Whats The Difference Between Napa Valley And Sonoma
These two regions of California wine country could not be more different and theyre both amazing. If youre trying to decide where to go in wine country and want to know all the differences between Napa and Sonoma, and which region is best for YOUR trip, check out my blog post here: Napa vs. Sonoma.
Biking around the valley is one of my favorite things to do in Napa and definitely a hot air balloon ride!
Travel Tips & Logistics
If youre planning on visiting Napa Valley, we recommend flying into San Francisco airport , renting a car, and then choosing a hotel that fits your travel style in the Valley itself. The drive from San Francisco to Napa takes a little over an hour. Remember if youre wine tasting, please be responsible and do not drink and drive.
Winetraveler Tip: Want to stay on a vineyard? Take a look at some of our favorite vineyard hotels in Napa and get updates on flight deals into San Francisco as they arise. Separately, save yourself the hassle of planning and driving, and consider booking a privately guided wine tour experience in Napa with concierge service.
What Makes Iowa Wine Different
It was unanimous between the 4 Iowa wineries that we virtually “toured” that farming wine grapes in Iowa and the Midwest is difficult, challenging, and rewarding.
Iowa has a short growing season and that limits the type of grapes as well as the length of growth time on the vine. All of which impacts the flavor of wine.
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Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
This winery helped put Napa Valley wine on the map when their cabernet sauvignon won the 1976 Judgment of Paris, and now their Cellarius Kitchen Experience is also one of the most ample wine and food experiences around. Chef Travis Westrope whips up dishes like hamachi tartare and a creative interpretation of steak frites using porcini braised short ribs, which match with two whites and two reds. For something a little more chill, theres also a picnic-style food and wine pairing , which includes four wines and bites presented in a box. That option is specifically served next to Fay Lake, a stunning spot that few Stags Leap guests get to see.
This famous sparkling house offers a pair of casual and outdoor food and wine experiences made for small groups. Picnic on the Lawn comes with a chic basket full of mini bottles of sparkling wine, cheese and charcuterie, fruit, salads and sandos, with the option to add other snacks. The Private Cabanas experience is truly made for Instagram photoshoots and comes with two kinds of wine, plus a delightful wine country lunch to eat at your leisure.
Loveliest Backdrop For A Cultural Experience
Courtesy of Robert Mondavi Winery
7801 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, CA 94574, 226-1395
Yelp: 4 stars, 1092 reviews Tasting price: Starting at $40
Appreciation of art, food, and wine were a core part of Robert Mondavis life philosophy and the winery he built is an homage to all three. Once you pass the seven-foot-tall Robert Mondavi sculpture that flanks the half-moon entryway of this iconic Mission-style winery, youll be able to experience the passion that Robert Mondavi had for the Napa Valley region.
Insider tip: When the winerys beloved Summer Concert Series returns, which has been in place for 50+ years, be sure to snag your tickets as they tend to go fast. Until that returns, check out the variety of culinary-focused events offered at the winery, such as the Garden to Table Dinner, which includes a three-course wine dinner and live fire demonstration.
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Luna Vineyards Napa Ca
Co-founders Michael Moone and George Vare launched Luna Vineyards in 1995. The small estate vineyard is both magical and modern, and close by to downtown Napa . You can leave your car parked at your Napa B& B and easily access the vineyard via bicycle. Luna is the largest producer of Pinot Grigio in Napa. They offer a sunny patio area with ample comfy chairs to relax in while tasting their wines. The location feels more like a wine bar than a working winery, with music playing and a relaxed comfortable setting. You can also catch the beautiful scenic views of the historic Silverado Trail overlooking the vineyards from the rooftop tower. Besides Pinot Grigio, they specialize in Atlas Peak mountain varietals, which include Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. Reservations are recommended and the estate is open daily from 10:30am6pm.
Luna VineyardsAn impressive estate and a single wine are the focus of this exclusive appointments-only tasting. Photo courtesy of Opus One
Option : Axr Napa Valley
A true hidden gem, AXR is tucked away in the redwoods and offers a private tasting experience unlike any you have ever experienced. A walk in the redwoods, a fairy circle , and then glorious wines, some of the best in Napa. Wine buyers, this is your stop!
WINE PASS DEAL:Monday-Thursday and with reservation Spend $100 on wine and get TWO free tasting and tour experiences, normally $75 per person.
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Napa Valley Is Open For Tasting Here Are 8 Special Experiences
Napa Valley is back open for business and after three long months of closures, local wineries are ready to welcome back guestswith the necessary safety precautions, or course.
All wine tastings are now by appointment only, so make a reservation before you go. Wineries are also limiting large groups and operating at reduced capacities. The good news is that the Napa wine tasting experience will now feel more intimate and exclusive without the usual crowds. Here are eight wineries offering unique experiences in the Covid era, from wine picnics and private cabanas to a rugged vineyard tour and a twilight tasting.
