Napa Wineries Open on Thanksgiving, 2019, some with 2 for 1 deals! Click below to see the top picks and full list of Napa Valley wineries OPEN ON THANKSGIVING.Read More
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How to Find (or avoid) Disneyland Napa
Napa Valley has many personalities but the one that seems to stick these days is that Napa Valley has become “just like Disneyland”. Depending on who is saying it this is either a compiment (“It’s so fun - and there’s wine!!”) or disparagement (“Auggh, the crowds, the cost, the traffic!”). A lot of well meaning guidebooks focus on one or the other, discounting the alternatives, but that’s not right. It depends on what kind of experience you are looking for - a lively party Napa, or a more romantic and quiet one. And both can be had on the same weekend if you know where to look.
Is Sonoma Better? Oh, Stop It!
Right after the Disneyland comparison you will often hear how Napa is spoiled and Sonoma is the place to be. I totally disagree with this. I love Sonoma (check our SonomaTouristGuide.com) but the idea that Napa is somehow spoiled or ruined is just not true. Napa has over 400 wineries and over 300 of them now require reservations. Making reservations is a form of crowd control and unlike Disneyland where limiting the number of visitors at Star Wars Galaxy Edge still means monster crowds, a reservation in Napa means you get your own slot, your own space, your own private or semi-private experience - away from the masses. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Some people will want the Disneyland excitement of Napa, the massive wineries, the mega tasting rooms, and there’s nothing wrong with that! So here are my top picks for the most popular, the most Disneyland-esque wineries in Napa.
The Best Napa Wineries for the Disneyland Experience
If you are coming to Napa for the first time, if you are hanging with friends just looking for a weekend getaway, if you just want to drink wine versus tasting wine to buy, then these wineries will be right up your alley.
CASTELLO DI AMOROSA - THE NAPA CASTLE: This is insane, an actual full size castle built in the same manner as they would have built a castle back in the middle ages. Everything is authentically recreated, right down to the dungeon and hand painted frescoes. The basic tasting experience gets you in through the front doors but the tours will take you deep into the castle, a Game of Thrones sort of experience that can’t help but impress. TIP: Come early as they close the doors once they hit their daily number of visitors.
V. SATTUI WINERY: If the exterior of V. Sattui looks a bit like the Napa castle it’s no surprise - the same person owns both. V. Sattui is the picnic spot in Napa, a full deli inside, an expansive picnic area outside, and always a lively crowd.
DARIOUSH WINERY: A Persian palace exterior, a trendy Las Vegas feel to the interior, Darioush Winery certainly stands out. You expect to see Lara Croft jumping from column to column with a machine gun strapped to her back. You have to see this one, you really do!
DEL DOTTO VINEYARDS AND WINE CAVES: Adventure into the wine caves where you’ve be surrounded by barrels and barrel tastings! With three locations in Napa Valley pick the cave that suits your personality - go rustic in the historic caves handpicked out of the rocky mountainside, or go total Las Vegas in their over the top Italian caves surrounded by marble and intricate tiles. It’s all fun, do all three!
HALL ST HELENA: When I first started visiting Hall Winery it has a tiny tasting bar about the size as the one in my kitchen. That all changed with a remodel that increased the size of the tasting room to what seems like Marriott Ballroom dimensions. And that adds to the lively party feel to this “no reservations required” experience. Head outside to see the vineyards for a breather.
STERLING VINEYARDS: With a tram ride that takes you to the picturesque hilltop winery, you have to do Sterling! What? Tram ride? That’s right, just like the old Skyway ride at Disneyland. But unlike Disneyland where the tram just went back and forth, the Sterling tram takes you to wine tasting and killer views of the valley.
WANT A DISCOUNT ON THE TRAM? Just email me and I’ll send you a totally free promo code for $10 off per person on the tram ride and tasting experience. Free. I mean that.
Want to Avoid the Disneyland Experience? Visit these Napa Wineries!
If you want a quieter Napa experience then get your phone out and make reservations at the following wineries, all of them my personal favorites.
AXR NAPA VALLEY: It’s a bit hard to find, tucked away near Beringer (wait, add Beringer to your Disneyland experience!) but will feel like a totally different world. This is a private tour and tasting where you’ll take a walk into the redwoods with a glass of wine, visit a fairy circle (you will see, it’s cool), and then head in for a tour, maybe a sip from the barrels, and some of Napa’s best wines. 90 minutes, you’ll savor each one.
SWANSON VINEYARDS: You’ll swear you’ve stumbled into the French countryside when you pull into Swanson Vineyards. The outdoor area is just charming with rustic tables next to the vineyards. Inside the Sip Shoppe is perhaps the most enchanting and whimsical tasting room I have ever seen - it was co-designed by the late Kate Spade. Private tastings, very fun and casual, romantic as can be. Sip here all afternoon, you’ll be very happy.
MAXVILLE LAKE WINERY: Don’t let the 15 minute drive off the Silverado Trail sway you from visiting Maxville Lake Winery. It’s one of the most beautiful modern wineries in Napa, one that no one seems to know about. A reservation here usually means you have the entire winery to yourself, including the outdoor area that’s perfect for a picnic with a view of the lake. Tours of the caves, barrel tastings, they are open to whatever sort of experience you want.
KRUPP BROTHERS WINERY: The gates swing open and you drive the narrow road to what appears to be a genuine Italian villa, stone buildings with a view of the vineyards and small lake. It’s a hidden gem, not to be confused with their downtown tasting room. Make reservations here and you will forget all about the castle.
REGUSCI WINERY: A historic stone winery, one of Napa’s oldest, in a romantic setting that looks straight out of the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Come during harvest and you’ll even see them shaking the olive trees in front. Reservations required means the tasting room never gets that crowded and their staff is one of the friendliest in the valley. Highly recommended, and their wines are top rated.
I Wouldn’t Be Local Wally if I Didn’t Tell You About Discounts!
Many of Napa’s wineries offer discounts, including some listed in this article. You can always reach out to me and I’ll help you personally pick wineries, either Disneyland or not, and show you the best deals. Or search yourself on this complete list of Napa deals. You will need a Priority Wine Pass to get the deals but remember you only need ONE for every two people. The pass is $39.99 if you use this link to get it with my discount.
And you can always email me of you have questions! I am one guy doing this with the simple goal of making sure that you have the best time in Napa. I don’t charge for free advice (that’s why it’s free!) so go ahead and ask.
LOOKING FOR THE UPDATED LIST OF NAPA, SONOMA, AND RUSSIAN RIVER WINE TASTING COUPON OR DEALS? HERE IT IS, UPDATED JAN 2019.
To get these Napa and Sonoma wine tasting deals just purchase the Priority Wine Pass for $39.99. You only need ONE pass per couple and the savings add up fast!
Blue Note Music Venue & Restaurant (Downtown Napa): Complimentary glass of wine and complimentary dessert *show tickets are required, see Blue Note Napa website for artists, pricing and availability. ($25 value)
Tarla (Downtown Napa next to the Andaz Hotel): Complimentary Appetizer with Priority Wine Pass ($12 Value)
Gustavo Wines (Downtown Napa next to the Oxbow Market):- 2 for 1 tasting flight and 20% off shipping ($18+ SAVINGS) Known for: Red Blends, Cab, Chardonnay, Merlot
Krupp Brothers Tasting Room (Downtown Napa):-Complimentary upgrade from our Signature flight to our Reserve Flight for two ($40 Savings) Known for: Red blends, Cab
Feast It Forward (Downtown Napa next to the Oxbow Market):- 2 for 1 Tasting ($35 Value) Known for: A bit of everything (outside food welcome to bring in to enjoy with your tasting or a bottle purchase)
Learn How To Taste Wine with Victor Orozco (Downtown Napa next to the Oxbow Market): Victor is a level 3 Somm who hosts private morning lessons where you can learn about the ways of tasting and then can go out and use those skills at the wineries during the day. Normally $90pp wine pass members and guests receive the class for $65pp w/reservation: 707-812-9292
Twenty Rows: (Downtown napa) 2 for 1 tasting AND 20% off wine purchaswith reservation ($25 SAVINGS) Cab, Red Blends, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Zin
Outland Wines (Downtown Napa):-2 complimentary tastings with 4 bottle purchase ($50 SAVINGS) Known for: An array of wines ranging from Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, to Trousseau and Riesling
JaM Cellars (Downtown Napa):- 2 for 1 tasting flight ($20+ SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Sparkling, Red blends…open LATE!
Winetasting on First: (Downtown Napa):- Happy Hour Glasses of Wine All the time & Two Complimentary tasting tastings with the purchase of One Bottle ($15+SAVINGS) Known for: Red Blends, White Blends,Chardonnay, Cab, Pinot, Petite Sirah
Cornerstone Cellars (Village at Vista Collina Resort in Napa):- One Complimentary Tasting per wine pass($30 SAVINGS) Known for:Sauv Blanc, Riesling, Cab, Pinot, Zin, Syrah
Cornerstone Cellars (Downtown Napa):- One Complimentary Tasting per wine pass($30 SAVINGS) Known for:Sauv Blanc, Riesling, Cab, Pinot, Zin, Syrah
Wine Train Gourmet Lunch or Dinner: (Downtown Napa) $25 off tickets pass members and up to 3 guests ($80 Savings) Reservations required please call (707) 253-2111 and mention you are a wine pass member during booking. At check-in please bring ID and wine pass to obtain special pricing.
Castello Di Amorosa Wine Train Tour: (Downtown Napa) $25 off tickets for pass members and up to 3 guests ($80 Savings) Reservations required please call (707) 253-2111 and mention you are a wine pass member during booking. At check-in please bring ID and wine pass to obtain special pricing.
Collective/Estate/Legacy/Famiglia Wine Train Tours: (Downtown Napa) Receive $35 off tickets for pass members and up to 3 guests based on availability ($140 Savings) Reservations required please call (707) 253-2111 and mention you are a wine pass member during booking. At check-in please bring ID and wine pass to obtain special pricing.
Main Napa Area Tasting Deals
Bouchaine (Napa) One Complimentary 1030am Vineyard Tour and Tasting with prior reservation per wine pass (Save $50) Known for: Pinot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Rose
Ceja Vineyards (near Carneros Brewery in Sonoma) 15% off in-person wine purchases ($20SAVINGS) Known for our Pinot, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Rose, Red Blend, Merlot, Syrah, Cab, and Late Harvest/Dessert Wine.
Bourassa (Napa):-2 for 1 Tastings and Complimentary Wine Educational Experience, and 10% off wine purchases ($40+SAVINGS) Known for: Riesling, Syrah, Cab, Zin, Port, Red Blends
Leaf & Vine Winery (Napa): 50% off tasting and meet the winemaker ($15+SAVINGS) Known for: Zinfandel, Sauv Blanc, CAB, Petite Sirah
Avinodos (Napa):-2 for 1 Tasting and Barrel Tasting and a meet and greet with the winemaker BY APPOINTMENT ONLY($20 SAVINGS) Known for: Sauv Blanc and Malbec
LE (Carneros): 10% off wine purchases Known for: Rose, White blends, Pinot, etc
Ancien (Coombsville): Recieve a tour and tasting for $25pp (for up to 4) with reservations Known for: Pinot and Chardonnay
Judds Hill (Silverado Trail Napa):- 2 for 1 Tasting BY APPOINTMENT ONLY($25 SAVINGS) or Cardholders will enjoy a special rate of $100 per couple (normally $135) for the Judd’s Hill Wine and Food in Balance Seminar. (RESERVATION required) Known for: Pinot, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabs, Meritage, Blends
Black Stallion (Silverado Trail Napa):- 2 for 1 tastings ($25 SAVINGS) Known for: Cab, Merlot, Syrah, Zin, Pinot, Chardonnay, Viognier, Red blends, Dessert wine
Hagafan (Silverado Trail Napa):- 2 for 1 tastingsBY APPOINTMENT ONLY(except Holidays & Saturdays)($25 SAVINGS) Known for: Riesling, Late Harvest, CAB, Merlot, Tempranillo, Red blends, Sparkling, Sweet wines, pinot
Andretti (Napa): 2 for 1 Tasting and 10% off wine purchases. ($35+SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Late Harvest, Sangiovese, Pinot
Relic Wine Cellars (Off of Silverado Trail Napa): Complimentary Private Tasting for Two with a $300 purchase or $40 tasting fee per person (this winery is allocation only, so members receive access to this winery to purchase their wine when otherwise you would not be able to do so. Known for: Pinot, Petite Sirah, Cab Franc
Patland Cave Experience (Off of Silverado Trail Napa): Receive $50 off a Tour and Tasting for 2 (normally $75pp)…reservations is required email:email@example.com (Save $50) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Rose, Syrah, Zin, Malbec, Cab, Prop Red Blend, and Port
Pine Ridge (Silverado Trail Napa): Reservation Required 50% off tasting for up to 2 people M-Thursday and 10% off wine purchases Fri-Sun (except Saturdays)BY APPOINTMENT ONLY( ($45 SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Late Harvest, Sangiovese, Pinot
Silverado Vineyards (Silverado Trail Napa): 2 for 1 Premier Tasting ($45 SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc, Cab, Sangiovese, Merlot
Miner (Silverado Trail Napa): 2-for-1 tasting for the walk-in Bar Tastings OR 2 for 1 Group Cave Tasting & Tour Experience with Reservation Monday-Friday email firstname.lastname@example.org Or SATURDAY & SUNDAY: COMPLIMENTARY TASTING with 2 bottle purchase($50 SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Merlot, Sangiovese, Pinot, Cab, Viogner, Rose, and many others
Yountville and Oakville Tasting Deals
Hill Winery (Yountville): 50% off tasting for up to Two People ($25 SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauv Blanc, White Blends, Rose, Cabs, Red blends
V Cellarplace (Yountville): 2 for 1 tasting experience and 15% off wine purchases ($25+ SAVINGS) Known for: A bit of everything!
