Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Wine >
Jun 24, 2007 08:35 AM

Winery Recs Napa Valley

We're heading to Napa Valley for a very brief 3-4 day rest the week of July 4th. Will be there 1/2 day on the 3rd (driving from Monterey, with a stop in Santa Rosa to the Schultz Museum - a "must" as we're Peanuts Nuts), and will be checking out on Friday, the 6th and heading back to NJ on the red eye, so we do have most of Friday available to us.

Anyhoo - while we aren't huge drinkers but we do have some knowledge and appreciation of wines, me more so and would like to visit a few wineries - but it isn't our main focus. We're coming to relax, do some photography, have some spa treatments, eat good food, etc.

This being said, it matters that we make the most of the few days we have there and we're not looking to just spend these days driving from winery to winery - but would like to see a few.

I particularly enjoy Zin. Ravenswood, Ridge, Rosenblum, Renwood - you know, all those "R"'s come to mind not that there aren't others :-) Unfortunately several of my favorites are not in the area (Renwood obviously is one). My husband is more of a Merlot drinker and we both enjoy Pinot Noirs when they are less tannic/oakey. Not big on whites in general other than Savignion Blanc, do like this quite a bit and both of us enjoy champagne/sparkling wines.

Anway, if anyone could recommend a few places (maybe 3-4) specifically in Napa Valley worth checking out, I'd really appreciate it. We'd prefer not to go out of the area only because of how little time we have. Maybe one in Santa Rosa too since we'll be there Tuesday afternoon.

We would consider Sonoma of course, that's close enough. Historic wineries, interesting architecture, lovely gardens that have a strong focus on Zins in particular, would be a plus. If I'm going to do any tasting, I'd rather taste what I prefer and might purchase. I know the focus on Zins could be a problem since my understanding of it is most of this grape is not grown in this region.

Hope this is the right board to pose this question :-)


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I would stop at Dutch Henry (I like buying unique bottles that you can't buy elesewhere), Miner (they make some very robust wines), Segehesio (in Sonoma, maybe another CH'er can advise as to how far from Napa), Niebaum - Coppola (a tourist destination, but when in Rome !), and Edgewood (they were bought out in the last few years, but the Zins and other wines are very good), and Buehler. Being from Vermont (the land of no traffic), my advice would be to try and stay off of Rte 29, go early, and drive to your furtheset destination of the day and work your way back to the hotel.

    5 Replies
    1. re: TonyO

      Is that the same Dutch Henry that makes olive oil too? We could kill two birds with one stone on that one - we're big on olive oil and I wanted to do one of those tours if possible

      We definately intended to go to Niebaum, that one I couldn't pass up, touristy as it is. The estate/grounds are just too impressive.

      Thanks for the rec about staying off 29 and starting off early. We tend to get up pretty early, even when on vacation so heading to the furthest and working back as you suggested should work really well for us.

      1. re: sivyaleah

        Just as a clarification:
        Niebaum-Coppola is no more; it has now morphed itself into Rubicon Estate, which promotes Coppola's high-end wines and charges $25 at the gate to merely enter the property and taste a few wines that do not command that price of admission. Coppola's new winery is still being refurbished in the former Chateau Souverain winery.
        Edgewood is no more. It is now Hall Winery; try it if you like; there are many more interesting wineries.
        Seghesio is the proper spelling.
        Since you love Zins, my suggestion is to explore the Dry Creek area on the day you visit Santa Rosa. That area is a premier area for Zins. Lots of maps available online, and many detailed road maps are free when you arrive in that area.

        1. re: maria lorraine

          That's a shame about Coppola. Maybe he needs to make another Godfather movie !

          1. re: TonyO

            Dont' worry about Coppola. The Napa property is still his but now exclusive to Rubicon and his associated high-end wines. He bought the Sonoma-based Souverain property for his more moderate labels. He's not hurting, though $25 at the gate is certainly not the most inviting number I've heard, though it doesn't stop Opus One.

        2. re: sivyaleah

          Yes, the same Dutch Henry. Their wine vinegar is also quite good. A very casual laid-back winery...nice place to visit.

      2. Zins are more Sonoma -- I would check out Carlisle (appt only, I believe) and Rosenblum in Healdsburg (walk-in).

        Pinot in the style youare talking about, I would check out Freeman and August West (by appt) -- also try the Sanler Zin made there (all same winemaker, same location). Also in Sonoma. (by appt only)

        Both Zin and Pinot -- and Cab -- contact Thomas Rivers Brown. He has half a billion projects going on at once -- he could be anywhere in Napa or Sonoma given the day.

        Also open to the public -- and a very pretty building -- Hartford Family wines, in Sonoma, again. Make both good Pinot and good Zin.

        7 Replies
        1. re: whiner

          I didn't know Rosenblum was in Healdsburg, excellent!

          I don't think I'll bother with making appointments this trip, only because we don't want to be tied down to specific timetables, we really want to keep things loose. We'll have to save that kind of thing for when we can be there for a full week. But, I'll check out Hartford for sure. That seems to be rather near Santa Rosa, maybe we'll stop there on the way to the Schultz Museum. Thanks!

          1. re: sivyaleah

            Hartford is a great rec. As in Rosenblum.