Courtesy of Trefethen Family Vineyards
Trefethen Family Vineyards
Reserve a food and wine pairing in the garden or on an outdoor deck at Trefethen. The Taste the Estate experience pairs a flight of wines with epicurean bites like summer squash fritter with tarragon-spiked goat cheese or a caramelized spring onion and wild mushroom tartlet. If you’re celebrating a special occasionor planning a proposal, perhaps?snag the one table available on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings for the new Twilight at Trefethen offering . You’ll have the entire estate to yourself for the Taste the Estate experience. // 1160 Oak Knoll Ave. , trefethen.com
Ashes & Diamonds
Oakville Ranch Winery
Charles Krug Winery
Round Pond Estate
St. Supery Estate Vineyards & Winery
Swim At Boutique Hotel Pools
Many of the people going to Napa Valley are looking for a very luxurious retreat, and the hotels in the area have certainly stepped up to meet that demand. Throughout the entire valley you can find very high-end boutique hotels that are a treat just to see. While staying at these upper-echelon accommodations is outside of most peoples budgets, grabbing a drink and spending a day by the pool is much more affordable. If youre looking for the best of the best – like the place the Kardashians stay – head to Auberge du Soleil in St. Helena. After your swim, maybe you can book a spa treatment, too!
Auberge du Soleil Pool
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The Best Wineries In Napa
There are fantastic wineries spread throughout the entire Napa Valley region! Whether you are taking the classic route on Highway 29 or heading up to hillside destination wineries along the Silverado Trail, you can find great wineries in Napa sprinkled throughout the densely planted valley good wine is ubiquitous in the region!
The best wineries combine delicious, balanced wine with spectacular views. Each individual producer will have their own spin, but as a rule, valley fruit tends to be richer, broader, and juicier and mountain fruit tends to be more savory and elegant.
As far as what to try, Cabernet Sauvignon is the best-known grape from Napa, but you can also find killer examples of Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot.
Below, Ive organized the best wineries in Napa by their best or most interesting qualities!
*Note: At the time of writing, all Napa wineries require reservation due to COVID-19 health & safety measures.
The 10 Best Winery Tours In Napa Valley
Courtesy of Pine Ridge Vineyards
With more than 400 wineries throughout the region, picking the best winery tours in Napa Valley can be, simply put, a bit daunting. Luckily, weve combined our insider knowledge with the top online reviews to put together a list of the best of the best, so you can focus on what matters most the wine. Here are the 10 best winery tours to experience in Napa Valley.
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The Best Time Of The Year To Visit Napa Valley
Image in partnership with Bob McClenahan Photography
Regardless of when you plan to visit, be it next weekend or next fall, Napa Valley is always a good idea. After all, theres a reason why Napa remains one of the most visited regions in California, and, believe it or not, wine is only part of the equation.
Napa Valley truly offers something for everyone, thanks to its world-class wineries, stunning scenery, luxe accommodations, Michelin-starred restaurants, restorative spas, arts and culture, unique shopping, and well, we could go on and on. However, its not just the endless array of activities that draws visitors, its also the good weather. Napa enjoys a mild, Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunny days throughout the year, making this Northern California wine region not only well-suited for growing grapes, but an ideal destination for visitors any time of year.
The best time of year to visit Napa Valley really depends on the type of experience you want to enjoy, as every season offers a different slice of Wine Country life. To help you plan the perfect getaway, regardless of the time of year, weve put together a seasonal guide to visiting Napa Valley.
COVID-19 Update: Good news! Napa County has moved into the Red Tier as of March 3, 2021. To read more about whats open, visit our pandemic news page for the latest updates.
For Breakfast / Coffee / Juices
I go here almost every trip to Napa! Obsessed with their chilaquiles and avocado toast with smoked salmon. They also have great coffee . So if youre in a rush to get to the wineries and just want a quick breakfast and coffee spot, look no further.
Casual grab-and-go coffee and AMAZING food. If youre in the St. Helena area, this is your spot! I love the crustless quiche and the breakfast burrito.
Napa Valley Juice
This St. Helena health food store has the BEST fresh juices for takeaway. So if youre addicted to your first-thing-in-the-morning celery juice like me, this is your spot. Also right across the street from the Station so if youre staying in St. Helena, these two make a perfect morning routine
This spot in Yountville ranks right up there with my favorite dinner spots anywhere. Celebrity chef Michael Chiarello brings his top notch chef skills to this amaaaazing contemporary californian-italian restaurant in an atmosphere so uniquely Napa. Check out their incredible wine list and think of me when you order a glass of Nickel & Nickel merlot. The Nickels are great friends with Bottega, and its actually where I had my very first glass of my now-favorite wine.
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Tips For Going Wine Tasting In Napa Valley
If you want to savor your wine tasting time in Napa Valley you shouldnt schedule more than 3-4 wineries per day. We visited four wineries in one weekend.