Travel Food & Wines (Yountville): Complimentary tasting experience per wine pass and with reservation ($25 SAVINGS) Known for: The unique and hard to find wines of Napa Valley (By Appt Only: email: email@example.com)
Jessup Cellars (Yountville): One Complimentary Tasting per pass ($40 SAVINGS) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Cab, Pinot, Zin, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Cab Franc, Port
Girard (Yountville): Save $125 on our Cabernet Experience. Reservations Required. Experience five of our most exclusive appellation Cabernet Sauvignon selections presented side by side and paired with small bites of chocolate,cheese, and charcuterie. Includes three bottles of our Cabernet Sauvignon in a wooden gift box.Please let us know at the time of booking that you are a Priority Wine Pass member. Your experience can be reserved by calling us at 707.921.2795 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cosentino (Yountville): 2 for 1 Tasting (Maximum of 8 guests) ($40 Savings): Known for: Zin, Cab, blends
Napa Wine Cellars (Oakville):-2 for 1 Reserve Tasting for up to 4 guests ($60 Savings): Known for: Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Cab, Zin, Merlot, Pinot, & Syrah
Rutherford and St Helena Tasting Deals
Elizabeth Spencer (Rutherford): Complimentary Upgraded tasting for 2 with purchase of charter tasting (reservations are recommended) ($25 SAVINGS ) Known for: Chardonnay,Riesling, Rose, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Cab,Grenache
Rutherford Hill Winery (Rutherford): Complimentary upgrade to a Signature Tasting for 2. Plus, enjoy 10% savings on wine purchases.($30+ SAVINGS ) Known for: Red blends, Cabs, Merlot
Rutherford Ranch Winery (Silverado Trail St. Helena): One Complimentary Tasting per wine pass (BY APPT ONLY) : Enjoy a selection of four to five wines from our portfolio, both red and white wines, rotated seasonally ($40 SAVINGS) Known for: Cab (several only available at the winery), Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zin and Rhiannon, a proprietary red blend.
Conn Creek Winery (Silverado Trail St. Helena): Complimentary Anthology Saloon Tasting with reservation OR 2 for 1 Walk-in Bar tasting OR $25 off of one Barrel Blending Experience®, up to 4 guests w/reservations ($100 Savings)
Grgich (St. Helena): One Complimentary Tasting per wine pass ($25SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Cab, Zin, and red blends
White Hall Lane (St. Helena): 50% off tasting for 2 people walk-in OR 2 for 1 Reserve Tasting in their Members Lounge with reservation ($50 SAVINGS) Known for: Rose, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Cab, Merlot, Pinot, Red blends, Dessert Wine
Delectus (St. Helena): 2 for 1 VIP Tasting Experience with reservation ($55 SAVINGS) Known for: Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Sauv Blanc
Prager Port (St. Helena): 10% discount on a purchase of 6 bottles. 20% discount on a purchase of one case. ($20+SAVINGS) Known for: PORT
V.Sattui (St. Helena): Two for One Tastings ($20 SAVINGS): Known for: CABS but they have over 60 varietals and several sweet wines!
Long Meadow Ranch (St.Helena): Receive 2 Complimentary Mayacamas Estate Tours with the purchase of a Chefs Table Dinner ($150 Savings) Email: email@example.com to make reservations and to learn more
Davies Vineyard (St.Helena): Purchase a Sparkling or Pinot Flight and receive a complimentary upgrade to a combination flight by appointment ONLY ($50 savings) OR Bubbles and Caviar brunch…$50off per person (normally $130pp) Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 10 am. OR the basics of wine pairings with cheese $35off per person (normally $95pp) Monday through Saturday at 11 and reservations are required
Known for their Schramsberg Sparking wine and Davies Pinots and Cabs
Beringer Winery (St. Helena): 50% off of the Beringer Old Winery Tasting for up to TWO people ($25 SAVINGS) Known for: Reds, Whites, and Blends
Schweiger Vineyards (St. Helena/Spring Mountain): Complimentary Tasting for Two and Free Shipping with a Case Purchase ($150 Savings) Known for: Chardonnay, Cabs, Port
Trinchero Winery (St. Helena): 2 for 1 Tasting, ($25 SAVINGS) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Merlot, Cab, Petite Verdot, Cab Franc, Meritage
Boeschen Vineyards (St. Helena):Complimentary Tastings and tour of the underground winery, Victorian gardens, and classic car collection for TWO people with 2 Red bottle purchases by appt only. Please phone the winery (707 963-3674) or send an email firstname.lastname@example.org ($150 SAVINGS) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Rose, Petite Verdot, Estate Blends, Cab
Benessere (St. Helena): Complimentary Tour and Extra Pour of their Reserve Wine with reservation: email email@example.com , ($25 SAVINGS) Known for: Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, and other Italian style wines
Maxville Estate Winery (St.Helena near Pope Valley): 2 for 1 Historic Winery Cave Tour and Tasting or 2 for 1 Cave Tour and Cheese and Wine Pairing w/reservations ($85 SAVINGS) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, & Petit Sirah
Auburn James (Silverado Trail in St. Helena): 50% off Tasting/Tour for up to 2 people with Reservation, ($40 SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Cab, Pinot, Red Blends
Ladera Vineyards (St. Helena):Receive the private tasting experience ($60 a person) at the price of our outdoor experience ($35 a person). Member and up to 3 guests may take advantage of this offer.Reservation is required ($100 SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Cab, Red Blends, Pinot, Malbec, Sauv Blanc, Rose
AXR Napa Valley at V Madrone Vineyard (St.Helena/Calistoga): 2 Complimentary Tastings with 2 bottle purchase Reservation Required ($100 SAVINGS) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Red blends, Cab
Charles Krug (St. Helena): Complimentary Tasting OR An estate tour and tasting for the price of a reserve tasting with reservation ($65 Savings) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Malbec, Red blends, Cab, Chard
Calistoga/Deer Park/Angwin Tasting Deals
Burgess Cellars (Howell Mountain): One Complimentary Tasting in the cellar experience per wine pass and reservations are required ($30 Savings) Known for: Estate Cabs, Red blends, Merlot, Grenache, Chardonnay, Syrah, Petit Sirah
Teachworth Estate Winery (Calistoga): 2 for 1 Tasting with the owner or winemaker and access to purchase some private reserve cabs from 2011-14. Reservations are required ($50 SAVINGS) Known for: Cab
Pope Valley (Pope Valley): One Complimentary Tasting per wine pass ($30 SAVINGS) Known for: Sparkling, Chenin Blanc, Rose, Sangiovese, Merlot, Malbec, Cab, Port
Madrigal Family Winery (Calistoga): Complimentary Private Tasting for 2 with two bottle purchase….By Appointment Only & Vineyard Lunch with tasting for $85 (normally $100pp)($70 SAVINGS) Known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Gewurztraminer, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and small lots of single vineyard and estate wines.
