Wineries to Hit in Napa
Favorites and almost-favorites
Your mileage may differ:
- Are Public Tastings Available? The last time I was in Napa, summer '96, all
these wineries still had tasting rooms open to the public almost every day.
Sometimes there is a small fee for the tastings, especially on weekends, and
especially at the more expensive wineries.
First thing after you arrive in the valley, stop at a store and pick up a Wine
Country Visitors' Guide or similar newspaper. These change names and
formats from year to year, but there is always some free weekly newspaper that
has maps, lists wineries and hours, has ads and listings for restaurants, lists
local events that week, etc. Indispensable.
- General Caveat: Not every year is a good year, even at the best of wineries.
But good years happen at great wineries more often than they do at mediocre
wineries. (This is part of the definition of "great winery," I think.)
If you are going to spend a day or more in Napa Valley tasting, there are a few
wineries that you shouldn't miss. Or, to put it another way, if you were there with me,
you wouldn't miss them because I would insist that we stop at these wineries. Don't
- Silver Oak: Cabernet Sauvignon wines
only, and among the best in the world.
(This is a widely-held opinion, not just
Rick's flaming.) Recently, they seem to be
soooo popular that they cannot keep any
wines in stock. You may not be able to
taste more than one or two wines, and you
may not be able to buy more than one or
- Grgich Hills: Chardonnays among the best
in the world. Sometimes Cabernets and
Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings, too. Since
the wine master, Mike Grgich, has gone
back to Bosnia (Bosnia?!? Yikes! Will his
next wine be Chateau de Shrapnel?), I do
worry about the future of this wonderful
- Cakebread: Chardonnays to die for.
Sometimes Cabernets and Sauvignon
Blancs, too. They seem recently to have changed from the classic California
chardonnay style, that is, oaky, to the new style, that is, citrusy. A damned
- Cuvaison: Cabernets to die for; chardonnays and merlots are very good, too.
One of my favorite places in the valley. Many cases of these in the cellar.
- Beaulieu: Cabernets still wonderful, sometimes fabulous.
Worth a Stop
There are many other good wineries in the valley that are worth a stop, if you have
time. (In order, more or less, from south to north, up the valley.)
- Domaine Chandon: Lovely deck to sit on and sip champagne. Restaurant to die
- Vichon: Partway up Oakville Grade Road from the valley. Good,
moderate-price wines. Nice picnic area.
- Villa Mt. Eden: Cheap wines, but good cheap wines. Cabernet, even burgundy.
- Girard: Very good cabernets and chardonnays.
- Robert Mondavi: Surprisingly good wines when they try.
- Freemark Abbey: Very good cabernets. Watch particularly for wines from the
- Stonegate: Good cabernets and chardonnays. Some years, very good dessert
- Sterling: Good cabernets, chardonnays, sauvignon blancs. Look particularly for
Diamond Montain Ranch vineyard. The only problem with tasting here is that it
takes a lot of time. You have to park at the base and take the tram up to the
winery, so you have to invest several hours.
- Chateau Montelena: Good chardonnays and cabernets.
- De Moor: Good sauvignon blancs. And some years they make a dessert wine
called Fie Doux that is killer.
Save Your Time
Look good from the outside, but undistinguished wines.
- Beringer: Well, the building is worth a look.
Save Your Tongue
Cool labels, and some even widely known, but pretty odd wines.
- Sequoia Grove
- V. Sattui
- Folie a Deux
Comments and flames to the author: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Why use logic when
there's a flamethrower handy?" Hey, go ahead. I didn't exactly leave the gloves on
when I wrote this.
All contents copyright (C) 1996,1997 Richard Landau. All rights reserved. Revised: