Best Wineries in Napa Valley
Being an avid fan of Californian wines, especially their superb Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs, I returned to Napa Valley for three days of wine tastings last august.
Napa Valley is considered to produce some of the world’s best wines, many of them rivalling their French and Italian counterparts, so I couldn’t resist going back! The region is also known for its world-class cuisine, being a culinary outpost of San Francisco, and luxurious hotels, which makes wine tasting here even more enjoyable.
You can read my previous post about Californian wines here.
Cakebread CellarsOur first stop was a small family winery, Cakebread Cellars, which since its founding in 1973 has become one of the most successful and respected wineries in America. We went for a Reserve Tasting ($40 per person), sampling some of this winery’s finest line-up of wines.
Silver Oak WineryOur second stop was Silver Oak Winery, a winery specialising solely in the creme de la creme of Californian Cabernet Sauvignons. Silver Oak has two outposts in California: one in Napa Valley and another in Alexander Valley. I first tried their Cabernet Sauvignon at Goodman’s Restaurant in London: the wine was absolutely superb, so I had to visit the place where it was produced!In the courtyard in front of the winery is Silver Oak’s iconic white water tower, the one you see on their wine labels. We tasted three of their cabernet sauvignons, both from Napa and Alexander Valleys, all of them exceptional. Afterwards, we popped into the very sleek Glass House Library displaying wine vintages dating back to the 1970s… I like large format wines!
We had two excellent lunches – I mean on two separate days!- at Farmstead in St Helena. I must say I had the best burrata and tomato salad I have ever had!
And springy stools. So fun to sit on and wobble from side to side!
When I called up this winery, I was told they were fully booked for tours and tastings eight weeks in advance… Imagine that! Playing hard to visit, I suppose… Anyways, we were lucky to get in because apparently there were a couple of last minute cancellations on the day we wanted to visit.
Tours begin with a walk through the historic, tri-level winery, which is built into the surrounding hillside.Guests are then led through a portion of the 40,000 square-foot Far Niente wine aging caves, the first modern wine caves built in North America when excavation began in 1980.Far Niente Winery is well known of its sweet wines, although it was not too my taste…
The winery is surrounded by 13 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, thought by many to be among the most stunning landscapes in the Napa Valley. The tour concluded with my favourite stop, a visit to the Carriage House, which is home to a wonderful collection of classic automobiles of all shapes and sizes. The tour was followed by a much anticipated wine tasting of current release and library vintage wines, accompanied by a delicious selection of cheeses. Tastings cost $65/per person.
Mumm NapaWe started our second day early with Mumm Napa – since only Champagne or sparkling wine is acceptable at 10am – an american outpost of the well-renowned French Champagne house. Established in California in the late 1970s, Mumm Napa follows traditional wine making techniques of its French heritage to create some of Californian’s finest, hand-crafted sparkling wines. Although personally I prefer either Schramsberg (the official sparkling wine of the White House) or Iron Horse.
We enjoyed a very generous tasting of library sparkling wines on the Oak Terrace whilst taking in the spectacular views of the surrounding vineyards. Normal tastings are $25, and tastings on the Oak terrace are $40 per person.
Afterwards, we popped into the Fine Art Photography Gallery adjacent to Mumm Napa, showcasing stunning work from renowned local and international artists.
Similar to Silver Oak, Caymus Vineyards, a small family-run winery, is famous for its top-notch Cabernet Sauvignons. They produce two Cabernet Sauvignons– a “Napa Valley” and the venerable “Special Selection” wine. The property was gorgeous and intimate, with date palms over our heads to protect us from the heat of the sun.
Orin SwiftWhilst driving through St Helena, we briefly visited Orin Swift‘s tasting room. Their Papillon wine (the one in the centre with tattoed fingers: isn’t it simply the coolest label?!) is my favourite Californian red wine – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc – out of all the ones I have tasted.
Having fun in St Helena…
Elizabeth Spencer Winery Afterwards, we stopped at Elizabeth Spencer Winery Tasting room in Rutherford. This company sources wines from different suppliers and vineyards, blending them together to produce some of the best wines representative of the region
Trinchero Napa ValleyOur last stop of the day was Trinchero in St Helena. I have travelled with Gina Trinchero of the Trinchero family on several occasions, so I was curious to see what their wines were like… Excellent, of course! Wine tastings are either $20 or $30 per person.
CADE WineryOur first stop on the third and final day was CADE winery, perched high upon Napa’s Howell Mountain, among a dramatic hillside of Manzanita trees. The views from the tasting room were spectacular – a wonderful accompaniment to a selection of superb wines!
Iron Horse VineyardsOur last stop was at my favourite Californian sparkling winery, Iron Horse Vineyards, in Sonoma on the drive back to San Francisco. I have visited it before, but I wanted to show my cousin the place that produces the best Californian sparkling wine!