The Napa Valley is just 30 miles long and a handful of miles across. Yet, it’s so packed with attractions and distractions that it can be difficult to figure out where to begin. There are multiple ways to plan a visit depending on who’s going and for how long. Is it a quiet and reflective trip you seek, or a more broad, introductory experience? No matter your preference, we’ve got you covered with these destination recommendations.
Wine and Food Pairing Experiences
More and more wineries across the Napa Valley are offering bites tailored specifically for the wines they produce. These are the Napa pairing experiences you need to need to check out next time you find yourself in Northern California.
Along the Oakville Cross Road, B Cellars knows food. Rather than a standard menu, it pairs its wines via a series of “experiences”. “Sojourn” is the lightest offering, providing a mix of wines with cheeses. The “Oakville Trek” includes a foray through B Cellars’ gardens, followed by seasonal pairing of B-Bites. Meanwhile, for the truly hungry, the “Chef’s Garden Pairing” is four courses of farm-to-table fare served indoors or out. Book ahead; bcellars.com.
On a hillside that overlooks its estate in Carneros, this sparkling wine producer offers a beautiful terrace from which to taste its portfolio. The food menu includes a selection of local cheeses and charcuterie, along with smoked salmon and caviar. Tastings are held daily, with reservations required; domainecarneros.com.
Freemark Abbey/Two Birds/One Stone
This northern St. Helena-based winery is one of the few with a full restaurant attached, the recently opened Two Birds/One Stone, a California-inspired yakitori restaurant led by chefs Douglas Keane and Sang Yoon. The winery also offers courtyard tastings of its wines with light bites from the market café. Reservations recommended; freemarkabbey.com.
Robert Mondavi Winery
The place where much of Napa Valley’s sophistication in pairings blossomed, Mondavi devotes a large portion of its property to culinary exploration. Programs begin with small bites like chocolate and cheese, evolving into comprehensive lunch and dinner experiences, including a four-course Five Decades Dinner library wine tasting. Book ahead; robertmondaviwinery.com.
Round Pond Estate
This Rutherford wine producer celebrates the bounty of its expansive on-site gardens with their four-hour Garden to Table Brunch each Sunday. The experience begins with a tour of the gardens, followed by a cooking demonstration and wine pairing. Round Pond also makes olive oil and red wine vinegar onsite. Book ahead; roundpond.com.
Check out Part One of our Napa Winery Guide
Wineries with Art
There’s no denying that the natural beauty of the Napa Valley is its own form of art, but a growing number of wineries are devoting themselves to curating and exhibiting galleries of their own, showcasing everything from paintings to sculpture and photography.
The proprietors of Hall are serious art collectors and have much of their collection on display to the public at their properties. Guided tours are available to view the mostly modern pieces, from paintings to a 35-foot-tall stainless steel rabbit (anointed Bunny Foo Foo) that leaps from Hall Street Helena Vineyard; hallwines.com.
The Hess Collection
Proprietor Donald Hess is a longtime collector of art. He shares much of his collection within the winery’s walls and grounds, where he remains faithful to the 20 artists whose works he supports. The Museum Walk is a guided tour of the Hess Collection Art Museum offered with a wine tasting, or you can wander on your own without charge. (Note: The second floor of the museum is currently closed for renovations, but the rest of the museum is open. Please contact the winery for details about The Museum Walk; hesscollection.com.
This sparkling wine producer cultivates a gallery of fine art photography, offering a lovely, peaceful place to peruse works by a rotating selection of artists. Gorgeous prints of Western landscapes by Ansel Adams are a regular feature of the gallery, where wandering with a glass of wine is allowed. mummnapa.com.
Manicured gardens meet art and wine at this Rutherford-based estate along Highway 29. While many of its sculptures are outside amongst the trees and plants, it also maintains The Christopher Hill Gallery inside, a showcase for new artists from around the world. peju.com.
The only vineyard in the Napa Valley with its own aerial tram, the ride up to mountaintop winery offers sweeping views and a unique way to reach the Sterling Art Collection. There you can find original works by Picasso, Renoir and Chagall, in addition to a photo essay from Ansel Adams. General admission is $29 for adults, who will have the chance to taste current release wines, while those under 21 can tour for $15 (children under 3 are free); sterlingvineyards.com.
Breaking Out the Good/Rare Stuff
While many Napa Valley tasting rooms and wineries have special offerings tucked behind the counter, some are notable for their more unique experiences, including options such as library vintages or small-lot production wines to sample.
While this highly respected producer’s tasting room is open daily, schedule a private appointment for a chance to try current releases and other offerings available only to wine-club members. Also worth trying is the Taste of To Kalon, an opportunity to sample at least four vintages side by side of Alpha Omega’s famous Cabernet Sauvignon; aowinery.com.
The crème de la crème of experiences at this Rutherford winery—one of Napa’s most historically important—is the Georges de Latour Private Reserve Vertical Tasting. It’s a five-year vertical of this world-famous wine, and also includes a special sampling of one older, library vintage. Reservations are required for this special offering, which goes for $125/person; bvwines.com.
Offering appointments daily, Cathy Corison’s winery lies quietly along busy Highway 29 just south of St. Helena. While her structured, timeless bottlings are worth tasting on their own, the Corison Library Experience might be the best reason of all to make the trip to this winery. It’s a seated tasting of older-vintage Cabernet Sauvignon, occasionally including samplings of other small-lot varietal wines. The experience ($55) is offered hourly beginning at 10 am; corison.com.
Robert Biale Vineyards
This Zinfandel specialist is a rare breed in Cab-heavy Napa. It’s approach is unique to the region— employing winemaking techniques more commonly used to make Pinot Noir, including the use of French oak barrels. The Zinner Sanctum Private Tasting is a chance to go deep into Biale’s low-production, limited-release Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs. By appointment only; biale.com.