"Don't Miss" Wineries in Napa/Sonoma?
We'll be in the area for about 5 days in late June. The number of wineries and options seem overwhelming. Are there any wineries that are recommended for reasonable (under $30) dry reds, especially the cab francs and sauvignons, interesting blends, and perhaps some nice zins and rieslings? If there are some good whites to be found there too, that's a plus, but we're primarily interested in reds. An informal atmosphere, and perhaps a restaurant and/or exceptional grounds and view would work very well, too.
I just went to Cline this last weekend. Their tasting is complementary except for the reserve stuff on the back, which is $1 per taste. The people guiding you through the tastings are nice and I like a lot of their products. Really loved the 4Whites to go with Indian or Thai food. They also have a great picnic area and their grounds, in general, are nice.
Sonoma is generally much more informal that Napa, and Sonoma is the place to go for Zinfandel. If you go to the tow nof Healdsburg, a lot of tasting rooms are right on or just off the square. Also, you can stop by Ridge without going to the Santa Cruz Mtns. by going to their Lytton Springs facility.
The best Riesling in the area is from Smith-Madone on Spring Mountain Rd.
Cabernets, you can obviously take your pick between the two counties. Lots of great Cabernet Sauvignons . . . not many good Cab Francs (IMHO) from the area.
I'll second Cline. Excellent variety of zins to taste, and a very nice (not pretentious) winery.
I worked in Napa for about a year, but I always liked the more laid-back Sonoma wineries.
I really like the wineries on Silverado trail in Napa. They're less crowded and touristy, and have a slightly more relaxed atmosphere. Specifically, I like Luna Vineyards. They make a great Sangovese, Merlot and Pino Grigio.
V. Sattui on highway 29 in Napa is a bit more hectic and definitely more touristy but they have a great selection of rieslings and zins. They also have a picnic grounds and a deli and sometimes have an outside Barbeque. Get there earlier in the day to get a spot before the rush.
In Sonoma, St Francis has beautiful grounds and quite a selection of wines to taste.
All the tastings are 5 or 10 dollars.
I was in napa 10/05 and enjoyed the following:
frogs leap - nice zin
peju - i believe a cab franc - but their syrah was nice as well
Ok, so apparently someone has a problem with me linking to another website, so this is gonna be long...
For most of these wineries most wines are over $30. But, happily, I don't think any of these people charge for tasting, and frankly, many of them don't have any wine to sell you, anyway; you just taste through a lot of barrels.
For folks coming to visit, here are some wineries to consider visiting during your stay. I grouped them geographically, but don't plan on more than four appointments a day at the most, which is probably the ideal number of stops. If you find yourself with more time on hand, do couple of walk-ins to kill time.
Spring Mountain/St. Helena
Pride Mountain Vineyards - Tim Bouchet - 707.963.4949
School House Vineyard - Nancy Walker & John Gantner - 707.963.4240
Sherwin Family Vineyards - Steve Sherwin - 707.963.1154
Realm - Juan Mercado - 707.695.0219
Relic Wines - Mike Herby - 707.967.9380
Smith-Madrone - 707.963.2283
Paloma - 707.963.7504
Lewelling Vineyards - David Wight - 707.963.1685
Revana Family Vineyards & Heidi Barret projects - Todd Newman - 707.967.8814
Crocker & Starr Wines - Pam Starr - 707.967.9111
Trespass Vineyard - Don Gallagher - 707.963.0804 New!
Howell Mountain/Pritchard Hill
Neal Family Vineyards - Mark Neal - 707.965.2800
Viader - Delia Viader - 707.963.3816
Buehler Vineyards - John & Page Buehler - 707.963.2155
David Arthur - David & Gretchen Long - 707.963.5190
Seavey Vineyard - 707.963.8339
Chappellet Winery - 707.963.7136
Herb Lamb - Jennifer Lamb - 707.967.9752
Gemstone Vineyards - Paul Frank - 707.944.0944
Karl Lawrence Cellars - Ric Henry - 707.963.2702
Kapcsandy Family Winery - Lou & Louis Kapcsandy - 707.948.3107
Del Dotto Vineyards - Georgia (cave girl) - 707.256.3332
Portfolio - Genevieve & Luc Janssens - 707.265.6555
Hartwell Vineyards - 707.255.4269 New!
I'd add Etude to that list.
In Sonoma I would reccomend:
Russian River Valley
Freeman - Ed Kurtzman - (707) 823-6937
Sandler - Ed Kurtzman - (415) 225-2891
August West - Ed Kurtzman - (415) 225-2891
Martinelli - (707) 525-0570 / open
Rochioli - (707) 433-2305 / open
Hartford - (707) 887-8010 / open
Dry Creek, Healdsburg
A. Rafanelli - (707) 433-1385
Rosenblum - (707) 431-1169 / open
Davis Family Winery - (707) 569-0171 / open
Kutch - Jamie Kutch - (917) 270-8180
Kosta Browne - Dan Kosta - (707) 823-7430
And I'd also add Siduri/Novy, Carlisle, Merry Edwards, Rivers-Marie, and Peay, but I haven't actually visited any of those wineries.
Contact info for some of those:
Siduri/Novy: Adam and Diana Lee - 707.578.3882
Rivers-Marie: Thomas Rivers Brown - 707-942-2172
Carlisle: Mike and Kendall Carlisle - 707-566-7700
Peay: Andy Peay - 707-894-8720
I don't have contact info for Merry Edwards but I absolutely love her wines.
Dont miss Pride Mountain in St. Helena at the top of the Spring Mountain district for great wine and a spectacular view. Napa Valley tastings range from $10- $50 and Sonoma/Russian River are all around $5- $15 if they charge you at all, which many wineries dont.
Whatever you do, don't miss the beautiful and idyllic Rubicon Estate winery - formerly and better known as the Niebaum-Coppola Winery (yes, that Coppola). Gorgeous grounds, fountains, and interesting wine country history. Tasty wines and lots of tasting options. They used to have Coppola memorabilia from his movies as well, but don't know if it is still there (he still is an owner, just have changed name for branding).
My personal Napa favorites are Chimney Rock, Trefethen, St. Supery, Nichelini (weekends only)
In Sonoma, I wouldn't miss Iron Horse. Beautiful setting, and delicious wines, imho. not just sparklings...
Just a note: if you call ahead and make a reservation, some of those places that charge for tastings may just not!