The Napa Valley Guide
As total winos, we’re always taking notes on the best spots in Napa (cue Escapes for Foodies and Winos). The region’s old greats, like The French Laundry, Opus One, and Auberge du Soleil, will always rank high in our hearts for continuing to set crazy-high standards for food, wine, and luxury. That said, we’ve also discovered some pretty awesome off-the-beaten path wineries and restaurants in Calistoga and Napa’s less-touristy neighbor, Sonoma Valley, that are worth checking out too.
Wind Gap6780 McKinley St. #170, Sebastopol | 707.331.1393
Winemaker Pax Mahle has a passion for less common grape varieties—and so while Wine Gap is best known for Pinot Noir and Syrah, they're an interesting pick for more out-of-the-box options, too. It's a relatively small winery and the tasting room experience is relaxed, with a big open garage door, a wooden backsplash, and a handful of comfortable leather couches and other antiques.
Scribe Winery2300 Napa Rd., Sonoma | 707.939.1858
If there's such a thing as a hipster winery, Scribe Winery probably qualifies. Owned by young brothers and located in Sonoma, it's a small production vineyard with a decidedly unstuffy vibe—you'll sit at a picnic table or swing on a rope swing while you sample their rosé. There's a historic hacienda located on the property that the brothers are in the midst of restoring. It promises to be a fantastic tasting room (and an even better event venue), but until the project is finished, they're happily running their tastings on an outdoor hillside lovingly dubbed "the knoll."
Ladera Vineyards150 White Cottage Rd. S., Angwin | 707.965.2445
This rustic old stone winery was built in 1886, and painstakingly restored after a long period of disrepair. It's situated at the top of a hill, but the long, winding road you'll take to get there offers some pretty fantastic views. There are several different tour options, all centered around their famous Cabernet Sauvignon.
Kelly’s Filling Station and Wine Shop6795 Washington St., Yountville | 707.944.8165
Only in Yountville would you find a gas station with a better wine selection than most restaurants. This is definitely the spot to fill up your rental.
Unti Vineyards4204 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg | 707.433.5590
This no-frills, old-school winery is best known for Zinfandel, but they make a great rosé and some whites as well—either way, it's a nice break from Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting room can feel a little bit industrial, but it's a familial place with a vibe that's not at all touristy.
Bergamot Alley328 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg | 707.433.8720
Bergamot Alley's proprietor Kevin Wardell has great taste, and his eclectic wine shop and wine bar in downtown Healdsburg is one of a few shops in the area with a global selection of bottles. It's a great tasting if you're hoping to compare the local vintners to their peers in other parts of the world.
Hanzell18596 Lomita Ave., Sonoma | 707.996.3860
White wine lovers who can't stand another big California red love Hanzell, a small vineyard with an intimate, laid-back tasting experience and a very high quality wine. With a stellar Chardonnay in the cellars, they're part of a small but celebrated group of wineries focused on Northern California whites.
Odette Estate Winery5998 Silverado Trail, Napa | 707.224.7533
Odette is the newest property from the PlumpJack group (they're also behind the PlumpJack and CADE vineyards), and like its sister properties, the estate is Gold-LEED certified—a major accomplishment that's very difficult for a winery to achieve. Their first vintage, a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, just became available in February of 2015, and we’re hearing great things so far.
Shafer Vineyards6154 Silverado Trail, Napa | 707.944.2877
For a sophisticated, grown-up tasting experience, book an appointment at Shafer Vineyards. They're some of the most respected and longstanding winemakers in the valley, and their Chardonnay and Merlot (which you'll sip in their clean-lined, warmly decorated tasting room, with sweeping views of the property) are classics.
Stags’ Leap6150 Silverado Trl., Napa | 800.395.2441
The historic, ivy-covered stone building where Stags' Leap hosts its tastings was built in 1890 using stone mined in a local quarry. The building and its lush grounds, which feature a bocce court, fruit orchard, native plant gardens, and an ancient stone cellar, are steeped in the history of the region; the house is even rumored to be haunted by a friendly ghost.
