Where to Go Winetasting in Napa Valley

Large scenic estates. Intimate tasting rooms in downtown Napa. There’s a tasting for every taste in this famous California wine region.

Where to Go Winetasting in Napa Valley

Twomey Lazy Creek Vineyard is one of the growing areas for Silver Oak Cellars.

Courtesy of Silver Oak

The Napa Valley is an epicurean fantasy come to life. Spanning small towns like Napa, Rutherford, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga, the region north of San Francisco is home to Michelin-star restaurants, luxurious resorts with private hot springs, and (of course) over 43,000 acres of vineyards growing grapes for the valley’s world-famous cabernet sauvignons (as well as other varietals).

With close to 500 wineries with tasting rooms across Napa Valley—be it an intimate downtown tasting room, airy hipster haven with ’60s-inspired decor, or large estate with a replica Tuscan castle—choosing where to taste can be daunting. Although you’re sure to discover your own favorites, start your adventure at one of our top spots for winetasting in Napa Valley.

Planning your visit: What to know before you go

In Napa Valley, reservations are strongly recommended and sometimes even required—especially on weekends. For same-day visits, you can often call the winery or tasting room to see if there’s availability. Also, tastings are a daytime affair. Tasting rooms typically open around 11 a.m. and close at 5 or 6 p.m., so schedule your day accordingly.

Tastings in Napa typically aren’t free. Most wineries and tasting rooms charge a fee for tastings ranging anywhere from $25 to $100 or more, but many (not all) will waive the fee with the purchase of a bottle of wine.

For a day of tasting, plan to visit two or three wineries. If you don’t have a designated driver to shuttle your group between tastings, it is possible to use Uber or Lyft to get between wineries. Alternatively, hire a private transportation for the day from companies like Napa Valley Tours & Transportation, Pure Luxury Transportation, and Beau Wine Tours & Limousine Service.

Read More: What You Need to Know Before Winetasting in Napa Valley

Winetastings for beginners

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V. Sattui Winery is an excellent place for a laid-back tasting or picnic with friends.

Courtesy of V. Sattui Winery

The wine world can be intimidating if you don’t know your stuff, but these wineries excel at making beginners feel comfortable.

Robert Mondavi Winery (Oakville)

Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, named for its founder, originally opened in 1966 in nearby Rutherford. The winery was designed in mission-style architecture, complete with a bell tower and expansive archway. Inside this superlative structure, the late Mondavi set up different tasting stations throughout the winery; all told, visitors can sample more than a dozen different wines in one afternoon.

V. Sattui Winery (St. Helena)

Sattui Winery in St. Helena has an extensive selection of varietals, including several single-vineyard cabernet sauvignons, the most dominant varietal in the region. Visitors can choose between a tasting on its outdoor patio or inside at the marketplace tasting room that doubles as a general store. (Don’t skip its stellar selection of house-made charcuterie or sandwiches.) A popular spot on Napa’s wine trail, the store and large picnic grounds are often near-full of families and groups of friends chatting over bottles of wine, making it an excellent choice for a more casual tasting experience.

Family-owned wineries

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Brown Estate has a comfortable and welcoming tasting room in downtown Napa.

Photo by Jessie Beck

Nichelini (St. Helena)

Off the main thoroughfare of the Valley (the south-north running St. Helena Highway), where Highway 128 veers east, is Nichelini Family Winery, the oldest continuously operated family winery in Napa. Founded in 1884 by Italian Swiss immigrants Anton and Caterina Nichelini, the winery is now run by Aimée Sunseri, the seventh generation of Nichelini to make wine here. Its small-batch wines include easy-to-drink red blends, award-winning petite sirah, and refreshing sparkling wines; the staff is approachable and friendly; and the tasting room sits on a pleasant creekside patio with a large picnic area for those who want to linger.

