Planning a first trip to Napa Valley? Here are 5 Vineyards & Wineries to check out

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In the last two decades, Napa Valley took the wine world by a storm securing its place among the top wine producing regions, not just in California but in the world.  Napa Valley produces less than 5% of all wines in California but the region’s reputation for quality and over the top wineries have been attracting far more tourists any any other region in the state -up to 3 million tourists visit Napa Valley each year.

As of 2014, there are over 450 wineries in Napa Valley from boutique to impressive, visitors now have more choices than ever before when visiting this world-class wine region. However, that presents another problem: which wineries to visit?  If you are new to Napa Valley, here are 5 vineyards & wineries you should really come by.  Although each offers very good wines of their own, we’re not rating their wines nor if they are going to be the next big tourist-attraction; we like them simply because they have something unique and special to offer.

Robert Mondavi Winery

1.  For History Aficionados: Robert Mondavi Winery – 7801 Saint Helena Highway, Napa, CA 94574 (707) 226-1395

If you drink California wines, you probably have heard of Robert Mondavi.  He was a visionary, a pioneer and mostly the “Steve Jobs” of California wines.  Four decades ago when California was known for inexpensive jug-wine, Mr. Mondavi set out to revolutionize the California wine landscape and many thought he was nuts.  Needless to say, he knew something they all didn’t.  Decades later, Mr. Mondavi had seen his impact on California wine, nowhere more apparent than Napa Valley now a world class wine region.  A visit to his winery, right on Highway 29, is a tribute to his passion.

hendry vineyards2.  For the Wine lesson: Hendry Winery & Vineyards -3104 Redwood Road, Napa, CA 94558 (707) 226-8320

 Tucked far away on windy Redwood road, about 20 minute drive from town, Hendry winery is not your typical winery.  It is quiet; a large home was transformed into an enchanting tasting room.  There is no tour here, but you must book a tasting appointment and you won’t be disappointed if you did.  A group of 10 visitors will share a tasting and presentation together, their Zinfandel and Pinot Noir are very nice -especially consider the Napa Valley price.  Throughout the tasting, guests will be enlightened with an introductory wine and tasting lesson.  Even if you are an experience drinkers, there are many great pointers you can pick up during their presentation.  It was informative, simple and very enjoyable.  Our sommeliers agree that it is the best wine lesson given at a tasting tour.

cream filled smoked salmon

3.  For the food-pairings: Palmaz Winery & Vineyards -4029 Hagen Road, Napa, CA 94558 (707) 226-5587

Palmaz Winery is the next winery to watch for.  Palmaz started the Winery not too long ago, their first vintage was released in the late 2000’s.  The entire operation is in a cave with 4 different floors, from top to bottom, wines are transferred all by the help of Gravity -the intent is to avoid mechanical pumps which could potentially be harmful for the wines.  But it was their food-pairings that impressed us.  Picture above is their actual pairings during a guided tour&tasting.  The passion for food and wine is apparent here at the Winery, each bite was intricately put together to match perfectly with each of their wines.  Particularly, the cream cheese stuffed smoked salmon was sensational.

Silverado Winery S

4.  For the View and Picnic: Silverado Winery 6121 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558 (855) 270-1770

 V. Sattui Winery right on Highway 29 was very close to making the list for this category, it does too offer a great market place and open picnic area, unfortunately, it could get crowded there and there isn’t a view like this.  Sitting on top a hill in the Stag Leap district on the back road of Silverado Trail, Silverado Winery appears like a triumph fortress from a distance.  Its tasting room with a balcony to be jealous of is what draws visitors from all over.  You can taste wines, have a snack with friends and enjoy the magnificent view of Napa Valley; when the wind whispers gently through your hair as you enjoy a few sips of their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, you’ll likely be thinking: “Huhm! Life is good.” 

 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges De Latour S

5.  For the first ever Napa Valley Cult-wine: Beaulieu Vineyard 1960 Saint Helena Highway, Rutherford, CA 94573 (707) 967-5233

Beaulieu is French for Beautiful place, but many know them as simply BV.  It is the one of very few wineries that stayed open throughout prohibition because during that time, the winery shifted to making church (or sacred) wines.  You won’t find a vineyard here, this beautiful grand tasting room is attached to the Winery.  BV produces a very wide range of wines all over California, but one wine that changed the course of history is their BV Private Reserve Georges De Latour, named after winery’s founder and owner.  First crafted in the late 1930s, this wine quickly gained attention and eventually became the first Napa Valley Cult-wine that was the first Napa wines comparable to French first growth Bordeaux. 

Now 5 down and 440-something more wineries to go.  We’ll keep you posted on our next top 5 Wineries to visit in Napa Valley. Cheers!

Thomas Le, CS.

 

 

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Thomas Le

-Certified Sommelier (CMS)

Napa Reserva -Falling for wine, one sip at a time. TM

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