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.
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.