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Which of these wineries would you go to?


I am trying to narrow down the list of wineries we are going to on our vacation.This will be our first trip to the area.

I know several wineries we will be visiting. However, there are four I'm trying to decide between (2 out of 4 is the goal). I'm hoping you all can help me! It would be great if one had great reds and one had great whites. However, that is not neccesary. St. Supry was mainly thrown in there because it's supposed to have a nice learning experience and good wine.

Here are the wineries:

Roberty Sinsky
Peju Province
St Supery
Sawyer Winery

Thanks so much for your imput!

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  1. Out of the four, I would only go to Sinsky -- the others are over-rated and a bit too commercial in my opinion.

      1. Thanks you two! Would you recommend the tour as well as the tasting? I am excited about this day. We will go to Sinsky and Frog's Leap, I think.

        1. Depends on if you have ever been on a winery tour or not -- I am "so over them" but for neophytes, they can be quite fun and educational.

          12 Replies
          1. re: Carrie 218

            Well, my husband has never been on a wine tour and we'd like to go on one or two.

            1. re: stephtx

              Sinskey charges $25 a person which seems awfully high.

              Do any decent wineries offer good cheap or free tours?

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                The Sinsky website says $15 or $20 for the regular tastings. From what I've heard the cheap or free tastings generally occur in Sonoma. Guess that's a whole 'nother thread!

                  1. re: stephtx

                    i believe it the tasting fee can be applied to wine purchases.

                    i'd caution being wary of high tasting prices. this is largely to filter out the riff/raff. if serious wine drinkers want to taste expensive wines prior to purchasing or would like to taste a vintage they own already without popping their own bottle, all with a good experience, paying the price is well worth it.

                    if you're really looking for a lovely experience, coupled with education for moderately priced wines try:

                    ANDERSON SPARKLING - phenomenal caves, very education
                    SILVER OAK - i second the opinions here for the napa location
                    COPPOLA - lovely setting, fun paraphenalia from the movies, good wine
                    SHAFER - excellent tour, good wines, terrific story

                    there are so many good places, it's hard to go wrong.

                    1. re: revets2

                      With regard to wineries, CURRENT information is rather important, as winemakers change, meaning the wines change also. Vintages also vary, and wineries change ownership and with that sometimes the complete concept and name of the winery change also.

                      As is the case of S. Anderson sparkling winery, mentioned above.
                      It has been gone for FIVE YEARS. It is now Cliff Lede, and the wines rarely receive a mention.

                      Coppola has been gone for 1-1/2 years as well. It is now Rubicon Estate, and discussed already in this thread. The movie memorabilia will be housed in a “museum” of sorts at the new Francis Ford Coppola Winery at the former Chateau Souverain estate north of Healdsburg (exit Independence Lane off Hwy. 101), but will not be available for viewing for “another year or so” according to the tasting room today.

                      Shafer is, as revets2 posts, a top-flight winery. Unfortunately, they are under construction and not scheduling tasting visits, citing safety concerns. It’s a shame:
                      the setting is beautiful and the wines are still at the top of the heap.

                      As mentioned earlier in this thread, Silver Oak in Napa is also undergoing construction and so now is not the best time to visit.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        thanks for the update. so much changes in a year.

                        cliff lede still distributes S. ANDERSON. it's still a great tour and worth a trip.

                        we were in the area in feb. and the temp tasting room at silver oak is fine. it's actually great to see the models of the new facility.

                        i know COPPOLA is now RUBICON, but felt that the COPPOLA name might be more recognizable to the original poster.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          Coppola still owns Rubicon Estate...he just made changes....wine focused changes. New wine too...better. The old diamond wines are good table wines. But Rubicon Estate produces some really impressive Estate selections. Their Estate Merlot and Estate Cab Franc are really, very good. They don't pour those int he Tasting Room but you can get buy them by the glass at the on-site Wine Bar. Really cool little place.

                          1. re: Bizzy

                            I'm sorry, Bizzy, I disagree with your assessment of Rubicon wines. I haven't tasted a single one of the lot that justifies their cost.

                            Agree on Sinskey and Frog's Leap. They're fun, close to each other, and both wineries make some fine wines.

                            However, all this may be immaterial, as the OP's post was mid-March 2007.

                            1. re: Bizzy

                              Coppola's been making that cab franc for a while. I first had it at Tommaso's years ago. Nice stuff but oddly expensive.

                    2. re: stephtx

                      There are only a few tours that I recommend, and none of them are the wineries you mentioned. If the goal of a tour is to actually learn something, rather than to just tag along until the tasting that follows, these are my recommendations. You're guaranteed to learn, and well as enjoy, if you go on the tours at:

                      -- Louis Martini Winery is a state-of-the-art tour . . . if your state is 1933. It was the first, all-new-from-the-ground-up winery built in Napa after Prohibition.

                      -- Robert Mondavi is a state-of-the-art tour . . . if your state is 1966. It was the second, all-new-from-the-ground-up winery built in Napa after Prohibition. (They have also continued to upgrade, modernize, etc., etc., so the contrast between Martini and Mondavi is very educational.)

                      -- Domaine Chandon produces traditional sparkling wines, and the process of doing so is totally different than making table wines.

                      -- Any small winery that you visit, and by small, I mean under 5,000 case annual production; under 10,000 at the most. It's just a different scale, and well worth seeing.

                  2. I have to disagree with Sawyer being overrated and too commercial. I think they make excellent wines at a good value for Napa Valley. It is one of the few places in Napa that I enjoy stopping at because the people are so nice and it's an easy pop-in off 29.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: The Dive

                      Thanks,The Dive,

                      I've heard good things about Sawyer as well.

                      I think, in this area of Napa, we're going to Elyse, Sinsky, Frog's Leap, and ? :).

                      1. re: stephtx

                        You know, I wasn't all that impressed by Elyse when I went last March. it was very crowded and didn't seem as much of a "find" as I was hoping it to be. On the same road is Havens, which makes stellar merlots and some interesting red blends. I enjoyed the experience as it is by appointment only and they really restrict the number of people at the tasting room at any given time. My group of four sat at the picnic table outside and tasted (and re-tasted) several bottles over the course of an hour while discussing the wine with the staff member.

                    2. Are set on going to Napa?

                      I think Sonoma is more laid back and more scenic than Napa. This region region is known for its high quality Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Sparkling Wines. The Russian River valley is one of the most beautiful areas, known for it's Pinot Noir. This area has more family owned wineries, less commercial-

                      Davis Bynum
                      Rochioli Vineyards and Winery
                      Hartford Family Winery

                      Iron Horse is one of my favorites with it's outside tasting area and what a view- good sparkling wines.

                      Alexander Valley is another area to visit- just picked up Their New Gerwurz 2006 a excellent everyday wine. I am not into fruity wines but this is delicious, Indian food comes to mind.

                      If you do end up in Napa, go to Artesa with gorgeous views, grounds and architecture.. wines are pretty good too.

                      I hear the Cakebread tour is worth while, I have not been

                      These would be my selections for Napa- especially for reds
                      Lewelling Vineyards- is worth visiting, excellent cabs.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Lori SF

                        Thanks so much for your reply! We're actually going to be in the area for 5 days and will definately be in Sonoma for a few days. I was just trying to narrow down some of my Napa choices.

                        Thanks for your suggestions!

                        1. re: Lori SF

                          Davis Bynum, Rochioli and Hartford are all consistently good wineries. That stretch of Westside Road is quite enchanting in springtime, and there are many fine wineries
                          tucked away along that road.

                        2. Not to offend , but why don't you start over.
                          In Napa Valley , it would be Silver Oak.
                          In Sonoma , it should be Seghesio and Rochioli in Healdsburg , and Benovia in Santa Rosa .
                          Benovia is the most educational . Seghesio is an icon Zin winery . Rochioli is an icon Pinot winery . And , Silver Oak is....well , Silver Oak is Silver Oak.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: pinotho

                            Lately the reviews from Silver Oak have been less than stellar -- first, they are redecorating so tastings are being done in a trailer; second, Silver Oak hasn't really BEEN "Silver Oak" in a number of years and too many folks are complaining of mediocre wine being served by snooty tasting room zombies.

                            1. re: Carrie 218

                              Silver Oak is reconstructing after a fire, so the tasting room situation is not as lovely as it once was. The two red wines offered (a Napa Cabernet and an Alexander Valley Cabernet) are good, but there are many other fine wineries with red wine as good if not better. I have found the tasting room personnel who have poured for me on three separate occasions in the last 18 months to be courteous and professional, but I have not been waited on by all of them.

                              Sinskey makes good Pinot, and his RSV line is rather impressive. Often there are lovely food pairings to go along with the wine. (They have an in-house chef, and Rob Sinskey's wife is Maria Helm, former chef at PlumpJack, so please ask about the food pairings when you call.) I probably prefer the Pinot Noirs of the Russian River Valley or the reserves from Oregon, but Sinskey is a fine house.

                              Frog's Leap makes lovely wines, and is a pioneer in innovative, organic wine farming. The owner, John Williams, is an absolute delight with a whimsy in winemaking that is rare. His whole staff is fun. I can’t imagine a visit there that wouldn’t be entertaining. The setting, on Rutherford Road, is also lovely. Look for the huge red barn and the “frog leaping” wind vane.

                              All that said, I would suggest your sampling wines at Duckhorn, at the north end
                              of St. Helena. The setting of the winery, the huge wraparound porch and interior of the wine-tasting room are all beautiful; the wines are stunning (Sauvignon Blanc, renowned Merlot, and clean, elegant Cabernets); and the tasting room waitstaff are smart and personable without pretense or snobbery. I tasted there about 3 weeks ago.

                              Joseph Phelps Winery is also outstanding. Craig Williams simply doesn’t make a bad wine. The setting, nestled into a small canyon with a lake, is beautiful, and I believe you
                              are able to bring a gourmet picnic and taste. But call first. It's always best to call ahead
                              before you visit any winery to get the lowdown.

                              I'd also recommend Bennett Lane, at the north end of the valley in Calistoga. Elegant,
                              concentrated reds that are not overripe, a nice Chardonnay, but also a white wine
                              that is somewhat like Caymus's Conundrum – zippy and refreshing, floral with some tropical fruit notes, a perfect spring wine. Very consistent line-up.

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                Sinskey's Web site says a wine tasting with food pairings is available by appointment for $60 per person. But that's a pretty expensive lunch.


                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I think Maria's refering to the free snacks that they usually have with the tastings. They always offer olives/rosemary almonds/crackers and usually have 2 or 3 things from the kitchen on the back shelf. They do great grougeres and meatballs.

                              2. re: Carrie 218

                                Carrie: Thanks for updating me on Silver Oak ; 'tis appreciated .

                            2. Steph

                              I went to Frog's Leap last year and it was very enjoyable & an actual tour. Small groups & free produce - they have an organic farm there and they just put out whatever is harvested that day for the employees and the patrons.

                              The tour is free - but you need to sign up in advance.

                              Have fun!

                              1. Steph

                                First I have to agree with others that Sinsky is your best choice "taste-wise" but you still won't be blown away. In fact, you won't be blown away by much of anything unless you pay premiums to taste the reserve wines (if available) that aren't part of most tasting room flights. The best wine-tasting value in Napa has to be Frank Family on Larkmead--good wines, no tasting fee. Now, I gotta add that you will get burnt out on ricocheting from winery to winery suffering the same incessant prattle from minium wage pourer monkeys. If this your first time to the Valley and you are in tourist mode and you want to do an interesting tour, go to Beringer. At Beringer you get a history lesson and tour through their hand-dug wine caves...Yes everyone is yelling COMMERICAL and Touristy!!! but they can't deny it's interesting. Plus it's like taking out of town guests to SF for the first time--you gotta take 'em to the Golden Gate, Fisherman's Warf and go for a ride on the cable cars...it's a must--get it out of the way. If you go, make a B-line for their reserve room--their reserve program puts out some of them most opulent and exulting cabenets in the valley--ignore the rest. Another "interesting" place (with lousy wine) is Coppola--beautiful grounds and a chateau full of history and Coppola's movie crap.

                                As for wine, instead of "tasting" my wife and I go "appetizering". We start in Napa and make our way up to Calistoga. We'll go to a restaurant, order their signature appetizer along with the chef recommended local NV wine to accompany the dish; then ,we go to the next target restaurant up valley. This way, you get to eat the incredible food and try wines you may not otherwise experience. Also, most restaurants will let you taste before you buy. As a bonus the food makes the wine taste better and vice versa. Do this:

                                Start at Bounty Hunter in Downtown Napa. It's a wine-bar/restaurant with an amazing selection you can both taste and buy. They have many limited/boutiquey wines that you may want to go visit--plus you'll get great insight from both the staff and patrons sitting next to you--it's an industry hang out.

                                Then go up to Yountville and hit Bistro Jeanty and Bouchon. Sit at the bars or outside on the bistro tables if it's nice...FRITES!!!

                                Then Oakville--Mustards Grill. This is the place that really launched the "wine-country quisine" thing back in the 80's--lots of nv wines.

                                Rutherford- The Rutherford Grill--Family style looking but great.

                                St. Helena-- Press--Here you will find a wine list dedicated exclusively to Napa Valley wines...The owner is a winemaker/ or winery owner I believe. Go next door to Dean and Deluca and buy some bottles.

                                St. Helena--Martini House

                                St. Helena--Squeeze in that Beringer tour

                                St. Helena-- The restaurant at the CIA--Christian Brothers old "Greystone Cellars"

                                Calistoga-- Frank Family (on Larkmead) do you like art? Clos Pegase on Dunawheel

                                Calistoga--Wappo Bar for apps and wine.

                                Then drive back, carefully, to Napa via Silverado Trail.

                                In Sonoma, you'll want to drive up to the Dry Creek Valley just north of Healdsburg. Take 101 to the "Dry Creek Rd." exit, and turn left under the freeway. It's a beautiful, narrow, winding road that will take you to many small, family owned operations where the person pouring your wine is most likely the winemaker him/herself. Great zinfandels (Wilson, Rued Bella)and cal-itals (UNTI). Cabernets in Dry Creek have a much different style than Napa. They are lighter bodied, Iess complex, and better for daily "drinking"--Napa cabs are huge, opulent "food wines".
                                As you make your way to the end of Dry Creek road, hit Sbragia Family Vineyards at the end of the road before the dam. The winery has a deck with the best view in the county. Drink it in.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: orangeplow

                                  Great suggestion to do an appetizer, rather than a tasting, tour.

                                  A couple of comments:

                                  Coppola is now named Rubicon, $25 per head in the car as you enter the grounds.
                                  In my opinion, the wines don't justify the price charged. The movie memorabilia has
                                  moved to the Coppola winery that used to Chateau Souverain.

                                  Beringer has a good tour. Good comment about heading to the reserve room first.

                                  Frank Family's wines are very good and well-priced, but the tasting room is a bit dingy.

                                  Can't recommend the CIA restaurant. Can always recommend their classes, but your food-eating dollars are best wisely spent elsewhere.

                                  Driving Silverado Trail whenever you can instead of Hwy. 29 is a very good tip.

                                  The "beautiful, narrow windy road" in Sonoma is Westside Road, referred to above.

                                  Nice post, orangeplow. Different point of view and refreshing.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    A word about Rubicon: yes it is $25 but if you break down various fees and many wineries, it's about the same if not slightly less. Also - the $25 allows you taste 5 wines including Rubicon - a wine that is $115 per bottle. You also get a tour and can roam to & from the Chateau all weekend...it's a 3 day pass. They have a wine bar called Mammarella's - seperate from the tasting room - that serves wine by the bottle and by the glass - plus Mammarella's does killer coffee drinks - well worth a first, second, and third trip back. There is a new museum...funky, interesting little gadgets on display that relate to film history. It's actually quite enjoyable. Plus that Tucker automobile is still there! What a car! Worth it!

                                    1. re: Bizzy

                                      Also - Rubicon Estate produces an entirele new line of wines then what was produced under Niebaum-Coppola. Coppola still owns but he made significant improvements. The old diamond series wines are good table wines, but Rubicon produces an entirely different reserve line now, and the produce organicly grown estate wines. The Estate Zinfandel is gorgeous and it's getting incredible reviews. (Ask for the Pennino Zinfandel because the produce two Zins...a reserve Zin, and the estate Zin: Pennino....fantastic) The Estate Merlot & Cab Franc are equally impressive. Rubicon Estate does what Niebaum Coppola couldn't....they now take wine seriously....and it's showing.

                                  2. re: orangeplow

                                    >As you make your way to the end of Dry Creek road, hit Sbragia Family Vineyards at the end of the road before the dam. The winery has a deck with the best view in the county.<

                                    Your description sounds like the prior location of Lake Sonoma Winery which now has its tasting facility in downtown Healdsburg. I stopped there (the north Dry Creek Road location) a few years ago and discovered their very good Zin.

                                    1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                      Yes. Ed Sbragia (head winemaker for 30 years at Beringer, and still there)
                                      bought Lake Sonoma, and it is now Sbragia Family Vineyards. As you can imagine,
                                      given Ed's talent, the wines are beautiful. And yes, the Zin has always been
                                      wonderful from that property.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        Then what is the Lake Sonoma Winery tasting room in downtown Healdsburg?

                                    2. re: orangeplow

                                      I was in Napa a couple weeks ago and honestly was not impressed by Sinskey -- our group much preferred Pine Ridge, a short distance away. That said, for your first visit to Napa, I recommend that you visit bigger and better-known wineries with good tours for a general overview. Then on return trips you can visit the smaller producers like Sinskey. My favorite recommendations for first time visitors to Napa are Domaine Chandon and Mondavi.

                                      1. re: PekoePeony

                                        Mondavi's a cog in a huge itnterational corporate operation. I think the smaller independent wineries give a better sense of the region.

                                    3. Thanks for all your help! I think I have it figured out now, maybe :)!

                                      It's great to get varied opinions. It's funny because I chose some of these wineries based on previous threads I found , and many people did not like them on this thread. There several very thoughtful posts , thanks so much.

                                      I'm going to stop researching now and enjoy my trip :)! Thanks so much and I'll report back my findings.

                                      1. Stephtx, there is much to be left to serendipity - some of the best wineries are off the beat-and-track. As you indicate, if you spend too much time researching, you will make it more cumbersome for yourself than if you just set a direction and stop at places that look good to you (high recommending driving up the Silverado Trail for such experiences).

                                        1. A good piece of advice, indeed. I've also found some of my favorite wineries by asking the folks working the tasting rooms (as well as restaurant people). If you like the wine at one place and hit it off with the person doing your tasting, ask them what places/wines they like in the area. There are wine road maps at every winery so they can show you how to get there...and then you can check out some other places on the way! Have fun!

                                          1. I'm not sure what the others' problem might be with St. Supery, but we found it a beautiful place with a lot of great info, entertainingly presented. imho "commercial" is not necessarily a bad thing --tho I wouldn't call St. Sup "commercial." As well, they make delicious wine.

                                            If you have never visited a winery before, I'd say St. Sup would be an excellent place to start.

                                            1. one more suggestion although I'm sure you're spinning... I LOVE Luna Vineyards on Silverado trail. They aren't as big and fancy as all those others, but they have very tasty wines and a few different "menus" to choose from. They're doing a Cabernet that just scored 93 points, a fantastic Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese, and they have a tower you can go up to that overlooks the valley. It is one of my faves (their wine is so good to me I joined their wine club... I'm a Lunatic!)
                                              I have been to St Suprey witch was a little commercial and Peju. Out of the two, I liked Peju better.
                                              Enjoy your trip!

                                              1. Of your list I would point you toward Sinsky, especially if it is a day they are pairing little food bites (mini cheeseburgers, blue cheese stuffed dates, etc). The food alone is worth stopping off for.

                                                Overall, I have a few smaller wineries that I think 1) have great wine; 2) will make you feel very comfortable whether you are an expert or a newbie; and 3) I've always walked away feeling like a knew a little more than when I got there. They are:

                                                1. Vincent Arroyo - near Calistoga. Very laid back, friendly, and such great wines (especially the petit sirah)
                                                2. Elyse - small, family run just off 29 (unfortunately as I try to stay off 29) between napa and yountville

                                                3. Or if you are really feeling up for an adventure head up the mountain to Smith-Madrone which is quite a trek but the rewards with the laid back owners, the view, and the history of the area make it worth the effort.

                                                For any of these, you will need (and they will appreciate) a phone call ahead of the visit.

                                                The good news is whatever your choices you will have an enjoyable experience. Big and commercial, small and family run, we've been going about 2 times a year for a decade and they all have something enjoyable to offer so you can't really go too wrong. Even the tipsy "winers" in the limos looking for the "strong pours" offer their own brand of humor.

                                                Enjoy your visit