Amici Cellars (Calistoga): 15% off on a CASE purchase ($40+ SAVINGS) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Red blends, Cab
Envy Wines(Calistoga): 2 for 1 Tasting before Noon ($20 SAVINGS) Known for: Syrah, Cab, Petite Sirah, Red blends, Rose, Sauv blanc, and Late harvest!
Summers Estate(Calistoga): 2 for 1 Tasting with PRIOR APPOINTMENT ($25 SAVINGS) Known for: CAB, Chardonnay, Charbono, Merlot, Malbec, Red blends, Muscat
Dutch Henry (Silverado Trail Calistoga): 2 FOR 1 WALK-IN Current Release Tasting OR 2 for 1 Collectors Tasting with barrel Sample ($35 SAVINGS) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Rose, Pinot, Red blends, Cab, Cab Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Zin, Petite Sirah
Picayune Cellars (Calistoga): 2 for 1 Tasting or Complimentary upgrade to the Music and Wine Pairing with the purchase of a standard tasting ($25 SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc, Pinot, and Red Blends
Clos Pegase (Calistoga): 2 for 1 tasting and 20% off wine purchased that day ($25+SAVINGS) Known for: Pinot, Cab, Merlot, Syrah, Red blends, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Port, Rose
Sterling (Calistoga): 2 for 1 tasting please see special code in welcome email to make online reservations or call and mention you’re a priority wine pass member ($35 SAVINGS) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Cab, Red blends
Brian Arden (Silverado Trail Calistoga): 50% off of the wine flight tastings for up to 2 people 10% off select wines Sorry, no shared tastings. One pass per two people($30 SAVINGS) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Rose, Chardonnay, Cab, Red blends
Bennette Lane Winery (Calistoga): Complimentary Upgrade to a Private Seated Tasting for Priority Wine Pass Holders (valued at $70 per couple) for our Signature Tasting Price of $40! Limited to groups size of 6 or less and by appointment only.
Sonoma Valley and Russian River Tasting Deals
McEvoy Ranch (Petaluma): 2 for 1 bar tasting with reservation ($20 SAVINGS) Known for: Pinot Noir, Syrah, Montepulciano, Grenache, Viognier, and Olive Oil.
Adobe Winery (in Petaluma) 2 for 1 Tasting ($15+ SAVINGS) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Semillon, Viognier, Rose, Pinot, Grenache, Zin, Syrah, CAB
GREEDY Wines (Sebastopol): Complimentary tasting and meet the winemaker ($20+SAVINGS) Known for: CAB & Sauv Blanc BY APPT ONLY
Ekitmo Wines (Sebastopol): 2 for 1 tasting ($10+SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Pinot, Zinfandel,Petite Sirah, Sauv Blanc
LE Estate (Carneros): 10% off wine purchases. Reservations are recommended
Jean Edwards Cellars (Sonoma Plaza): 2 for 1 tasting (Save $20
Larson Family (Sonoma): 10% off wine purchases Known for: Three Lab Cab, Chardonnay, and Pinot
Ceja Vineyards (near Carneros Brewery in Sonoma) 15% off in-person wine purchases Known for: Pinot, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Rose, Red Blend, Merlot, Syrah, Cab, and Late Harvest/Dessert Wine.
Schug Vineyard (Sonoma): 2 for 1 tasting for TWO ($20+SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Pinot, Late Harvest, Sauv Blanc, Merlot, Cab, Malbec
Viansa (Sonoma): 2 for 1 tasting M-F and 20% off their picnic lunches with reservations any day of the week email: JSandine@vintagewineestates.com ($30+SAVINGS) Known for: A bit of everything
Cline Cellars (Sonoma): 2 for 1 Reserve Tasting and 10% off wine purchases ($15+SAVINGS) Known for: Zin, Mouverde, Chardonnay…and they really have it all.
Jacuzzi Cellars (Sonoma): 2 for 1 Reserve Tasting and 10% off wine purchases ($20+SAVINGS) Known for: Italian style varietals
Canihan Winery (Sonoma): 2 for 1 tasting and meet the winemaker by appointment only ($20+SAVINGS): Pinot, Syrah BY APPT ONLY
Mayo Family Winery (Glen Ellen): 2 for 1 Tastings and 10% off wine purchases ($15+SAVINGS) Known for: Zin, CAB
Kivelstadt Cellars (Glen Ellen): One Complimentary Tasting per pass and 10% off wine purchases ($15+SAVINGS): Red Blends, Pinot, Syrah, Viognier, Sauv Blanc, Rose
Spann Vineyards (Glen Ellen): 2 for 1 Tasting or Complimentary Tasting for Two with a bottle purchase. Special discount on Pizza lunch and wine pairing (reservation required) ($20SAVINGS) Known for: Zin, CAB, Chardonnay, Blends
Deerfield Ranch Winery Caves (Kenwood): One complimentary tasting per pass ($15SAVINGS) Known for: DRX, Meritage Red Blends, Cabs, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Zin, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauv Blanc, Rose, White blends
Muscardini Cellars (Kenwood): 2 for 1 Tastings and 10% off wine purchases ($15+SAVINGS) Known for: Single-Vineyard Designate Zinfandels, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Bordeaux-style blend and Late Harvest Zinfandel.
Manzanita Creek: (Kenwood) Complimentary Tasting for Two and 15% off purchases ($30+SAVINGS) Known for: Syrah, Zin, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Pinot, Red blends
Ty Caton Vineyard (Kenwood): 2 for 1 Tastings ($15+SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Merlot, Red blends, Syrah, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Cab, Dessert Wines
B Wise (Kenwood): 2 for 1 Tastings ($20SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Red Blends, Cabs, Syrah, Rose, Pinot
VJB Vineyards(Kenwood): 2 for 1 Tastings ($15SAVINGS) Known for: Italian Style Wines and they also have a wonderful Deli.
