Welcome to one of the world’s premier location for wine lovers. Napa Valley , a 35 miles long stretch from American Canyon up to Calistoga, has approximately 400 wineries (with about 100 opened to public) where visitors can sample world class wines, as well as learning about their production. Locating just 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, this wine getaway couldn’t be more accessible. Since Napa is a valley, temperatures can significantly vary from day tonight. For this reason, it is a good idea to schedule a vineyard tour before noon, and save the afternoon time for tastings.
After visiting the area and speaking to a few locals, here’s what they recommend:
Best for Education: Robert Mondavi
Right, the name could not be more familiar. This mega-production winery features a total of five winery/tasting programs and four wine and food pairing sessions. For beginners, the signature tour and tasting gives you an overview of the vineyard history, its culture, and a seated wine tasting. When asked which vineyard is best for tasting some good quality wine, Barb Chrismin, a Napa local said “Robert Mondavi’s Reserved Collections are actually pretty good”. Going for that and limited edition wines? The exclusive cellar tasting might be an option.
Best for Sparkling Wine and Arts: Mumm Napa and Hess Collection
Other than being known as a sparkling wine property, what these two have in common is they’re all about arts. Aside from having a beautiful vineyard view where visitors can enjoy while sampling each glass of wine at the patio, Mumm is home to a fine art photography gallery where many local and international photographers showcase their works on a rotating basis. On the other side of Napa, Hess Collection features some seriously great contemporary art in all forms, may it be paintings, sculptures, objects and so forth.
Best for Architecture: Castello di Amorosa
When it comes to being a picturesque wine estate, Castello di Amorosa certainly doesn’t come up short. Moreover, they produce some great quality wines. All tours offered by this Tuscan-style castle winery include a guided walk through the castle and its winery followed by barrel tasting, and ends with a private tasting at the castle’s bar.
Hidden Gem: Quixote and Round Pond Winery
These are a pair of wineries whose philosophy equals sustainability/organic farming with an emphasis on making quality wine in small quantity. Quixote, for example, devotes itself to only producing two types of wine: Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Syrah. The winery also differentiates itself very well from the rest by occupying a fun, contemporary design created by Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
Sure they both share similarities on the farming idea, but Round Pond, when it comes to vineyard atmosphere, is completely different. Round Pond focuses on simplicity, with the hint of industrial and rustic chic design. Known for lush garden, Round Pond grows not only grapes, but also olives. So, other than wines, they produce artisanal oils, vinegars, and syrups.
The Place that puts Napa on the map: Chateau Montelena
Thanks to the 1976 Paris Tasting, where Chateau Montelena’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay beat out the French wines in this blind tasting competition, Napa became known in the wine world. Stop by the winery to sample excellent wines while learning about the chateau’s glorious history in a peaceful setting.
Other wineries worth visiting: Sterling Vineyard for nice view of Napa Valley, St. Supery for nice summer wines, and Domaine Canneros (another picturesque estate).
No matter which vineyard you choose to visit. Keep in mind that driving under influence is always something one should avoid. So, if your plan includes hopping around several vineyards, hire a driver. Otherwise, keep on raisin’ the glass and enjoy some awesome wines.
Please note that Quixote, as of press time, is only available for visitors through appointments.