Taking a trip to Napa Valley for the first time and unsure of which wineries to visit? Traveler Katie, traveled to California on one of our Food & Wine Tours to see and taste the best of the Golden State. A self-professed Cabernet fan, read on to learn about Katie’s top picks for which wineries to visit in Napa Valley.
Location: St. Helena
Why visit this winery: Aside from having the opportunity to taste some out-of-this-world wines, you must visit Charles Krug winery simply to see what all the buzz is about! They’ve won awards for everything from their gorgeous Redwood cellar and their glamorous tasting room—which helped them earn the “Best of Wine Tourism Award for Architecture and Landscape” in 2015—to the way they run their day-to-day operations. It’s a no brainer—you’d be remiss not to check out this Peter Mondavi family winery while in California wine country.
Favorite tasting: Charles Krug is my new go-to for Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m a fan of big-bodied red wine, which makes it all the more shocking I had never tried Charles Krug’s Cabernet Sauvignon prior to my trip to Napa. Now it’s the first bottle I seek out when I walk into any wine shop!
Location: Sonoma Coast, the Petaluma Gap
Why visit this winery: Believe it or not, this winemaker is the same family that brought us the Jacuzzi tub! The atmosphere they’ve built into Jacuzzi Family Vineyards is just as relaxing and soothing as their bath and spa line the name is most known for. The patio décor and European courtyard setting create a sort of “old world” feel that encourages you to kick your feet up and enjoy some great wine in the California sun.
Favorite tasting: The best thing I tasted at this winery wasn’t actually wine… it was olive oil! Jacuzzi also makes homemade olive oil, and delicious doesn’t even begin to describe its tastiness. As a huge fan of Spain, where most of the world’s olives and olive oils come from, I have a high standard for olive oil. The oils I tasted at Jacuzzi met those high expectations, and maybe even surpassed them! There were over 25 flavors and varietals—my favorite flavors were the Sevillano, the Arbosana, and the Italian Blend.
Location: Los Carneros & Yountville
Why visit this winery: Domaine Chandon was the first French-owned sparkling wine venture in the U.S. in 1973. You may recognize the name from the famous Champagne producer Moet & Chandon—this is the same Chandon! If you’re interested in a sparkling wine tasting while in Napa or Sonoma, Domaine Chandon is the place to do it. With an extensive tasting room and beautiful outside terrace, you’re guaranteed to get the true Napa experience.
Favorite tasting: Although I thoroughly enjoyed the sparkling wine tasting, my favorite wine at this vineyard was actually a still wine: Pinot Meunier. It’s not every day that you find a wine made with 100% Pinot Meunier grapes, but I sure would drink a glass of this wine every day! Its taste is unique because your first impression is that of a fruity, light-bodied red, but it has a strong spicy finish.
Location: Napa Valley
Why visit this winery: This vineyard is unique in the fact that the winery itself is perched 300 feet above the beautiful rolling hills of Napa Valley. Plus, you can soak in a full 360-degree-view of the landscape in the aerial tram that takes passengers to the majestic Greek-inspired tasting area high above the valley. The views at Sterling Vineyards are incredible and the wine is equally remarkable. It’s an experience you’ll never forget, especially because you get to bring home the wine glass you used for the tasting as a souvenir!
Favorite tasting: I was lucky enough to be visiting the vineyard on a day when they were sampling one of their limited-edition bottles, and I quickly decided it was my favorite of the day. If you can get your hands on a taste (or even better, a whole bottle!) of Sterling’s Celebration Red Wine, you’re in for a true treat.**
What’s your favorite winery in Napa Valley? Tell us what we missed on Facebook!