Chateau St. Jean (kenwood): 2 for 1 Tasting ($20 SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, CAB, Merlot, Pinot (they also have a wonderful reserve menu)
Landmark (Kenwood):Tower tasting by appointment. Offer Priority Wine Pass members our wine society price of $30, rather than $40 regular price OR Upgraded seated courtyard tasting by appointment to include a complimentary cheese plate for two. 24 hour notice required. ($15+SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay AND Pinot
St. Francis Winery (Santa Rosa): 2 for 1 Tastings and 10% off wine purchases ($15+SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay, Zin, Cab, and other reds
Healdsburg, Lake County & Other Sonoma County Wineries - Russian River Area
Trecini (dwntn Santa Rosa): 2 for 1 tasting and 15% off wine purchases ($15+value) Known for: Merlot, Pinot, Zin, Sauv Blanc, Sparkling
St. Francis Winery (Santa Rosa): 2 for 1 Tasting and 10% off wine purchases ($10+value) Known for: Cab, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauv Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Zin
Lost Canyon Winery (Santa Rosa): Complimentary Tasting for Two ($20 value) Known for: Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot
GREEDY Wines (Sebastopol): Complimentary tasting and meet the winemaker ($20+value) Known for: CAB & Sauv Blanc BY APPT ONLY
Ekitmo Wines (Sebastopol): 2 for 1 tasting ($10+value) Known for: Chardonnay, Pinot, Zinfandel,Petite Sirah, Sauv Blanc
Balletto Vineyards (Santa Rosa): ,4 Complimentary Tastings ($40 SAVINGS) Known for: Reds, whites, and red blends
Wine Guerilla (Forestville): Complimentary Tasting for 2 and 10% off wine purchases Known for: Zin
Landmark (Forestville): Upgraded seated courtyard tasting by appointment to include a complimentary cheese plate for two. 24 hour notice required. ($15+SAVINGS) Known for: Chardonnay AND Pinot
K Squared Cellars (Windsor): 2 for 1 tasting ($15 value) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Pinot, Merlot, Zin, Rose
Trione Vineyards & Winery (Geyserville): 2 for 1 tasting and 10% off case purchases ($30+ Savings) Known for: Chardonnay, Pinot, Syrah, Zin, Sauv Blanc, Primitivo
Cast Wines (Geyserville): 2 for 1 tasting ($25 Savings) Known for: Chardonnay, Pinot, Zin, Sauv Blanc, Sparkling Wine, Cab
Meeker Vineyard (Geyserville):2 Complimentary Tastings ($30+ Savings) Known for: Dry, age-worthy, bold reds, and unusual white, rosé, and dessert wines
VML (Healdsburg): 2 for 1 tasting ($15+value) Known for: Chardonnay, Pinot, Sauv Blanc, Sparkling, Zin, Red blend, Syrah, Dessert wines/sweet wines
ACORN Winery/Alegría Vineyards (Healdsburg): 2 for 1 PRIVATE sit down tasting with owner or winemaker with reservation and 10% off bottle purchases ($30 Value) Known for: Cab, Cab Franc, Sangiovese, Red blends, Syrah, Zin,Petite Sirah
West Wines (Healdsburg): 2 for 1 tasting ($30 Value) Known for Cab, Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc
Portalupi (Healdsburg Square): Complimentary 3 pour tasting for TWO with bottle purchase ($20 value) Known for: Red blends, Sauv Blanc
Blanchard Family Winery (Healdsburg Square): 2 Complimentary Tastings BY APPT ONLY and 15% off wine purchases ($20+value) Known for: Red blends, Whites
Spicy Vines (Healdsburg Square): 2 for 1 and 10% off wine purchases Known For: Zinf, Syrah, Petit Sirah, Chardonnay, Rose
Hudson Street Wineries (Healdsburg): Complimentary Tasting and 15% off wine purchases ($10+value) Known for: Chardonnay, Zin, Cab, Syrah, Sauv Blanc, Rose, Petite Sirah, Pinot
Hart’s Desire Wines (Healdsburg): 15% off wine purchases, 20% off case purchases, and complimentary tasting with purchase Known for: Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Grenache, Sangiovese Rose, Pinot, Tempranillo, Zin, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Claret, Late Harvest, and Muscat
White Oak Winery (Healdsburg): Complimentary Tasting, 10% wine purchase, ($25+value) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, Zin, Cab, Pinot, Red blends
Alexander Valley Vineyards (Healdsburg): 2 for 1 Reserve Tasting ($20 value) Known for: Chardonnay, Merlot, , Zin, Cab, Red blends, Gewertz
Sapphire Hill (Healdsburg): 15% discount on wine purchases, 20% discount on all case purchases & complimentary tasting with bottle purchase ($10+ value) Known for: Sparkling, Moscato, Gewertz.
G&C Lurton Vineyard (Healdsburg): 2 Complimentary tastings and 10% off wine purchases & private estate tour available by appointment ($20+ value) Known for:Bordeaux style wines, cab, merlot, cab franc, sb
Viszlay Vineyards (Healdsburg): 2 for 1 Tastings with Advance Reservations ($15 value) Known for: Rose, Chardonnay, Pinot, Red Blends, Zin, Petite Sirah, and a Prosecco
Merriam Vineyards: (Healdsburg) 2 for 1 Tasting ($15+value) Known for: Cabs, Pinots, Red blends, Petite Verdot, Merlot, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, and Late Harvest wines
Rued Winery: (Healdsburg) 2 for 1 tasting Known for: Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot, Zin, and Cab
*(voucher req’d)Kendall Jackson: (Healdsburg) Two for One tasting ($15+value) Known for: Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Meritage, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot, Merlot, Cab, Syrah, Zin, Red blend
Manzanita Creek: (Healdsburg) Complimentary Tasting ($15+value) Known for: Syrah, Zin, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Pinot, Red blends
Rodney Strong: (Healdsburg) 2 for 1 on our Estate tasting in our tasting room. 15% off Wine Flights and Wine & Food Pairings on our Terrace when available. 15% off Winter Food & Wine Pairings. 15% off wine purchases. (Some wines may not be discounted). ($25+value)
*(voucher req’d)Ferrari-Carano Vineyards: 2 for 1 Classic Tasting ($5value) Known for: Chardonnay, Fume Blanc, Sauv Blanc, Pinot, Merlot, Sangiovese, Zin, Cab, Red blends
Albertina Cellars (Hopland): Complimentary Tasting & Tour. Owner and winemaker will be offering a 1-2hour tour of the vineyard. Known for: CAB, Merlot Reservations Required. BY APPT ONLY
Chacewater: (Lake County) Complimentary Tasting ($10+value) Known for: Chardonnay, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Merlot
Six Sigma: (Lake County) 2 for 1 Tasting ($10+value) Known for: Rose, Sauv Blanc, Pinot, Tempranillo, Cab,
Sky Pine Vineyards & Bobdog Wine: (Cloverdale) Complimentary Tasting ($10+value)Known for: Cab, Malbec, Meritage, Merlot, Port, Rose, Zin, Dessert Wines BY APPT ONLY
Fritz Winery: (Cloverdale) 2 for 1 Reserve Tasting ($15 value) Known for: Rose, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Red blends, Zin, Pinot
Visiting Napa Valley can be super expensive - but it doesn’t have to be. Let me show you how to sleep, eat, and dine for cheap in Napa wine country. This is Napa… on a budget, the tips the NY Times missed!Read More
Alternative Napa - Where Do Locals Taste Wine?
