I guess I shouldn’t be surprised: Readers and friends regularly ask when traveling to California’s wine country, what wineries should I make a point to visit?
Not a bad question. There are lots of dull wineries not worth your time — or your (sometimes expensive) tasting fees. There are also many hidden gems worth seeking out but which don’t make much of an impression in the big guidebooks you’ll find.
So, with that in mind, here are my (completely subjective) picks for Napa’s best and most interesting wineries to visit.
Oh, and please note — though I’ve spent countless days in the wine country, I haven’t been to every winery (there are hundreds), and many of Napa’s best wineries don’t operate visitor centers open to the public. I’m avoiding to some extent wineries that require reservations to visit; I know how wine country touring goes. I’m also including Carneros here, which is between Sonoma and Napa but usually “on the way” from San Francisco.
How to find all these places? If you don’t have a map, grab a copy of “Wine Country This Week,” a free magazine available at many wineries in the area. Their maps are stellar and cover the whole of California’s winegrowing regions.
Drinkhacker’s Top Napa Valley Wineries Worth Visiting (in alphabetical order)
Artesa – Postmodern facility built into a hillside in Carneros.
Beaulieu (BV) – Go straight to the reserve room, which is in its own building.
Casa Nuestra – Call ahead and ask to feed the goats.
Chateau Montelena – A piece of Napa history.
Clos du Val – Humble, solid wines.
Darioush – The most ostentatious winery — built with imported stone — in all of Napa.
Domaine Carneros – Midway between Sonoma and Napa, this classic French chateau offers fine pinots, sparklers, and cheese pairings.
Folio Winemakers’ Studio – Carneros tasting room with several smaller labels, many of which are very good. Vintage tractor out front.
Heitz – A Napa classic.
Opus One – Second-most ostentatious winery in the county. A landmark.
Pine Ridge – Always something interesting being poured.
Prager Port Works – Fortify your liver first.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars – Expensive tasting fee, but usually worth it.
V. Sattui – More for the deli (which is amazing) than the wine, though some good stuff is often being poured.
Vintners Collective – Another multi-label wine room, in an ancient building surviving in downtown Napa.
Got your own top Napa picks? Add them in the comments!
Coming tomorrow: Top Sonoma Wineries to Visit.