Spread over six picturesque small villages and only one hour’s drive from San Francisco. Napa valley nestled between two mountain ranges is the world’s most sought-after wine destination. Wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs from all over the globe flock to this place to experience the taste, culture, heritage, and tradition. Napa is considered to be the second most visited in California. (Disneyland is Number 1) Napa Valley attracts over 3 million people in the world annually and is home to over 500 wineries. We researched the most sought-after experiences and wineries in the region to walk you through some of them, to make your next holiday enticing, charming, and well-planned.
7 Best Napa Valley Wineries
Here are our top picks for wineries to visit while you are on a trip to Napa.
Stony Hill in St. Helena
Fred Mc Crea and Eleanor Mc Crea first saw this land in the early 1940s. The initial batch of vines was planted in 1948 and reaped their first harvest in 1952. Themselves being fans of Chardonnay, they diversified their plantings to the suggestion of the University of California’s viticulture department. After Eleanor’s passing in 1991, her son, daughter-in-law, and daughter are carrying forward the tradition of wine-making hand-in-hand with modern-day practices. In 1948, they planted vines for Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling and added Gewurztraminer and Semillon a couple of years later. Later, during the 21st century, they planted vines for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
This place has a history. You walk through the small pathways and suddenly feel that you had transcended into an era that came before we did. Beautiful, crisp, well-aged wines are what make this place unique and most popular among tourists. Established in 1948, this winery is a walk back to the golden era when they first planted grapes on this land. To add to the old world charm and charisma, the vineyard overlooks the family home, which was built in the 1940s by the landowners to house the couple- Fred and Eleanor and their son and daughter. This is precisely where you can experience wine tasting takes place to make the experience surreal. You can make the entire experience even more memorable by sipping through some Johnnie Walker as you stroll through this beautiful Napa Valley winery.
Larkmead Vineyard in Calistoga
A unique blend, this vineyard is loved by those who seek modern experiences and historic experiences alike. This pretty place is nestled in a breathtakingly beautiful corner of the Napa Valley; the vineyard spread across 110 acres overlooks wide fields, filled with lush plantings, and produces one of the world’s best Cabernet. The state-of-the-art winery was designed by a close family friend and renowned architect Howard Backen. Their tasting fee ranges from $45- $95 per guest.
This vineyard is famous for its beautifully mature Cabernet, open for tasting to the locals and the tourists. Dan Petroski, who owns and manages this acquired business of his, is mostly available on the property to meet and greet the guests. He is also known for talking to the guests to satisfy any questions that they have. It is an educational, blissful experience to be here and to see first-hand what Dan has done with the place. They accept visitors older than 21 years of age. Fun Fact: They also allow dogs as their guests (only if the dog is on a leash at all times). They recommend using the Silverado trail to avoid traffic hours in peak season.
Mayacamas in Napa
This 19th-century wine is another historic producer of wine in the valley. Dating back to as old as 1889, this winery attracts a lot of tourists. Many people believe that Napa Valley vineyards were all created after Prohibition, but Mayacamas is one of the few vineyards established in the 1800s. In 1889, it was founded by a farmer, John Henry Fisher. He planted vineyards and the stone winery he set stands even today.
Mayacamas age their unique wines in Oak Barrels, making it one of the very few in the region to do so and hence, highly coveted. This winery exhibits the world-class, classic style of winemaking, and preserving the age-ability of their wines, though visits to the estate are open from Tuesday through Saturday, reservations only. Their seated tasting is available for $35 per person. Pairing best-in-class wine with the majestic views of the lush winery is something you must add to your bucket list right now.
Far Niente in Oakville
When one looks at pictures of this winery, one naturally thinks about how picture-perfect, postcard-view like this place is. Its breathtaking beauty with the majestic hills, pine trees, and lush green carpet-like grass is complete with a small, perfect pond that adds to the sheer stunner.
Founded in 1885 by John Benson and developed in 1979, Far Niente is enchanting to say the least. After being abandoned in 1919 during Prohibition, Gil Nickel bought it in 1979. He restored it to the glory it once was. This is one of the many reasons why this place is a part of the prestigious National Register of Historic Places. Known to be the oldest Californian wine, Far Niente Sweet Muscat, vintage 1886, surfaced in a cellar in Marin County, California. Originally, John Benson hired Hamden McIntyre, the architect who designed Christian Brothers winery, now known as the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone. Chardonnay production is the primary USP of this region.
This particular winery is the place that has set a benchmark for other states to follow. The unique setting that the winery offers distinguishes it and sets it apart from its contemporaries. It is a fairly busy winery, so make sure that you make a reservation in advance. You must prepare to book at least four months in advance, even during the offseason. It is reasonably popular with the younger tourists because of its picture-perfect scenic surroundings.
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga
The gateway to a Tuscan experience in Napa, this 13th century styled castle inside the winery, is what dreams are made of. One million antique bricks were imported from Europe, and about 10,000 tonnes of local stone was hand-carved to create the castle. The castle has 107 rooms (out of which 95 are available for wine storing and wine-making) across eight levels. Spread across a sprawling 170 acres of lush green land, the fourth-generation winemaker Dario Sattui got 200 containers shipped from across the globe to complete the castle with vintage furnishing. Construction took 14 years.
Castello di Amoroso is reputed to be home to hand-crafted wines. It also has an award-winning Il Barone Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (94 Points, Robert Parker) to its name. The Castello di Amoroso’s wines are sold at the Castello exclusively. The Castello di Amoroso charges an entrance fee of $25 for access to the castle grounds and five wine tastings. Ensure to make a reservation as the winery is full most days, off-season days included.
Founded in 1997, Darioush Winery specializes in premium wines. It is an exporter of premium wines across the globe and is famous for its Bordeaux style estate wines. The unique architecture is visually appealing and is an inspiration from Persian Architecture. The owner is of Persian descent and he decided to give this winery a Persian feel. He ended up constructing a Palace to pay tribute to King Darius. The Darioush Winery comes complete with a Tasting Room whose setup is stunning. The place opens at about 10 am, and you can visit until 5 in the evening, every day. However, visitors are only welcome via appointment on Saturdays and Sundays. The private wine tasting is worth $ 150 per person. They serve their perfect wines with artisanal cheese and nuts.
For extraordinary wines that are aged to give you a balanced glass that is crisp and powerful and flood with flavor, the Darioush winery is a must on your trip to Napa. The breathtaking views of the Napa cuddled with rolling hillside fruit orchards is a sight to behold. Currently, the winery is taking noteworthy Covid measures to make its guests feel safe and welcome.
Where to Stay
I recommend staying in Calistoga at Solage Resort, they’ve got a spa, multiple hot pools, excellent food, loaner bikes, and it’s close to lots of wineries.