Brown (Napa)

Established in 1996, Brown is family run and the only Black-owned winery in Napa Valley. Cabernets may be king in this region, but Brown is mainly known for its bright zinfandels (although it has a couple of cabernets as well). The winery itself, which is just down the road from Nichelini in Chiles Valley, is closed to the public, but its comfortable and stylish tasting room is centrally located in downtown Napa, making it a great first or last stop on your wine tour.

Caymus Vineyards (Rutherford)

Run by the Wagner family since the 1970s, Caymus Vineyards is known for its classic Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. Visitors can taste them at its beautiful stone-walled winery, complete with outdoor seating in a peaceful, verdant garden, in Rutherford.

If you’re willing to venture out of the valley, the winery also has a brand new tasting room in Suisun Valley, a half-hour drive east of downtown Napa. Tastings are hosted in a massive glass building designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the architecture firm behind retail stores for Apple and Blue Bottle.

Best wineries for a luxury experience

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Fans of Silver Oak wines will recognize the water tower at its tasting room in Napa from the brand’s wine labels.

Courtesy of Silver Oak

Napa has a reputation for being a bit fancy. Though that’s not always the case, these higher-end wineries embrace the valley’s more opulent side, offering oenophiles and wine nerds the chance to enjoy acclaimed bottles in style.

Silver Oak (Oakville)

With vineyards and tasting rooms in both Sonoma County and Napa Valley, Silver Oak’s wines showcase the variety of flavor profiles found in both regions. Founded 50 years ago with a focus on high-quality cabernets, it eventually won acclaim and a strong following for its wines—so much so that some of its earlier releases were considered “cult wines,” or rare and difficult-to-find bottles. Although some would say it is no longer small enough to qualify as a cult winery, it’s still worth a visit to the tasting room where a library of these vintages sit on display.

Opus One Winery (Oakville)

Opus One Winery is an experience. The building itself resembles a modern fortress built into a grass-covered hillside, where founders Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild and Robert Mondavi (yes, of Robert Mondavi Winery) forged one of California’s original cult wineries in 1978. Once inside, be prepared for an impressive winetasting. Opus One only makes . . . err, two wines: its cabernet-dominant flagship blend, Opus One, and Overture, a blend of grapes that didn’t quite make the cut for Opus One. Tastings generally consist of a current Opus One vintage as well as a couple from its library.

Duckhorn (St. Helena)

One of the most recognized producers of merlot in the Valley, Duckhorn is a welcome break from an otherwise cabernet-dominated region. It first built a name for itself as a small winery in the ’80s as a producer of luxury merlots, but has since grown and scaled its production (and even recently became a publicly traded company). Nonetheless, it’s worth the trip for a tasting on its breezy, wraparound veranda.

Quintessa (Rutherford)

Each block of the vineyards at Quintessa—which mainly produces cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and carménère grapes—is farmed organically. All of its wines contain a combination of the above, which visitors can sample while gazing at the property and foothills of the nearby Vaca mountain range.

Best wineries for food pairings

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Persian-style columns line the entrance at Darioush estate.

Courtesy of Darioush

It’s become increasingly common to see food-and-wine pairings on tasting room menus. Here are a few of our favorites.

B Cellars (Oakville)

B Cellars in Oakville offers year-round food-and-wine pairings where guests can enjoy small bites designed to complement the wines served with them, such as a strawberry and salmon tartare paired with a summery rosé, or savory pork gyoza alongside an aromatic pinot noir. After the tasting, join a guided tour around the garden, vineyards, and wine caves where you can learn more about its production.

The Prisoner Wine Company (St. Helena)

The Prisoner Wine Company, known for its bold red wine blends, drew inspiration for its unusual name from a sketch called Le Petit Prisonnier by 19th-century Spanish artist Francisco Goya. Painted in protest of the Spanish War of Independence in 1808, it serves as an inspiration for the brand both literally (it appears on the label of its flagship wine) and philosophically (through its advocacy of racial justice and donations to the Equal Justice Initiative).

