Napa Valley is one of the most well-known wine regions in the world. It became well-recognized thanks to the Judgement of Paris in 1976 when French judges blind taste-tested California wines compared to Bordeaux wines. Ultimately, the California wines beat out Bordeaux wines which is how Napa got on the map.
Today, Napa is a beautiful and thriving wine destination that is visited by people all over the world. And with more than 500 wineries throughout the Napa region, it can feel quite overwhelming when visiting. After having been multiple times, I’ve handpicked my favorites and am sharing them with you. Below are some of the best vineyards to visit in Napa Valley.
The Best Vineyards to Visit in Napa Valley
Before getting to which vineyards are the best, you should know that Napa Valley is made up of many different regions. The most well-known wine regions in the area (from south to north) include Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St Helena, and Calistoga. The further north you move, the more beautiful the region becomes with vineyards stretched out for as far as the eye can see.
For purposes of this post, vineyards are grouped by region moving from south to north.
IF YOU’RE SPENDING THE DAY (OR WEEKEND) WINE TASTING, DON’T FORGET TO BRING A WATER BOTTLE AND LIQUID I.V. TO STAY HYDRATED!
Darioush is a Persian-inspired winery started by a man from Iran. His goal was to make Darioush resemble Persepolis with big columns and a stone interior. It took 6+ years for Darioush to be built because the stone was imported from Iran. The other goal of Darioush was to create wines that will resemble French wines. I felt particularly keen on the Viognier.
Darioush is open 7 days/week from 10 am-5 pm. The classic portfolio tasting showcases the signature wines, which are also served with small bites of cheese and crackers costing $65. Reservations are required.
I prefer to start my day in the valley wine tasting at Domaine Carneros. It’s a beautiful estate resembling a French chateau, that sits up high and overlooks the vineyards as you drive into Napa Valley. Domaine Carneros is mostly known for its still and sparkling wines and well-manicured gardens.
Domaine Carneros is open 7 days/week from 10 am-5:30 pm. You can choose from a variety of different pairings between sparkling wine, red wine, or a combination of both for $40. There is also an opportunity to purchase limited food at this estate. Reservations are required.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Not to be confused with Stags’ Leap Winery, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is a well-known winery around the world. Why around the world? Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars entered their cabernet into the Judgement of Paris in the 1970s. When French judges’ blind taste tested old world wines (France, Italy, etc) versus new world wines (America, Australia, etc), it was a shock to everyone when Stag’s Leap won the cabernet category.
If you’re visiting this winery please don’t get it confused with Stags’ Leap Winery that is closeby. Stags’ Leap Winery was originally a chateau well before it made wine. The owners tried their hand at winemaking but eventually, the chateau and organization shut down. When Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars won the Judgement of Paris and created a name for itself, Stags’ Leap Winery came back with vengeance claiming that they were the first makers of wine under the “Stags Leap” name. The case went all the way to the California Supreme Court and it was ruled that both wineries could operate under their respective names.
Cakebread Cellars is a sophisticated and modern vineyard/tasting house that has nine different country-chic tasting rooms plus an outdoor patio. I was placed in the “egg room”, with big cement eggs that were holding sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.
Cakebread Cellars is open 7 days/week from 10 am-4:30 pm. A classic tasting experience of red and white wine costs $40 and is typically held outside, weather permitting. Reservations are required.
As you drive towards Caymus Vineyards you feel as though you’ve entered a fairytale. With bright flowers and greeny draped from above, this vineyard feels garden-y and magical. Currently, Caymus is busy renovating the inside and outside of their venue to create an even bigger space for guests complete with areas to enjoy a bottle of wine and an area for food.
But aside from the ambiance of the winery, Caymus has some truly incredible wines. Because the wine is so popular, Caymus doesn’t offer memberships and they don’t allow people to buy in bulk.
Round Pond Estate Winery
As you drive into Round Pond, you get the ultimate “California feeling” as big palm trees lead you to a gorgeous building that overlooks the vineyards. Round Pond is especially great for its detailed touches, leaving your party name on your tasting menus. The outdoor patio at Round Pond is beautiful complete with a big fireplace and a terrace that overlooks the mountains and vineyards. If possible, try to come here later in the day as the sun begins to set behind the mountains.
Round Pond is open 7 days/week from 10 am-4 pm. The classic portfolio tasting is available from Thursday-Sunday and costs $40. Reservations are required.
HALL Wines St. Helena
HALL Wines is a small, family-run vineyard in St Helena. It’s a smaller tasting room compared to other places in Napa Valley, but it’s quaint, full of character, and nestled in the vineyard.
HALL is open 7 days/week from 10 am-5:30 pm. Both tastings and tours start at $40 and reservations are required.
V. Sattui is also a family-run winery and only sells its wine on-site, meaning it is unavailable anywhere else besides the winery itself. V. Sattui is laid-back and fun with a food truck stationed in the garden. Once you’re done with your tasting, grab some food and sit at one of the many picnic tables outdoors.
V. Sattui is open 7 days/week from 10 am-5 pm. If you choose to do the classic, outdoor tasting, the cost starts at $45. Reservations are required.
Whitehall Lane Winery
Whitehall Lane is a family-run winery specifically known for producing great cabs, dedicating over 200 acres to growing cabernet sauvignon. It’s a big tasting room with a plush and cozy outdoor patio, eye level with the vineyard. It’s also previously won awards such as “best tasting room in Napa”.
Whitehall Lane is open 7 days per/week from 10 am-4 pm. Tasting start at $50 and reservations are required.
Napa Valley is such a fun and beautiful destination whether or not you’re a wine aficionado. These vineyards to visit in Napa Valley are some of the best, but I haven’t even scratched the surface. Let me know in the comments below, where else do you recommend visiting in Napa?
For more information on Napa and the surrounding wine regions, don’t miss…
For more Napa recommendations, make sure to check out my Instagram page/highlight reel by searching #ppincalifornia or the highlight “Napa Valley”
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