Spottswoode Winery1902 Madrona Ave., St. Helena | 707.963.0134
You'll have to venture off the beaten path to find this spot, but that only makes uncovering it feel even more special. Run by matriarch Mary Weber Novak and her two daughters Beth and Lindy, this family-owned operation is also a serious #fempire. Spots here go fast, so book tastings well in advance.
Robert Sinskey Vineyards6320 Silverado Trail, Napa | 707.944.9090
This laid-back vineyard is one of the few places in Napa that's known for excellent Pinots, so it's a great way to break up the schedule if you're trying to squeeze in multiple vineyards in a day. The newly-renovated tasting room includes a huge fireplace for cooking in the great hall, which promises to be a welcome addition to their already-impressive food and wine pairing program.
Clos Pegase1060 Dunaweal Ln., Calistoga | 707.942.4981
In 1984, art and architecture buff Jan Shrem (the original owner of this estate), partnered with SF MoMA to put on a design competition inviting modern architects to submit proposals for the design of the winery. The commission was awarded to Michael Graves, the modernist who later became famous as a member of the New York Five. In addition to the Graves-designed building, the property is scattered with Shrem's notable collection of modern art, which includes works by Jean Dubuffet and Francis Bacon. The selection of wines here is pretty broad, so it's an excellent option if you're traveling with a big group with a lot of tastes. It's a must-see for guests staying at nearby Calistoga Ranch.
Schramsberg1400 Schramsberg Rd., Calistoga | 707.942.4558
Although it's a gorgeous property and the sparkling rosé brut is a standout, the best thing about Schramsberg is its rich history. The vineyard still carries the name of Jacob Schram, the German immigrant who bought the vineyard in 1862, and the original Victorian home that he and his wife built when they first bought the property still stands (it was declared a historical monument back in 1957). The vineyard also keeps an excellent record of notable events where their wines were served—every presidential administration since Nixon has served their sparkling wines to official guests.
Storybook Mountain3835 Highway 128, Calistoga | 707.942.5310
Storybook Mountain (named for its original founders, two brothers named Grimm) is a totally unique, rural California winery experience. The organic vineyards are known for their Zinfandel, and it's worth taking the time to explore their caves, which were part of the original vineyard and are buried so deeply that they never require artificial cooling.
Newton Vineyard2555 Madrona Ave., St. Helena | 707.963.9000
Founded by and Englishman (and an avid gardener) and currently owned by LVMH, it's no surprise that Newton Vineyard boasts one of the most beautiful grounds in the region. The lush parterre is planted above the Chardonnay cellar, which keeps the underground space cool naturally. The vintners here are known for excellent unfiltered wines.
Opus One Winery7900 St. Helena Hwy, Oakville | 707.944.9442
Opus One only produces one blend every season, and their vintages represent some of the most upscale and expensive wines on the market. The estate, which is meticulously maintained, is fittingly grand. We recommend making an appointment for one of their informative tours if you have time—they have a cavernous cellar (the French oak barrels are only used once) and a very large lab, plus, it's fascinating to find out what it takes to make wines that usually sell for more than $200/bottle.
Rudd Winery500 Oakville Cross Rd., Oakville | 707.944.8577
Leslie Rudd is also the owner of the Dean & DeLuca brand, and his eponymous winery is everything you'd expect from the owner of the original gourmet food destination. Stunning grounds, classically big California Cabs, an elegant tasting experience, and of course, a solid selection of Dean & Deluca goodies for purchase. Rudd's daughter, Samantha, works full time at the vineyard, making the business a true family operation.
Hunnicutt3524 Silverado Trail N., St. Helena | 707.963.2911
While there's no land to see on this visit (Hunnicutt is exclusively a winery, not a vineyard), the team possesses a real artistry when it comes to wine-making, putting it near the top of our list. In addition to the classic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, we love the Zinfandel and Chardonnay—and if sitting on their sunny porch for your tasting isn't hands-on enough, sign up for a tour and tasting in their newly-finished caves.