I totally get it - it's your first visit to Napa and the labels of the wines you see in your supermarket are haunting you. Mondavi. Beringer. Sterling. Domaine Chandon. And that castle, yes, the famous Castello di Amorosa. Must see, must see! Or should you?
Sure, these are all great stops but there's another side to Napa that locals know and love and that's the smaller boutique wineries. Don't believe what you might have read on places like TripAdvisor who claim that the smaller wineries don't have good wine. I actually found the opposite to be true. That's because the small wineries are hoping you buy a bottle or case so they're pouring the good stuff whereas the famous wineries have buses of people waiting to get in to snapchat and instagram their selfies. Wine is almost secondary to the winery at some of the big names - tram anyone?
So where to go? How do you visit Napa and taste like a VIP?
Here are a few of my favorites. First timers, go ahead and make that stop at Mondavi or Beringer but make sure you spend at least 50% of your time in these smaller wineries if you want to get away from the tourists and deeper into the heart of Napa. For those of you who have been here before you can also email me and I'll help you pick some good ones and even help you get discounts, many unpublished, so you can taste like a VIP without breaking the bank.
Here are a few "off the grid" wineries you should be checking out.
Let me help you plan it out! I don't charge, I don't get kickbacks from the wineries, I'm not associated with any wine shops, restaurants, or anybody! I am just one guy who knows and loves Napa and happy to share my favorites with you, all honest and unbiased recommendations so that you don't leave Napa thinking it was a theme park. Email me and give me your dates you will be here, the number of people in your party and whether you are a wine expert or just looking for fun places to taste. Give me two weeks if possible and I'll get you some free Napa advice on how to taste your way through Napa like a local - on a budget, of course.
Napa Valley's BEST Winery Experience: Conn Creek Barrel Blending
Every trip to Napa should have at least one BIG adventure, the winery experience that caps off your wine tasting vacation. Take the Sterling Tram? Tour the castle at Castello di Amorosa? Visit the caves of Del Dotto? Yes, all good options but for me the BEST Napa experience is the Conn Creek Winery Barrel Blending Experience. And yes, I have a discount but that comes later.
What I love about Conn Creek's Barrel Blending Experience is that how it makes you define what you like in your wine. I mean, I drink a lot of wine and I know what I like but if you asked me to describe it I get all befuddled. Umm, tar? Leather? Plums? Yikes, my cover as a self proclaimed wine expert is shattered.
But not anymore. That's because I went to the Conn Creek Barrel Blending Experience, a 90 minute "class" where you taste 6 different cabs grown in different areas of Napa. Like a good student I took a few notes and honed in on what I liked and what I didn't like in each, which was a good thing because before I knew it I was taking my little eyedropper and mixing up a glass like I was some sort of scientist. And then after some tweaking I was kneeling in front of the barrels and carefully measuring out quantities of each to make up my own blend. I call it Local Wally Reserve Cab. It's limited - very limited!
Conn Creek's blending seminar is super cool, a quick way to get a wine education that's valuable to everyone from newbie wine lovers trying to understand what they like to industry insiders who want to further their knowledge. And it's fun - no stuffy classroom setting - and afterwards you go straight to the tasting bar to try all of their wines. You like wine, you'll love this experience.
30 Days Later......
After waiting a month I invited my wine blending group over for a blind tasting. Will our wines hold up? Will we still love them? And who made the best? We wrapped the wines in foil to hide the labels and surrounded ourselves with wine glasses and sipped like the experts we had become. Surprisingly, all four bottles tasted very different from each other.
My wine started off as big, bold and nearly over the top but as it sat open and we tasted more I noticed that the LW Reserve was the one we all gravitated to., Well, at least that's how I remembered it. In truth I think all of us could defend our wine blends to the end, just like real wine makers. The winner - the one we all secretly thought was our own - started off soft and drinkable and remained complex without going over the top. It wasn't mine. Damn!
The tasting party continued as the rib eyes were tossed on the grill and our wines were so good that all four bottles were gone by the end of the night :-)
Local wally recommended
Everyone needs to do this. I mean, everyone! It's fun, it's educational, and the wine tasting competition a month later lets you bring home the Napa experience for your friends and family. And won't everyone be so impressed when you say things like how you wanted a bit more boldness so you added a drop of Petite Verdot and how the Cab Franc really sends the aroma over the top. Oh you wine expert you.
TIP: Save your cards with your measurements on it because if you LOVE your wine you can have Conn Creek make you up a custom case. Now that's cool!
Discounts for Conn Creek Blending Experience
Get a $50 discount with a Priority Wine Pass. Get your pass here, it's $39.99 per couple so the card already more than paid for itself. And remember, get the pass and I'll build you a stop by stop agenda to make sure you get your money's worth. OK, sure, it's still $100 per person after the discount but figure you get to take home a bottle of Napa wine that you made - most Napa wines are at least $60 - $75 per bottle these days - and you got to taste at the bar (normally $25 per person) - and you got a wine education that you just can't get anywhere else - so a hundred bucks is really a bargain. Highly recommended for my readers, skip the tram ride and the crowds at the touristy wineries and do the Conn Creek Blending Experience!
