Napa Valley Wine Tasting 101
Sponsored by Visit Napa Valley
Want to go wine-tasting in the Napa Valley? With more than 400 wineries and over 1,000 wine brands produced here, you’ll have to be more specific. With so many choices, it’s helpful to have a particular interest in mind to narrow down your tasting itinerary. Here, we’ve listed a few of the iconic wineries, along with some lesser-known ones to get you started, and, of course, inspire you to return again and again.
Beringer Vineyards. Founded in 1876 by German immigrants Jacob and Frederick Beringer, this is the oldest continuously operating winery in California. Come here for old-world Cabs, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.
Robert Mondavi Winery. Robert Mondavi was the guy who really put the Napa Valley on the map when he started this winery in 1966. His legendary To Kalon first-growth vineyard is known for producing premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, the latter of which goes into Mondavi’s signature Fumé Blanc.
Charles Krug. Here’s where you’ll find California’s first tasting room, opened in 1882. Krug’s iconic local wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Inglenook. Founded in 1879 by Finnish sea captain Gustave Niebaum and owned since 1975 by Francis Ford Coppola (yes, that one) and his wife, Eleanor. Try the Blancaneaux, Cabernet, Zinfandel, Syrah, or Sauvignon Blanc.
Trefethen Family Vineyards. Owned and operated by the Trefethens since the late 1960s, this winery produces a wide range of signature, reserve, and small-lot wines. Look for the Dry Reisling, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet.
Off the Beaten Path
Sherwin Family Vineyards. If you don’t mind a few twists in the road, this winery is exemplary of the classic Spring Mountain AVA. The tasting room – built by Steve Sherwin himself – feels like an actual home. Go for the Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rosé.
CADE Estate Winery. Owned/operated by Gavin Newsom, Gordon Getty, and John Conover, this place is a must for architecture buffs, with stunning contemporary design and jaw-dropping views. Taste the Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc.
Burgess Cellar. A great example of the Howell Mountain AVA, Burgess prides itself on distinct mountainside wines. It makes Cabernet, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Chardonnay, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, among other blends.
Pope Valley Winery. If you’re looking for an authentic, old-school Napa Valley tasting experience, head over the hill to Pope Valley. While most of the cars will stop along Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail, you’ll take the road less traveled and one that is about half a century behind. Founded in 1897 as the Burgundy Winery and Olive Oil Factory, this spot now features sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Rosé, Sangiovese, Cabernet, Merlot, and a Zin Port, among other varietals.
Nichelini Family Winery. The Nichelinis can boast the oldest family-owned winery in the Napa Valley, and it’s still very much of a family operation after 127 years. You can also see the original house and Roman wine press used by Swiss immigrants Anton and Caterina Nichelini. Today they produce old vine Zinfandel, a sparkling wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, and an “Old Press” white.
Food and Wine Pairings
B Cellars. Tours and tastings here include an introductory wine and food pairing, then a tour through the culinary gardens, production facilities, and wine caves to enjoy a barrel sample. In the tasting room, you can enjoy a series of custom food and wine pairings.
Round Pond Estate. This gorgeous contemporary winery features a wide range of food and wine pairings, including a garden-to-table brunch and a garden tour with lunch. And its on-site olive mill offers tours and olive-oil tastings.
RiverHouse by Bespoke Collection. Here you can pair the Blackbird Vineyards portfolio with a pre-curated bento lunch box courtesy of Morimoto Napa, which includes selections of sushi, tempura, and teriyaki beef (adjustable for any dietary restrictions). 24-hour notice required.
Liana Estates. For those of you with a sweet tooth, you’ve found your winery. Liana features mini-cupcakes from local bakery Kara’s Cupcakes, specially selected to complement four Liana wines. Perfect for a birthday, romantic getaway, or girls’ weekend.
Wineries with Art
HALL Wines. Proprietors Craig and Kathryn Hall are as passionate about their art as their wines, and guests are invited to tour the sculpture and other works installed around the grounds, created by such names as John Baldessari, Jim Campbell, Nick Cave, and Jaume Plensa.
The Hess Collection. Started in 1966, the collection of Donald Hess is exhibited in museums worldwide, and a portion of it is displayed here. Hess’s approach is to focus on 20 living artists and faithfully support their work long-term. His commitment is reflected in the caliber of this remarkable collection.
Mumm Napa. This brand of sparkling wines is based on the renowned Champagne house in France. The winery also has a wonderful gallery of fine art photography, featuring artists from Ansel Adams to contemporary photographers.
Explore these wineries in-depth and many others here.