At the winery, an industrial, modern space in St. Helena that opened in 2018, don’t expect your typical Napa tasting. Yes, you can choose a standard sampling of wine, or even a food-and-wine pairing with several small bites, but (depending on availability), it also offers a dim sum–and-wine pairing as well as a wine-and–house DJ experience, where guests can taste wine while its DJ-in-residence spins.

Darioush Estate (Napa)

Expect an impressive arrival at Darioush Estate, where Persian-style columns line the entrance at its spacious Napa property—fitting for a winery whose proprietor, Darioush Khaledi, was inspired by wine culture in the ancient literary city of Shiraz. At the wine-and-food pairing, you’ll see the theme continue: Wines are served alongside mezze such as flatbread and chicken skewers.

Best wineries for scenery

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Alpha Omega Winery is both picturesque and keen on sustainability: It uses the area’s largest commerical solar microgrid.

Photo by Suzanne Becker Bronk

Clos du Val (Napa)

Clos du Val in Napa offers panoramic views of the Rutherford area alongside pours of its fruit-forward cabernet sauvignons and Bordeaux-inspired blends. Visitors can enjoy a tasting on its sunny, outdoor patio or simply buy wine à la carte to sip in its garden and take in the views.

Hall (St. Helena)

Owned by husband-and-wife duo Craig and Kathryn Hall, Hall’s tasting room in St. Helena is an impressively large, airy, and modern spot. Winetastings in the building’s partially open-air bar overlook a vineyard and garden dotted with sculptures; pair an art walk with one of the winery’s cabernet sauvignons, merlots, or sauvignon blancs.

Alpha Omega Winery (Rutherford)

Alpha Omega Winery is separated from State Highway 29 by a giant fountain that has become something of a local icon in the valley. Outdoor tastings are held on a shaded patio overlooking the fountain and surrounding vineyards, but large floor-to-ceiling windows allow those opting for an indoor tasting to enjoy the view as well. On the tasting menu, Alpha Omega pours a range of varietals using grapes from appellations throughout the Napa Valley region.

Ashes & Diamonds (Napa)

  • Tasting cost: $75–$95 per person for winetasting only, $75–$165 for food-and-wine pairings
  • Reservations required

With its 1960s design motifs, midcentury architecture, and Joshua Tree–esque rock garden, Ashes & Diamonds Winery creates a visually appealing experience at every turn. As you might expect from a winery with such a playful and colorful approach to design, its offerings (which include a standard winetasting, wine-and-cheese pairing, and prix fixe lunch and wine pairing) are far from stuffy. Kids are also welcome and on weekends, it’s not uncommon to find groups of families whiling away the afternoon here.

Best wineries for the whole family

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Castello di Amorosa was built to replicate a medieval Tuscan castle.

Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa

Believe it or not, some Napa Valley wineries welcome kids, too. If you’re bringing the littles along, these wineries are ideal to visit for a tasting.

Castello di Amorosa (Calistoga)

Castello di Amorosa, which has been built to replicate a Tuscan castle from medieval times (complete with bricks and stones shipped over from Italy), is a family favorite. Simply wandering around the dungeons and turrets is an adventure for guests of every age. While the winery offers dozens of wines for grownups to taste, younger visitors will receive a glass of grape juice, as well as the chance to meet the winery’s resident emus, goats, dogs, and other animals.

Honig Winery (Rutherford)

Adults come to Honig Winery to sample the winery’s sauvigon blancs and cabernet sauvignons on its shady garden patio, but this tasting room hasn’t forgotten about its littlest visitors. To keep kids (and parents) happy, all children get goldfish crackers, apple juice, and coloring supplies during their visit.

Matt Villano contributed to the reporting of this story.

>>Next: Things to Know Before Winetasting in Napa Valley

Jessie Beck is a San Francisco-based writer and senior manager of SEO and video at AFAR. She contributes to travel gear, outdoor adventure, and local getaway coverage.
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