. O’Brien Estate Winery
O'Brien Estate is a smaller, family-owned winery allows for a relaxed, uncrowded tasting experience. With award-winning selections of some of Napa Valley’s finest varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc, the wine is harvested from the winery's forty acres.
5. V. Sattui Winery
Founded in 1885 by Vittorio Sattui and reestablished in 1976, V. Sattui Winery is another of Napa Valley’s most historic vineyards. Combining sustainable and organic winemaking practices, this winery makes a wide range of high-quality wines, bringing together complexity, flavor, and an experience for any generation.
Experience gorgeous historic stone architecture, lush wines, and good times.
6. Mayacamas Vineyards and Winery
High above the valley on a mountainside property is the gorgeous Mayacamas Vineyards. Founded in 1889, this winery is considered a top producer of age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Their traditional techniques also cover lush Merlot and Chardonnay.
Let the views and the quality of these wines take your breath away.
7. Louis M. Martini Winery
If you’re looking for a contemporary setting and sleek, timeless selections of some of Napa’s best wines, this winery has been redesigned with a modern feel. Thanks to Wine Country architects Backen and Gillam Kroeger, this Louis M. Martini boasts high ceilings with a rustic, masculine feel.
If you’d like to sip privately, you and ten guests can host your own wine outing in their famous park.
8. Fantesca Estate & Winery
With only six wine tastings offered per day and a questionnaire required upon entry, Fantesca Estate & Winery are worth the persistence. The gorgeous 53-acre Spring Mountain Estate is owned by Susan and Duane Hoff, which they purchased in 2004. Take a walk through exquisite vineyards and an impressive mountain cave system when you visit.
Plus, this winery is known for an unforgettable Mardi Gras experience in New Orleans.
9. Pine Ridge Vineyards
In the heart of the Stags Leap District is Pine Ridge Vineyards, a picturesque winery that boasts stunning views, intimate tours and tasting experiences, shaded picnic grounds, and European-inspired caves. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and book an Explorer’s Tasting for an expedition through the caves while sipping the winery's elegant 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon.
10. Napa Valley Wine Train
Last but not least, we can’t go without mentioning the famous Napa Valley Wine Train. Travel back in time as you ride the 1900s train while sipping the most famous wines Napa has to offer. This thirty-six-mile round-trip experience takes you around St. Helena and back, allowing you to gaze at gorgeous vineyards through the window along the way.
All aboard the Napa Valley wine train for an adventurous tasting experience unlike any other.
All Aboard Napa Valley
Whether you’re booking a ticket for the wine train or interested in a private tasting in a cave or overlooking a mountain, Napa offers unlimited wine tasting experiences.
If you’d like to further brush up on wine regions, exciting wine facts, winery offers, and more, check out The Wine Blog.
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