Napa Valley Wineries & Tasting Rooms
*Open New Year’s Eve
Back Room Wines: 707.226.1378Open 10:00am – 5:00pm
Black Stallion Winery: 707.227.3250Open10:00am – 5:00pm
Bennett Lane Winery: 877.629.6272Open 10:30am – 3:00 pm
Castello di Amorosa: 707.967.6272Open 9:30am – 5:00pm
Cliff Lede Winery: 800.428.2260Open 10:00am – 2:00pm
Chateau Montelena Winery: 707.942.5105Open 9:30am – 12:000pm
Chateau Potelle Winery: 707.255.9440Open 10:00am – 3:00pm
Cuvaison Estate – Napa: 707.942.2455Open1 0:00am – 4:00pm
Cuvaison Estate – Calistoga: 707.942.2468Open 11:00am – 4:00pm
Del Dotto – St. Helena: 707.963.2134Open 11:00am – 5:00pm (Appt. Required)
Domaine Carneros: 800.716.2788Open 10:00am – 4:00pm
Domaine Chandon: 888.242.6366 opt. 3Open 10:00am – 5:00pm
Elizabeth Spencer Wines: 707.963.4762Open 10:00am – 4:00pm
Grgich Hills Estate: 800.532.3057Open 9:30am- 4:30pm
Hall – St. Helena: 707.967.2626Open 10:00am – 3:00pm
Hall – Rutherford : 707.967.2626Open By Appointment
Hess Collection: 707.255.1144Open 10:00am – 2:00pm
Inglenook: 707.968.1100Open 10:00am – 5:00pm
Judd’s Hill Winery: 707-255-2332Open 10:00am – 4:00pm
Louis M. Martini: 707.968.3361Open 10:00am – 3:00pm
Markham Vineyards: 707.963.5292Open 10:00am – 5:00pm
Merryvale Vineyards: 707.663.7777Open 10:30am – 3:00pm
Pine Ridge Vineyards: 800.575.9777Open 10:00am – 4:30pm
Raymond Vineyards: 707.963.3141Open 10:00am – 4:00pm
Robert Mondavi Winery: 888-766-6328Open 10:00am-3:00pm
Round Pound Estate: 707.302.2575Open 10:00am – 3:00pm (last appt. at 1:30pm)
Signorello Estate: 707.255.5990Open10:00am – 5:00pm (by Appt. only)
St. Supery: 707.963.4507Open 10:00am – 2:30pm
V. Sattui Winery: 707.963.7774Open 9:00am – 5:00pm
William Hill Winery: 707 265 3024Open 10:00am – 3:00pm
*Open New Year’s Day
Alpha & Omega Winery: 707.963.9999Open 10:00am – 6:00pm
Bennett Lane Winery: 877.629.6272Open 11:00am – 3:00pm
Castello di Amorosa: 707.967.6272Open9:30am – 5:00pm
Cuvaison Estate – Napa: 707.942.2455Open 10:00am – 4:00pm
Del Dotto – St. Helena: 707.963.2134 Open 11:00am – 5:00pm (Appt. Required)
Domaine Carneros: 800.716.2788Open 12:00pm – 6:00pm
Elizabeth Spencer Wines: 10:00am – 4:00pm 707.963.4762
Raymond Vineyards: 707.963.3141 Open 10:00am – 4:00pm
V. Sattui Winery: 707.963.7774 Open 9:00am – 5:00pm
Sonoma County Wineries & Tasting Rooms
*Open New Year’s Eve
Anaba Wines: 707.996.4188Open 10:30 am – 3pm
Battaglini Estate Winery: 707.578.4091Open 10am – 4:30pm
Cartograph Wines: 707.433.8270, Open 12pm – 4pm
Chalk Hill Estate: 707.657.4837Open 10am – 4pm
Christopher Creek: 707.433.2001 Open 10am – 6pm
Deloach Vineyards: 707.526.9111Open 10am – 5pm
Dutton Estate Winery: 707.829.9463Open 10am – 3pm
Francis Ford Copolla Winery: 707.857.1471 Open 11am – 6pm
Gloria Ferrer: 707.996.7256Open 10am – 3pm
Halleck Vineyard: 707.484.0707Open 10:30am – 3:00pm
Hanna Winery: 707.431.4310Open 10am – 4pm
Hartford Family Winery: 707.887.8030Open 10am – 3pm
Hop Kiln Winery: 707.433.6491Open 10am – 2pm
Imagery Estate: 877.550.4278Open 10am – 2:30pm
Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens: 707.571.8100Open 10am – 3pm
Korbel Champagne Cellars: 707.824.700010am – 4:30pm
La Crema: 800.314.1762Open 10:30am – 3pm
Longboard Vineyards: 707.433.3473Open 11am – 2pm
Mantanzas Creek Winery: 707.528.6464Open 10am – 2pm
Murphy-Goode: 707.431.7644Open 10:30am – 3pm
Rodney Strong Vineyards: 707.431.1533Open 10am – 3pm
Russian Hill Winery: 707.575.9428Open 10am – 4pm
Selby: 707.431.1288Open 11am – 5:30pm
St. Francis Winery: 707.431.8749Open 10am – 2pm
Stephen & Walker Winery: 707.431.8749Open 11am – 7pm
Topel Winery Tasting Room: 707.433.4116Open 11am – 5pm
Walt Wines : 707.933.4440 Open 11am – 4pm
White Oak Vineyards: 707.433.8429Open 10am – 2pm
Special Thanks to Winecountry.com for the list. Always a good idea to contact the wineries directly to verify before coming in.
Anthony Bourdain knows what I'm talking about. He says to skip the Eiffel Tower when visiting Paris, to not fight the crowds at the Louvre, to take a selfie in front of Notre Dame but not go in. Instead he goes to a bistro, orders wine and cheese and gets into the local scene.
That's my advice for Napa and Sonoma. You want to see Mondavi, go to your supermarket shelf. You want a tram ride, go to Disneyland. But if you want good wine, if you want a wine tasting experience that surprises and delights and surpasses all expectations, then you need to follow me.
No doubt, winery tours are the essential field trip experience for first timers. But do you really want to walk through the hot vineyards or stare at a stainless steel tank? No, you came to taste wine and that's why I love Bell Wine Cellar's Grape to Glass Tour, a 90 minute experience that's mainly focused on tasting wine, not looking at it.
There's a bit of vineyard talk, a bit of barrel talk, but mainly it's tasting deep inside the winery and tasting, from sparkling wines to deep Napa cabs. The wines are serious but the tasting experience fun for all levels, it's my favorite tour for first timers and wine lovers.
BELL WINE CELLARS
AVG BOTTLE PRICE: $60
RESERVATIONS REQUIRED: firstname.lastname@example.org
DEAL: 2 for 1 WITH PRIORITY WINE PASS - NORMALLY $50 PER PERSON.
This doesn't look like a winery at all. There are no big screen TV's, no hostess, there's not a tour bus in sight. Instead of a sign there's a mailbox with the address. Instead of a tasting room there's a barn. And inside the barn is Bill Canihan, the guy responsible for making some of the best Pinots in all of Napa and Sonoma.
This is no prop, no marketing creation, Canihan is unpretentious and honest, a hard working guy making wine he hopes you will love. It's my latest find, my favorite new "hidden" winery, make reservations and experience Canihan Wines.
AVG BOTTLE PRICE: $50
RESERVATIONS REQUIRED: (415) 990-9270
DEAL: 2 FOR 1 WITH PRIORITY WINE PASS (NORMALLY $25 PER PERSON), TASTING FEE TOTALLY WAIVED WITH PURCHASE
Pity the fools who are lining up to try to get another sip at one of the big mega wineries. Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards takes you deep into the caves with a small group to sample some of Napa's most exquisite wines. Barrel tasting, of course, and you can even reserve a spot to do some wine and food pairing with the winemaker.
ANDERSON'S CONN VALLEY
AVG BOTTLE PRICE: $75
DEAL: 2 for 1 CAVE TASTING (NORMALLY $65 PER PERSON) WITH PRIORITY WINE PASS
An industrial building for tastings, picnic tables under the trees, bocce ball next to the vineyards, Dutch Henry is a hidden gem in the Calistoga area. Make reservations and you can even taste inside their caves, an incredible experience. Make this your last stop of the day and give yourself enough time to buy a bottle to sip under the trees. Relaxing and fun.
Tip: Bring some cheese and bread for a delightfully low key picnic experience.
