10 on tuesday– vineyards

I am routinely asked what my favorite vineyards are in The Napa Valley. While every vineyard has something to offer, whether it be the wine, the experience, the view or the food, here’s what I recommend (in no particular order):

1. Round Pond Amazing Cab and even better Sauvignon Blanc. The Round Pond winery is appealing architecturally and  has an outdoor terrace with views to-die-for. Definitely make reservations and sit outside for their food and wine pairing. The RP chef cooks up beautiful bites to pair perfectly with all their blends. They also have a wonderful wine club which allows you access to special rates and lovely parties (here’s one of their Garden parties we attended). Make sure to purchase some of their famous chili salt and olive oils along with your wine at Round Pond.

2. Robert Sinskey.

This is only for their Garden to Table Pairing. While the Robert Sinskey regular tastings are nice, we adored the chef and her ability to convey the notes and flavors found in each wine. With this tour and tasting, you are led through their fertile garden and are welcomed to try anything grown there from figs to tomatoes to the bay leave tree. From there, guests head into the Robert Sinskey cave system and bottling room. Once that section is complete, guests step out into their patio to a beautifully decorated communal table. You will find the perfectly laid out spread from the chef– everything from almonds and cheese to gazpacho and tartlets. Do not leave without buying a bottle (or case) of the Robert Sinskey Abraxas wine. It’s heaven on Earth, especially during those hot summer months when you are craving that crisp California air.

3.) Alpha Omega.

Situated along Highway 29 amid the “big boys” in wine (think Opus One, Robert Mondavi and St. Supery), sits a beautiful boutique winery named Alpha Omega. We love this one for its laid back style and majestic fountains. AO has the typical tasting bar found at its neighbors, but also has ample outdoor seating for the more relaxed and less chaotic tastings. We particularly love their Rosé and Proprietary Red. They also offer the option  to purchase Futures and a tasting straight from the barrel. Join a certain level of the wine club and get the chance to ride on their yacht!

4. Schramsberg

May all your pain be champagne. Or at least sparkling wine in this case. Schramsberg isn’t the easiest to get into, but well worth the effort.  Skip the Mumm’s; forego the Chandon visit– in a valley full or reds and whites, Schramsberg is the definite leader in experience and bubbles. Their cave structure and tour is absolutely fascinating. Every tidbit from the “Riddler” to how they stack the bottles freely within the cave walls is a must experience.  Not to mention their wines are delectable. Schramsberg  wines are also easy to find once you get home and need another taste of the Valley.

5. Somerston ATV Tour

I’m not talking about the tasting room in Yountville (although that’s fun, too!). Head up past Lake Hennessy to Somerston for the ATV tour. About a 30 minute drive up the mountain– you’ll lose cell reception a few times and will have to pop your ears— Somerston’s Ranch will be on your left. Their ATV tour is exceptional in the fact that it gets you out into the vineyards. You’ll learn about verasion, the different temperatures thanks to the mountains and many other wine facts that will leave your friends at home jealous of your new-found knowledge. After a powerful off-road adventure, head back to the well appointed tasting room for cheese and fruit pairings. There are no caves on this tour, but if you join their wine club you can get access to an unusual feature: the Soda Spring (basically Pellegrino bubbling out of the mountain).  The tour guide comes equipped with a tasting set, and the water is every bit as clear and bubbly as the bottled kind in your grocers freezer.

6. Silver Oak

Honestly, I’m not really a large-production Napa Valley traveler. I have been wholly disappointed by quite a few of the “big boys.” Silver Oak on the other hand is the perfect median between run-of-the-mill-heard-ya-like-cattle tastings and the boutique wineries. Silver Oak wines speak for themselves, but the service and passion at Silver Oak stood out for me. We had an appointment, but I spaced on the time and our group showed up an hour late. The staff was more than accommodating and arranged a tour for us anyway. Our tour guide carried a bottle of their cab with us and routinely filled our glasses as if we were family. Their barrel room is impressive and the grounds were pristine. I would certainly go back and try one of their food and wine pairings, should I get my timing correct next time.

7. Swanson

This charming vineyard is so unique to its counterparts in the valley. Also situated off Highway 29 across from Opus, you feel as if you are entering a French Salon. Fruit trees line the pathway and on weekends a musicians plays live in the gardens. Once inside, the red and white stripe decor take you to another era. Between the cheese, caviar or other tasty bites, the beautiful decanting and the color of the wines, you truly feel special. The experience moves all the way through their packaging, including their Modern House Wines with names such as “Expensive” and “Lucky Night,” just to name a few.

8. Fisher

First and foremost, in case you haven’t seen how much I love Fisher, check it out here. This will be one of the smallest visits of your trip. Fisher is in Sonoma county and certainly off the beating path. Their wines are one of a kind, and have quite a following in the wine community. The Fisher vineyards are stunning and the geography makes for  a scenic background for all your pictures. Make sure you meet Sake and Boozy, the vineyard dogs. Their chardonnays are some of my favorite, housing buttery smoothness and a spectacular color.

9. Barnett.

This one is all about the views– and the wine. I think my words were “Holy shit” when I walked out on their terrace the first time. Not one of my finer moments, but incredibly breathtaking nonetheless. Barnett doesn’t offer any food and wine pairings (to my knowledge), but does boast superb wines found around the country. There is also the option to pack a picnic and take up to the vineyard. You can expect a small and quiet experience where you can really relax and take in the views and your vacation.

10. Paraduxx

I’m always looking for unique experiences, so when I ran across the Blending Experience at Paraduxx, I knew it was a must. While their grounds are nice, the wine is what truly spoke to us. After a wordy tour through the fermentation room and barrels, we were escorted into the tasting room with another couple visitor. There we had multiple glass, some with wine directly from the barrels and pure 100% wines. We then used those and a pipette to blend wines like a winemaker does. It was intriguing to see how each small drop changed the flavor profile completely. As a newer wine drinker, this experience really helped train my palette how to pick up subtle hints of flavors in wine.

A few other to check out that didn’t necessarily make my top 10 list but were still great:

  • Signorello– amazing Enotca Food and Wine Experience where the chef prepares courses and presents each to you.
  • Far Niente– Beautiful antique car collection and the wines are world-renowned. They pair their wines with cheese, fruit and nuts. Far Niente also has some of the most spectacular gardens I’ve seen in the Valley.
  • Pride– One of the best picnic spaces in The Valley and great wines. Also, a very affordable tasting at only $10

As always, the people there can make or break a vineyard for you. A few of the above have had some bad tour guides for us, however the wine and tour speak above those people. Make sure to do your research and figure out what’s most appealing to you.

Please contact me with any questions or if you need any more recommendations!


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