Best Napa Wineries for First Timers
Don’t be overwhelmed! The essential Napa wineries for First Timers gives you the short list of bucket list wineries, complete with stop by stop itinerary.
Napa’s Best Wineries for First timers
First Time to Napa? These are the Wineries You’re Looking For!
Planning your first trip to Napa can be overwhelming! With over 400 wineries (and nearly as many people telling you where to go) it’s hard to narrow it down to the four or five you can actually visit in a day.
While everyone has their opinions and favorites there are some wineries that should be on every first timer’s bucket list. Oh sure, these might be considered touristy and yes, they can be crowded, but there is no denying that at least some of these popular wineries should be on every first timer’s itinerary.
So follow along and do them all - or pick and choose and do a few. But know that these are Napa’s most popular wineries and ones you can count on to always deliver an exceptional Napa experience for first timers. And if you’re still overwhelmed don’t forget you can always email me for free, unbiased advice.
How to Get Discounted Wine Tasting
Don't be confused by other wine "passports" that limit you to a small section of Napa Valley or coupon sites that make you pay to “unlock” deals that you could have gotten anywhere. I’ve been providing discounts to Napa visitors for over 12 years and the only pass I now recommend is the Priority Wine Pass. It has nearly every deal in Napa in one place, including many exclusive discounts you won’t find anywhere else. And it’s only $39.99 per couple - with many wineries charging $35 or more per person to taste it can pay for itself before you leave your first winery!
Visit the most famous, most iconic wineries in Napa in one day!
Napa is home to many of the biggest names in wine and today you get to visit them all! From historical wineries to over-the-top newcomers, stick to these wineries if you want to visit and taste at Napa’s most famous wineries.
Want to see the Best Wineries for First Timers on a Budget? Of course you do! Click here to see my top budget picks.
Stop 1: Domaine Chandon: Start your day with a flight of sparkling wine at one of Napa’s most beautiful wineries. Located in the Yountville area, stop in town first for a coffee and pastry at Bouchon Bakery or Mini-Model Bakery before heading out. Domaine Chandon has a pretty good wine club that not only gets you and your friend a free glass of sparkling every time you come in but also has a private area roped off for members, perfect for those busy days.
Stop 2: Robert Mondavi: Take your photo under the massive archway that also decorates his wine label. Schedule a one hour tour here if you want to see how wine is made. This is an essential stop for first timers!
Stop 3: Beringer Vineyards: Napa’s oldest continuously operating winery built in 1876, one of Napa’s most beautiful wineries starting with the “tunnel of trees” along Highway 29. Visit their Rhine House mansion for a premium tasting, or hit up the historic winery building for the standard, and stay afterwards for a picnic on their grounds.
BERINGER DEAL: TWO FOR ONE STANDARD TASTING WITH PRIORITY WINE PASS, SAVE $25.
Stop 4: Sterling Vineyards: Ride the tram to the top of the mountain and taste on the patio with sweeping views of the valley below.
STERLING DEALS: GET A FREE $10 OFF PROMO CODE BY EMAILING ME DIRECTLY OR GET A TWO FOR ONE, SAVE $35, WITH PRIORITY WINE PASS. Email Me for Code
Stop 5: Castello di Amorosa: Visit the Napa castle, a full scale authentic castle built the way they used to right down to the dungeon and torture chamber. Schedule a tour to guarantee your time slot as they close the doors to walk-in’s on busy days once they meet their attendance limits. There are no deals for the castle that I know of other than the all day Napa Wine Train and Castle Excursion - email me if you want to know more about that. No lookie-loo’s - everyone pays an admission fee to get past the front admission area.
IF YOU HAVE MORE THAN A DAY THEN ADD THESE WINERIES TO YOUR LIST OF NAPA’S BEST WINERIES FOR FIRST TIMERS!
Grgich Hills: If you know your Napa history (or saw the movie Bottle Shock) then you know that in 1976 the French challenged Napa to a blind tasting - and Napa won! The winemaker who made the winning chardonnay was Mike Grgich. A visit to his winery is classic Napa, a bit old school but in a very good way.
GRGICH HILLS DEAL: MOST PEOPLE PAY $40 PER PERSON TO TASTE HERE BUT COME IN WITH A PRIORITY WINE PASS AND GET THEIR CLASSIC NAPA TASTING FOR ONLY $25 FOR TWO PEOPLE.
Inglenook: You might not find a more beautiful winery than Inglenook with it’s historic stone chateau and sprawling grounds, complete with a huge fountain where you can launch toy sailboats. Once a luxury wine, it became a jug wine in a misguided attempt to grow the brand. It’s now been lovingly restored back to its original splendor by The Godfather himself, Francis Ford Coppola. Tastings can be expensive but the bistro offers wines by the glass as well as charcuterie snacks.
Charles Krug: Another historic winery that even houses the residence that the Mondavi’s grew up in, Charles Krug offers excellent wines combined with a huge lawn area for picnics with food provided onsite.
CHARLES KRUG DEAL: TWO FOR ONE RESERVE TASTING WITH PRIORITY WINE PASS, SAVE $45
Chateau Montelena: Napa’s original “castle”, Chateau Montelena also has Judgement of Paris blind tastings history. The stone building is a sight to see along with the juxtaposed Chinese pond and garden in back.
Mumm Napa: Nothing better than a seat outside on the patio on a sunny day to sip sparkling wine overlooking the vineyards.
Cakebread Cellars: I went to school with Bruce Cakebread but that’s not why I’m recommending them. Cakebread Cellars requires reservations and puts everyone into small groups. You’ll do “just right” tour of the production and facilities before diving into some of Napa’s best wines.
Frog’s Leap Winery: Visit an old frog farm - that’s right, this is the place you would not want to be if you were a frog in the late 1800’s when frog legs were the rage on the dinner table in San Francisco. Luckily for the frogs (and you) they switched to wine. The casual outside tasting is just what the doctor ordered if you are traveling with kids or dogs.
Frog’s Leap Deal: Get an extra splash with your regular paid tasting just by showing your Priority Wine Pass, a $10 savings.
Regusci Winery: This one might not be on your radar but it should be. Regusci is one of Napa’s oldest wineries and it tucked away from the crowds (make reservations). It feels a bit like Tuscany here with the olive trees and vineyards and the wines are superb.
Swanson Vineyard: A hidden gem, the outdoor area looks like you stumbled into the French countryside and the Sip Shoppe tasting room just has to be seen to be believed. Make reservations for this one and be prepared to fall in love.
Swanson Vineyard Deal: Two for One with Priority Wine Pass, save $40.