Due to the Coronavirus restrictions, the wine tastings are now by appointment only, so you need to make a reservation before you go.
Wineries are also limiting large groups and are operating at reduced capacities, which actually make the Napa wine tasting experience will now feel more intimate than usual.
What To Wear For Wine Tasting In Napa
Our guests often ask us What should I wear to my Napa wine tasting? or Is there a dress code for wine tasting?
Dont worry, theres no dress code but we have some tips to help make your wine tasting tour more comfortable.
Check out our photo gallery to help you decide what to wear wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma. *Note: These photos are of real guests on our real Wine Country tours, not stock photos.
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Some Quick Napa History:
In 1976, a wine tasting called The Paris Tasting took place in France that changed the future of California wines forever. Like crusty old admissions officers contemplating the acceptance of an eager freshman into their established, hundreds-of-years-old University, accredited French wine professionals blind-tasted French red and white wines against California Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays, and, shocking just about everyone in the world as much as it shocked the tasters themselves, the California wines won. Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and Chateau Montelenas Chardonnay took first place and, for the first time in history, it became clear that someone could rival the French when it came to wine. Somms all over France scratched their heads while California, and the rest of the world, responded rapidly. In the next ten years, the number of California wineries more than tripled, and, in the 40 years since the tasting, the quality and price of California wines has climbed sevenfold, soaring their retail value to over $14 billion last year.
If I sound passionate about this, its because I absolutely am.
What Wineries To Visit In Napa Valley
Napa is home to several hundred wineries. Some are open to the public, others are not. Planning a perfect wine trip and choosing which wineries to visit is an overwhelming task, even if you visited the area before. The wealth of options, the elegance of the tasting rooms, the art collections exposed in some of them, can make your head spin.
In the end, choosing which wineries to visit comes down to your preferences. Some people prefer the small boutique wineries, with a more informal atmosphere. Others are looking for a wineries that focus on specific wine stiles and varieties. But most folks traveling to Napa Valley simply want to have a good time and like to go wine tasting in lively venues like restaurants, or big tasting rooms.
There are several websites that pride themselves in their knowledge of this area and provide a pretty comprehensive list of wineries. In this post Im going to talk about the wineries we visited during our trip to Napa, but please dont limit your experience only to these. Every day new wineries and wine tasting rooms appear in Napa Valley, so visiting as many as you can will help you discover many more interesting ones. That is the fun of wine tasting in Napa Valley!
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Admire The Scenery From Above In A Hot Air Balloon
The rolling hills and mountains of Napa Valley are stunning from every angle. One angle that many people really love to view them from is above! Napa Valley is famous for its hot air balloon rides as they provide some of the best views of any hot air balloon ride in the world. In fact, most sources say Napa Valley is one of the top-5 places in the world to go for a hot air balloon ride!
We didnt have the opportunity to go on one, as Angel was pregnant and its advised that pregnant women stay away from hot air balloons. If it werent for that, though, we absolutely would have done it. The hot air balloons in Napa Valley tend to leave bright and early so that you can see the sunrise from way up high. Some of them even offer a champagne-fueled breakfast at their facilities after you land. If you have the time, this is a must-do!
Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery
This family-owned Iowa winery is right on highway 965. And that’s the inspiration behind the name of the wine we tried: Nine: Sixty-Five. It’s open for tastings, weddings, and even has a restaurant!
Kent, the gentleman from Cedar Ridge, was so passionate when talking about how the blending of the grape varieties was very intentional in this wine. It was blended in hopes of showing a taste of home.
The wine we tasted, Nine: Sixty-Five, uses building blocks of different and unique grape varietals. It’s aged in barrels shared with the distillery and gives off a very cozy and homey vibe. The price point is $16.
Pair this wine with food, keeping in mind, “what grows together, goes together.” Iowa is famous for pig farming so how about a pork dinner like my Stuffed Spinach Pork Loin. Or something more earthy like my Mushroom Lentil Risotto.
Check out Cedar Ridge Winery on , or Cedar Ridge Website.
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Plan A Delightful Day Of Wine Tasting In Napa Valley 2021
An adventurous day of wine tasting in Napa Valley is best begun at our historic and intimate Napa Valley Inn. Youll start your morning in one of our elegant guest rooms enrobed in Comphy Brand linens. Slip into a fluffy robe for a morning of relaxation, which is best paired with a hot cup of coffee or even a mimosa if you prefer. Next up, our gourmet breakfast. You can ask to have it brought up to your room or enjoyed in our socially-distanced dining room. Either way, our house-made selections from frittata to french toast will be the fuel you want to start off your wine tasting in Napa tour the right way.
Then wed love to help you plan your day of wine tasting in Napa Valley. At the Candlelight Inn, we have all of the insider knowledge youll need to make the most of your wine tasting in Napa experience a success. We even offer some thoughtfully curated Napa Valley wine tasting packages. Heres a list of just a handful of classic spots you wont want to miss: