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If you had to visit just one winery in Napa Valley, which would it be?

  • r

We have one day to visit Napa Valley and we don't know where to start. None of us are really big on wine but we would like to visit the area and get to see how the wine is made. So if you had to pick just one, which would it be?

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      1. Well, gee, this is such a difficult question to answer. I live
        in Napa Valley and work in the wine industry. The wineries really aren't in competition with each other; we really do look
        at all the wineries here being part of a larger community.
        That said, who is the best? Well, you might ask who gives
        the best tours on wine-making, since you're not into tasting wine. What I'd recommend is that you NOT come on a weekend,
        so that your experience can be more of an intimate one with the winery and tour guide, and you can feel free to ask questions
        and the winery and tour guide have the time to answer them.

        Maybe you want a big winery where you'll be part of a large tour group, like Mondavi or Beringer, or perhaps you want a smaller family-run winery. Maybe you'd like to see the building, grounds and fabulous car collection at Far Niente, or the art collection at Hess Collection, or the Michael Graves architecture at Clos Pegase. No real winery stands out as having "the best" tour. Each winery offers different things, and the individual tour guides at each winery each have a different personality and style.

        I personally like the smaller to medium-sized wineries because of the possibility of a lot of personal interaction with the winery. Right now is harvest wine, so the grapes are coming in, being de-stemmed and crushed, then put into fermentation tanks. The process is pretty similar at all the wineries.
        Have a wonderful time here...

        1. Beringer for the caves, the Rhinehouse and the reserve wines (but only if you like oaky wines)

          1. if you want to get a good straightforward understanding and fun, i'd go to benzinger, which is actually in sonoma, not napa


            1. When I'm giving out-of-state visitors a tour, I will take them to one of three places.

              1. Sterling Winery for the aerial tram ride and amazing hawk's-eye view of Napa Valley. The high-tech displays of modern winemaking are interesting, too.


              2. Buena Vista in Sonoma for historic charm and beauty -- it is the oldest winery in California. Afterwards visit the town of Sonoma.

              3. Benziger in Glen Ellen for folks interested in the agricultural aspects of winemaking. Afterwards, go up the road to visit Jack London's home and museum.

              1. Thank you for the recs so far, much appreciated.

                1. If I'm in Napa I would visit Cliff Lede and Robert Sinskey. They are close together, both craft outstanding wines, have beautiful tasting rooms and are very customer oriented, plus just downright friendly. And, if you are a real Chowhound, Robert Sinskey is very food oriented also, trying to pair their wines with food. Robert Sinskey's wife is a chef, has written a wonderful cookbook so pairings are very important for them. Plus, they have a kitchen there and many times are providing small tastes of food to go with their wines.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rtmonty

                    We've always thought Sinskey was a good stop for the same reasons you've mentioned, however 2 wks ago we had out-of-towners in tow and made our customary stop at Sinskey and were totally underwhelmed by the wines, "snacks" and attitude... Either our tastes and perceptions have changed or ....???? Pours were the tiniest we've ever seen, about a tablespoon each, and at $20 for 4 it seemed truly exorbidant plus nothing tasted special.

                  2. I'm not so knowledgable wineery-wise, but if you can fit two winereries in try one regular and one that makes sparkling wine which is a different process. I enjoy Chandon and take people there when doing the winery thing. And just for contrast, since Chandon is a big winery, it might be nice to go to choose one of the smaller, more personal wineries as the regular winery.

                    1. Best way for non-drinkers to visit is to plan to see three wineries that are nearby. You only need to taste at one and can view the others for process and/or architecture. Sharuf had some good ideas.

                      Chose an Area: Sonoma, Napa, Carneros, Alexander Valley and lump some close wineries together.

                      Given your short time, I think I would also opt for Sonoma Valley. You can see how quaint Buena Vista is ... I had a nice picnic there... they have lots of tables.

                      Visit town of Sonoma, see Benziger, Visit ruins of Jack London's house if interested, or save your tasting for Mayo -- they have a neat tasting that combines/food and wine (very educational too!).

                      Buena Vista for brunch picnic and sightseeing, Benziger, and Mayo would be a full day.


                      1. I'd second the recommendation for Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga. It's a wonderful winery. They're known for their Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignon.

                        I'd also recommend Artesa in the Carneros region of Napa. The emphasis here is on Spanish varietals, which are hit-or-miss in my opinion. I love their sparkling and Pinots. Artesa is off the main drag, which is nice. It tends to attact visitors who like to go off-the-beaten-path (Hwy 29) for good wine in a artsy-casual setting.

                        Please do yourself a big favour and avoid V. Sattui. Oh, it's SO not good. This should be evident by the dozens of tour buses in the parking lot.

                        1. While V. Sattui is often choked with visitors, some of their wines have been top notch, garnering gold medals in nunmerous Calif wine competitons (I know because I judge at several of them) Ignore the mob, taste the wines.

                          1. I can't comment on V. Sattui wines, but I can say that the place does have its value. Since it's smack dab on 29 it makes for a convenient pit stop, has ample food stuff if you need something for a picnic, and has picnic tables. It is most definitely in the tourist business, but you can use it to make your vinicultural excursions less taxing.

                            1. Thanks for the recs so far. We have Chateau Montelena booked and are not deciding between Frog's Leap and Roberty Mondavi for a tour since we'll be in the area at Roundpond. Anyone have experience with either?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Rick

                                I would opt for Frog's Leap. Have taken the tour there and it was not only informative but a whole lot of fun. Mondavi is just too big plus it's not even owned by the Mondavi's anymore.

                                1. re: Rick

                                  I agree with Frog's Leap. The grounds are lovely. I think Heitz is always a great stop. It's probably the only Napa winery that doesn't have a fee and their port is yummy.

                                2. Why not do the Sonoma or Mendocino wine routes.......where you don't have to pay at every winery to taste their product?
                                  Love Navarro on the way to Mendocino!

                                  1. I'm crazy about wine, but my choice would be Karl Lawrence because of the warm, personalized attetion Ric shows people. (And sometimes Mike, the winemaker, shows me around.)

                                    I could make a strong case for Del Dotto for a novice. But that is costly.

                                      1. Cliff Lede, Silverado Trail and Yountville Crossroad. It's beautiful, the people are very nice and the wines outstanding.