While most wine-lovers enjoy visiting California wineries, it can be super difficult to narrow down your choices when you realize how many there are to choose from! This is the reason why I put out a few recommendations last year for my favorite wineries in Napa, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the overwhelming response I got! People loved it so much that I’ve decided to do a whole series on wine recommendations. Though I’ve already covered some in Napa, there are so many I enjoy that I thought a part 2 was necessary.
Before we get into the list, I want to make sure to mention that my recommendations are for parties of 4 to visit. Some of these wineries are quite small and can’t accommodate large groups and some require reservations – even if there are only two or four in your party. Make sure to call ahead or visit their website before you plan your trip!
You should also ask yourself a few questions before you start planning your visit. First, who are you going with? Trips with novices who just want to have a fun afternoon are different than trips with experienced wine-lovers who are looking to expand their knowledge or palates. You should always have a goal in mind when planning a winery trip to ensure a good experience for all. My list below (and all my winery recommendation lists) are organized by goals, so this should help you make the perfect choices. Here we go!
I want a good winery for beginners
Recommendations: Beringer; V. Sattui; Schramsberg
If you’re going with wine newbies, it’s always best to choose a winery that has more going on than just wine tastings and you’ll get exactly that at Beringer. The team at Beringer has a commitment to quality that can be admired by all whether they are really into wine or not. There is also a lot to do here from tours through the old winery and historic tunnels to tastings at the historic Rhine House. No one in your group will be disappointed by a trip to Beringer!
Got some foodies in your group? Taking them to V. Sattui in the heart of Napa Valley is a sure winner. With three tasting rooms to choose from, knowledgeable staff, and plenty of wine and food experiences, wine veterans and beginners alike will have fun and learn something new. Depending on the weather, you can picnic from items chosen from their artisan deli or enjoy wood-fired pizza or their weekend barbeques, all paired with the perfect wine.
A lot of wine beginners start their wine appreciation journey with sweeter whites or sparkling wines. If you have those in your group, you definitely need to check out Schramsberg Vineyards, where they’ve perfected the art of sparkling wine. When you visit this winery, you’ll learn all about the traditional method of producing sparkling wine while enjoying sips of it and exploring the winery’s underground caves. Perfect for those who like a bit of the bubbly!
I want a spectacular view
Recommendations: Newton; Kuleto Estate Winery; Chappellet
If views are what you’re looking for, it’s hard to beat Newton, which offers a one-of-a-kind tasting experience that involves a drive to the top of their property in a utility vehicle and enjoying a tasting on a platform in the middle of the vines 1600 feet above the valley! Built to blend into the mountain, Newton boasts a pagoda, Chinese red gate, a London phone booth, and English gardens. Perfectly eclectic and enjoyable.
Located on the eastern edge of Napa Valley and overlooking Lake Hennessey, Kuleto Estate Winery is on an amazing mountaintop estate featuring 82 individual vineyard blocks. The variety of elevations and exposures and the largely undeveloped wilderness surroundings make for a touring and tasting experience that is difficult to rival.
Sometimes it’s not just the outdoors that provides the scenery when it comes to wineries. At Chappellet, you’ll also be blown away by the triangular building that houses their tasting room and production. Designed to look like it was built into a hill, it’s upholstered and decorated with beautiful wood and provides the perfect backdrop for tasting this winery’s large variety of Chardonnays, Cabernets, and Pinot Noirs.
I want the hidden gems
Recommendations: Nickel and Nickel; Corison; Paradigm
The classic farmstead from the 1880s may not look like it houses an ultra-modern wine production that produces top-tier Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons, but don’t be fooled! Nickel and Nickel is a must-see for those who like finding hidden gems. You can tour their historic barns, take a peek at their 30,000 square foot subterranean barrel cellar, or wander through the 2800 square foot Sullenger House built in 1884, all while sipping some of the finest wines Napa has to offer.
Want to get a glimpse inside a small, family-owned working winery? Then Corison is the place for you! Dubbed one of the best Napa wineries to visit by Food and Wine magazine, Corison has plenty to see in their water barn, palm house, winery barn and arboretum and has a library sampling of their older vintages that made winemaker Cathy Corison famous in the world of wine.
Great wine requires great passion by the winemakers, and you’ll find no greater example of this than when you visit Paradigm. Not only do owners Ren and Marilyn and their winemaker Heidi Barrett have a passion for the wine they make, they also have a strong determination to preserve the small, family-owned style of winemaking that Napa was built on. You’ll learn all about their hands-on approach and their eco-friendly farming techniques when you visit Paradigm and experience their signature Cabernet Sauvignon.
I want to impress
Recommendations: Cardinale, Darioush Winery; Pride
Intimate tasting experiences and a singular focus on Cabernet Sauvignon is what you’ll find when you treat your group to a trip to Cardinale. Winemaker Christopher Carpenter is a true renaissance man with wide-ranging passions for music, food, and making the most distinctive wines in the area. Your group will be just as impressed by him as they are by his memorable wines.
Looking to impress wine-lovers who think they’ve seen everything? Take them to Darioush and prove them wrong. This gorgeous and unique winery is based on the deep winemaking history of its owners’ home country: Persia (modern-day Iran). From the breathtaking décor to the rituals of hospitality that are displayed by every member of the team, your guests will not soon forget their experience at Darioush or the amazing Bordeaux-style wine they produce.
Your group can’t help but be impressed by a seated tasting experience in the caves of Pride Mountain Vineyards. Elegantly furnished and completely removed from the main visitor area, this is the ideal place to experience the winery’s large selection of reds and whites. Their premier seated experience includes current releases and limited release offerings, showcasing this winery’s superb skills.
No matter which of these wineries you choose, I know you won’t be disappointed! If you do make a trip, make sure to tell them that Angie An recommended them and, as always, be responsible and drink happy! Cheers.