DUTCH HENRY WINERY
AVG BOTTLE PRICE: $50
WALK IN'S OK BUT RESERVATIONS REQUIRED FOR CAVE TASTING
DEAL: 2 for 1 WITH PRIORITY WINE PASS
Wine and food pairings taken to the extreme, B Cellars goes beyond the nibble of cheese and expands it into a four course meal. The four course pairing costs $135 per person but those with lighter appetites (and wallets) can still experience B Cellars with a $60 food pairing experience that takes you through the gardens, caves, and back to a seated table where the chef is preparing tasty bites to go with each wine. Outstanding experience for those who love food as much as they do wine.
B CELLARS WINERY
AVG BOTTLE PRICE: $75
DEAL: VIP OAKVILLE TREK TASTING, $300 PER COUPLE INCLUDES TASTING, TOUR, FOOD, PAIRING, AND TWO SIGNED BOTTLES IN WOODEN GIFT BOXES WITH PRIORITY WINE PASS.
Unlike the big wineries who see thousands of people a day these small boutiques have limited visitors. Therefore, visit them expecting to buy a bottle or two (or more), of course assuming you like their wine. If not it's always a nice gesture to tip the person who poured your wine - standard restaurant tipping rules apply so a $50 tasting = $10 tip.
Get these deals and many others with the annual wine pass. The Priority Wine Pass is the easiest way to get Napa deals and discounts without jumping through hoops. No tweeting before tasting from a phone app, no searching for an expired coupon, just flash the card or image on your phone and get these and other Napa tasting deals!
Lately I've been getting a ton of requests for wineries you can walk to, areas where you can spend a few hours sightseeing and tasting wine along the way. For those people I recommend Yountville, a picturesque town filled with scenery, top end restaurants, and lots of tasting rooms. One of the most unique is Silver Trident Winery, a tasting room that looks more like a Ralph Lauren show room than a winery tasting room. I mean it - nearly everything inside is Ralph Lauren, from the sofas to the corkscrews, and everything is for sale.
Silver Trident has different rooms for tastings, from fully decked out dens to fancy dining rooms where the chairs cost $7,000 apiece and are so comfortable it almost seems reasonable. I know, it's a bit disconcerting at first to plop yourself down in such a fancy setting to taste wine, especially if you're like me where the red wine while sitting on the sofa is a guaranteed disaster. Thankfully they sat us in the dining room, surrounded by original art by Jacques Pepin, the famous French chef. Now I don't mean to sound like a hillbilly but bring on the wine!
Wine and Food Pairing
Hey, this is nice! A bit of small bites comes out with the tastings, a mini-wine and food pairing experience that usually is an upgraded extra at other wineries but comes with reserved tastings. Oh yeah, make a reservation to make sure you get a spot. Walk-In's welcome if it's not busy but you want to call ahead to get this sort of VIP treatment.
The wines ranged from a lovely rose of Pinot Noir to deep dark Cabernet Sauvignon that Napa is famous for. The wines were complex, lively, and very drinkable. Get a bottle of that Rose and open it with a nice baguette and some cheese and it's pretty much a perfect day.
Now you might think that this is going to be too stuffy, too hoity-toity, but it's not! In fact, it's one of the friendlier wine tasting experiences you might have. Perhaps it's because their background is from the ocean cruise industry where fine hospitality is a requirement. From the greeter to the server to the sleeping dog in front named Keith Richards, everyone was welcoming and trust me, you don't have to be a wine expert to love their wines and this experience.
And if the furniture is a bit out of your price range, isn't it fun to dream a little?
Canihan Winery | 1340 Napa Rd, Sonoma, CA 95476 | Appt Only: (415) 990-9270
"Look for the numbers on the mailbox or you'll miss it."
Those instructions were from Bill Canihan Jr, the owner of the family winery with roots that go back to Switzerland where his grandfather was born. Looking for a better life, his grandfathers journey led him to San Francisco where he developed a passion for wine, a love that was handed down to his son-in-law who purchased a farm in Sonoma in 1973. Fast forward a few years and his grandson, once a successful mortgage broker, is responsible for making some of the best Pinot Noirs and Syrahs you'll ever taste. Seriously good stuff!
This is the tasting room? I like it!
What's most apparent is the stark contrast of the tasting room to the mega wineries popping up in Napa. Don't get me wrong, I love Napa and love a grand tasting room as much as the next guy but when you drive down the dusty road and end up at a rickety barn you quickly forget about Persian columns and chrome rabbits. It's a bit like changing the radio dial from rap to John Denver. What? No tram ride? No gargoyles? Nope, there's not even a bocce ball court! But there's wine, lots of really great wine.
The tasting room is the barn, bottles set up on a rustic table made from Redwood barrel staves that were used to age wine in the '60's and balanced on wine barrels. There was no interior designer here and that's fine with me. Bill pours the wine himself on most days, happily telling you about the awards and humbly describing his wines - mainly pinot noir and syrah's. As an occasional fly buzzed by (it is a barn, after all), it just struck me that this is what wine tasting is all about - wine, people, conversation.
And Bill is a super nice guy. There's no pretense, there's no script, he's just pouring wines and sipping them with you like he's known you forever.
Stacked along the barn wall were empties, every year and every wine he has produced represented, including the 2003 Pinot that started it all and the 2004 Syrah that won his first set of awards. The wines were beyond excellent, really some of the best I've tasted on this trip. Canihan Winery makes small yield, high quality wines, focused on quality and aimed at the discriminating wine lover. But don't let that scare you off - the tasting experience is fun, friendly, and educational (in a good way). Really, even if you are a newbie to wine tasting this is a great stop.
TIP: Did you know you can get a two for one tasting at Canihan if you show them your Priority Wine Pass? Get yours today and don't forget to use promo code localwally to get my readers' discount! Just $39.99, it opens up two for one tastings all over Napa and Sonoma.
Tractors, chickens, and farmhouse dogs, an authentic experience.
In the end you can't help but buy a few bottles. And that's my wine tasting etiquette tip - while it's certainly OK to not buy at Robert Mondavi or Beringer, when visiting a small winery buying wine at the winery is what keeps them in business. Bottles are in the $50 range, quite reasonable for wines of this caliber and a good choice for bringing home to share with friends. Or bring it to dinner that night. Now that's a good plan! Bill waives the tasting fee with a bottle purchase as if you needed more incentive.
Perhaps one of the best wine tasting experiences you will have.
So when the crowds at the giant mega wineries get you down and you want a wine tasting experience that connects to the winery the way the wines connect to the soil, get off the beaten track and take that short drive to Sonoma. Make your way to Canihan Winery and experience wine tasting where the wine - and the people who made them - are the focus.
CANIHAN WINERY: RESERVATIONS REQUIRED - CALL (415) 990-9270 AND DON'T FORGET TO TELL THEM LOCAL WALLY SENT YOU!
TIP: The restroom is a porta potty so plan ahead :-)