Napa wine has grown incredibly popular over the last couple of decades, and with that, wineries have been quick to build beautiful wine-tasting properties for visitors. When planning a trip to Napa it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of wineries to choose from. It can be difficult to know which wineries are worth the sometimes hefty tasting fee, which ones provide a good overall tasting experience, which ones have the most beautiful properties, and of course, which ones have wine that you will like. Here's a list of my favorite Napa wineries to help you plan your next visit:
Tasting Fee - $30+
Ease into your perfect day in Napa with some fantastic sparkling wines or pinots at Domaine Carneros. These are my favorite sparkling wines from Napa, and this property is also spectacular. They have a great all sparkling tasting or you can opt for a sparkling and pinot tasting, or even just enjoy a glass. No matter what you choose, I recommend sitting outside to fully enjoy all of the views that this castle on the hill has to offer.
Tasting Fee - $30
Cliff makes this list for having solid wines through and through. They're one of those places that says, “even if you don't like chardonnay, you'll like ours,” and they were right. Now, I don't think I'll ever willingly buy a bottle of chardonnay, but I also didn't pour theirs out. I think that every single one of their reds is delicious, and hope you agree! A fun part of this tasting experience is that their founder is a huge classic rock fan, so be on the lookout for tributes to classic rock during your visit.
Tasting Fee - $30
Paraduxx is a great stop to make, especially for red lovers. They give generous “tastings,” so keep that in mind when deciding to do your own or to share. Their tasting is more interesting than most as they do a few wines side by side for comparison. In the past they've done year over year comparisons and my favorite was a Howell Mountain vs. valley floor comparison. They're always switching it up, so you're bound to have something interesting while you're there. I also very much enjoy Paraduxx's service and outdoor seating area. Enjoy all of your tastings from the comfort of their cozy lawn furniture where your host will serve you.
Tasting Fee - $40 - 1/person must be purchased
This winery is up on Howell Mountain (I always love Howell Mountain wines!) where few GPS systems will work, so plan ahead. It's pricey and they're even one of those that says they won't waive tasting fees with bottle purchases. That said, their wine is incredible and the views from their tasting room are breathtaking. This is definitely a splurge spot, but I was very satisfied the one time I went (and they even waived a tasting fee when we purchased a bottle - didn't even have to ask!).
Tasting Fee - $30
Their property is nothing to write home about as it's just plopped down in the middle of downtown Yountville, but their wines are delicious and their bottle prices are more reasonable than most (many in the $20-40 range). I don't think I've ever tried a red of theirs that I didn't like (not a fan, however, of their chardonnay). Also, this winery is open until 7PM which is much later than most, so it's the perfect place for a final stop.
If you're looking for a wine club, Girard is a great first one to join. For $300-500 per year you'll get four four-bottle shipments (16 bottles of wine) and free tastings for up to four people every time you visit their tasting room (in a private area it you'd like). You also get 20% off all of their wine - including the 16 bottles you buy throughout the year. If you have a few people visiting Napa with you even a couple of times a year, it might make sense (and again, their wine is delicious).
Bonus: Looking for something in Sonoma?
Tasting Fee - $15
Heading over to Sonoma will often be a more budget friendly experience than Napa. Chateau St. Jean has a beautiful property and a solid wine list. If you're with a group, you can also choose to forgo the tasting and simply purchase a bottle or two to enjoy outside (where they often have live music).
Do you have a favorite in Napa or Sonoma? Let me know which ones!