With world-class restaurants, spas and of course, winemaking, California’s marquee wine destination is the complete package, offering travelers gracious hospitality, vast natural beauty and unsurpassable wine tasting experiences.
As a travel and wine writer considered in the know about things Napa Valley, people often ask me, “Where should I go?” There’s a perfect Napa visit for everyone from novices to connoisseurs, I always respond, but with hundreds of tasting venues, the key to a fulfilling time is narrowing the options given your interests and budget. And guess what? You don’t have to spend extravagantly to have a good time here. You can splurge, but you don’t have to.
Below is Part 1 of suggestions to help you find your Napa.
- BASK IN THE VIEWS
On a sunny day, a Signature Tasting ($35) at Bennett Lane feels more like a garden party as guests bask in Calistoga Palisades views. The aptly named Vineyard View Tasting ($50) at ZD Wines unfolds on a second-story open-air terrace with vistas of Rutherford to the Mayacamas Mountains.
- GEEK OUT
A must-do for wine geeks and the otherwise curious, Vine to Vessel ($120) at Bouchaine Vineyards in Los Carneros explores the effects of different aging vessels—concrete eggs, clay amphorae, an acacia barrel, large oak casks, a stainless-steel drum—on a wine’s flavor, texture, mouthfeel and aromas.
- DRINK IN THE HISTORY
Beaulieu Vineyard in Rutherford bills its Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which debuted in 1936, as “the first cult Napa Valley wine.” Some tastings (from $55) conclude with a de Latour pour.
- EXPLORE A CAVE
All tastings (from $30) at Pride Mountain Vineyards, atop St. Helena’s Spring Mountain, include a cave tour unlike others because the winery straddles Napa and Sonoma. The views are extraordinary, too.
- ENJOY SPARKLERS AL FRESCO
A palate-cleansing sparkling-wine toast is a great way to commence a Napa Valley visit. Mumm Napa patrons enjoy flights alfresco (from $40) on a terrace overlooking Rutherford vines. As part of extensive renovations, Domaine Chandon, perched on a Yountville hillside, has added new outdoor tastings (from $50) amid its formidable Oak Grove.
- HEAR A MULTIGENERATIONAL TALE
East of the Silverado Trail, Sage Canyon Road skirts Lake Hennessey on the way to Nichelini Family Winery, established by Swiss Italian immigrants in 1890. Aimée Sunseri of the fifth generation makes the wines showcased at present-day tastings ($30), whose hosts recount the family’s travails and triumphs over 130-plus years.
Stay tuned for Part 2...