Quintessa Wine1601 Silverado Trail S., St. Helena | 707.967.1601
Without question, Quintessa is one of our favorite wine tasting experiences in the valley—it's also one of the locations where we recommend springing for a tour. The grounds are truly breathtaking (they include a calm, clear lake surrounded by vines), and you'll finish up at a perfect hilltop perch, taking in a grand view of the valley while you sip on one of Quintessa's red blends. Photos: KAZ2.0
Seavey Vineyard1310 Conn Valley Rd., St. Heena | 707.963.8339
Like many of the vineyards in this area, Seavey is a family-owned business: All five of the Seavey children are involved with the business in some capacity. Winemaker Jim Duane is an alumnus of Mondavi and Stag's Leap, meaning that this is a man who knows his way around a Cabernet Sauvignon. Opt for a tasting that includes cheese and chocolate to balance out the big wines.
Anomaly455 Bella Vista Ct., St. Helena | 707.967.8448
With only 8 acres (they only produce 1,000 cases per year), Anomaly is probably the smallest vineyard on our list. A visit to the boutique winery (which will likely be led by owner Steve Goldfarb) is always intimate, and the cabs are sophisticated but really approachable.
Corison987 St. Helena Hwy, St. Helena | 707.963.0826
Female winemaker Cathy Corison is sort of a legend when it comes to women in the wine business, and she runs her namesake vineyard with her husband, William Martin. Although the tasting experience is laid-back and casual, the wine is an incredibly elegant, old-school Cabernet Sauvignon.
Robert Mondavi Winery7801 St. Helena Hwy, St. Helena | 707.226.1395
There's nothing original about recommending a visit to Robert Mondavi's Oakville estate, but considering his pivotal role in making the valley into the celebrated wine-making region it is today, a Napa trip isn't really complete without paying homage. Although the experience can be a little over the top, the visitor center and tastings are well thought-out and informative, and the wine is fantastic.
Swanson Vineyards1271 Manley Ln., Rutherford | 707.754.4018
Swanson vineyards has an excellent selection of wines, but we'd by lying if we said we weren't really going there for Swanson Sip Shoppe. Designed by family member Alexis Swanson Traina, the bold décor (the entire space is wallpapered with wide red stripes) is a breath of fresh air in a sea of Tuscan-hued tasting rooms. Alexis has a great eye, so you can expect the chocolates, foodstuffs, and other gifts, like her hilarious customizable wine bottle labels, to be some of the best.
Caymus Vineyards8700 Conn Creek Rd., Rutherford | 707.967.3010
Caymus is a family operation (the Wagners are in their third generation of winemaking on the property, where they've been making wine since 1972) and the family history and values that tie the vineyard together are elegantly woven through their tasting experience. In addition to trying their excellent Cabs and Zinfandels, you’ll hear about the family's history in the region. Photo: m anima
Frog’s Leap Winery8815 Conn Creek Rd., Rutherford | 707.963.4704
With all of the luxe experiences Napa has to offer, it can be easy to forget that the wineries are, at heart, agricultural ventures: Frog's Leap really feels like a farm, in the best possible way. The winery is housed in cavernous old barn, and the farmhouse has a big, wide porch for tastings (which are by appointment only). If you're lucky, you might even catch winemaker John Williams and his scruffy companion, Abbie, driving around the property in Williams' vintage Chevy.
Staglin Family Vineyard1570 Bella Oaks Ln., Rutherford | 707.963.3994
If you're a child of the '90s, you'll recognize this house and some of the roads as Hallie's Dad's house from the The Parent Trap. Nostalgia aside, this estate offers beautiful grounds and exceptional wines. The Staglin Family are also well known philanthropists—since opening the vineyard, they've raised and donated more than $800 million for mental health research.
Inglenook1991 St. Helena Hwy, Rutherford | 800.782.4266
Inglenook is one of two wineries owned by the Coppola family, and it's sort of a must-see for any Napa itinerary worth its snuff. The gorgeous, historic chateau is far and away one of the grandest buildings in the valley, and the wine (winemaker Phillip Bascuales was trained at Château Margaux) is worthy of the estate.