            Are you staying in Napa? I ask because you may wish to save your Peanuts museum visit for the day you visit Dry Creek for Zins, Hartford, etc. We are talking about a fair amount of driving from Napa Valley.

            1. re: maria lorraine

              We're doing the Peanuts museum on our way to Napa, Tuesday. We're leaving Monterey early and heading straight to Santa Rosa, spending the day there and then heading to Napa, since we can't check into the hotel until 4pm anyway. I saw your post above about getting the maps when we arrive in the area. So I think we'll try and do the museum as early as it opens, and leave the rest of the afternoon open to (hopefully) pop into 1 or 2 wineries while there - and find someplace wonderful to have lunch too. Any good ideas for food in the area?

              Thanks for all the clarifications!

              BTW, do you know what the approx. driving time is from Santa Rosa to Napa? About an hour or so? Thanks again.

              1. re: sivyaleah

                I would suggest a slight shift in plans. I think it too much driving, too big a day, to land in SF, drive north to Santa Rosa for the Peanuts museum, then up to Healdsburg, have lunch, then backtrack south to Napa Valley.

                My suggestion for your first day would be to head to Napa, have lunch, tour around, taste at a couple of wineries, de-camp at your hotel, and have dinner. You may like Frog's Leap Winery a great deal, in Rutherford, run by the lovely and funny John Williams. He makes a pretty good Zinfandel (and other wines) and is fairly knowledgeable about great fruit farming/winegrowing. Seems like the whole staff has fun. In the big red barn on Rutherford Rd. with the frog windvane.

                On a separate day, I would make the drive north out of Napa, following 29 north to 128 and then taking that breathtaking drive into Healdsburg. Hit the Healdsburg Square for tastings and lunch, then over to the backroads of Dry Creek Valley for more Zins. In the afternoon, take the easy skip south on 101 to Santa Rosa/Peanuts Museum, and from there over the big hill (via Calistoga Rd./Petrified Forest Rd.) into Calistoga and northern Napa Valley. That last leg there should be 45 minutes, about another 45 minutes to get into Napa city proper. Be sure to check out the Silverado Trail wineries too. The roads of Napa are arranged like a ladder -- two major parallel roads, with crossroad "rungs." Easy to get around and cut off to the over if there's traffic.

                I know you've received great tips on restos in Napa Valley from your post about those on the San Fran Bay Board. Whiner gives lots of good recs both on restos and wineries and you could just click on his name to get more tips from him. (Assuming he's a him, sorry W. if not!)

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  NO, not going from SF. We're in Monterey first. We're driving from Monterey to Santa Rosa as a stop on our way to Napa. We intend to leave our hotel in Monterey early in the morning, get to museum when it opens at 11am, spend an hour there (I can't imagine it take that long) have a quick lunch in SR (nothing elaborate) and hit maybe 1 good winery there - then head to Napa around 5ish).

                  Doable? The reasons for this too is Wednesday is a complete dead day for us as we're booked for a massage at 11am, and are just spending the day relaxing and preparing for our wine train trip later in the day (this, is a HUGE concession on my part for my husband because he's a big vintage train buff - but its the 4th of July and they are doing a special run stopping at Domaine Chandon to see their fireworks).

              2. re: maria lorraine


                Can you please check out my post this morning? I'm going to Napa this weekend and have put together an itinerary on wineries and restaurants. I've since added Miner Family, Paloma, and Frank Family. Other wineries I intend to visit include Mumm, Duckhorn, Milat, Consentino, Terra Valentine and Joseph Phelps.


                1. re: FDawson

                  Looks good, Flyn. The weather is wonderful now. Mumm is fun, especially sitting on their outdoor terrace with a sweeping view of the valley, though you might call Schramsberg once you're here to see if anything has opened up. Phelps and Duckhorn are not to be missed.

                  By the way, tasting room employees know the valley's wines pretty well...what you might do when you find a wine you like is to ask the TR employees "Who else makes a beautiful cab in this price range?" "What other wineries are your favorites?" Wineries often exchange complimentary tasting passes with each other to give to customers. Also, check the posts/recs of whiner, zin1953, and bill hunt -- they know what they're talking about.

          2. Miner and Sinsky both make nice wines and are a hop and skip from each other on the Silverado Trail. And we were pleasantly surprised by the pricest of the Beringer tastings (its in a separate place from the other stuff).

            1. As others have pointed out, Zins are more likely to be found in Sonoma, Amador, Lodi and not so often in Napa. That being said, you need to do Milat Winery. Yeah, I know, you have never heard of it. Well, they were the eucalyptus note in Silver Oak Napa for years, until Justin Meyer stepped back, prior to his death and Milat began operation as a winery, not just a vineyard. They are on the west-side of 29, right about the Oakville Cross (not the Oakville Grade, over to Sonoma). They do Cabs, Merlots and Zins (plus a few others), and their Napa Zins are very good. Their Cabs and Merlots are great! Small, family-owned and the guy behind the counter will probably be Dan Duckhorn's (Napa Merlot fame) son, David, who married into the Milat family and is their director of marketing. Great wines, great vineyards and more like Amador, than what Napa has become. Do not expect an architectural experience, just enjoy the wines. Nice grub is available at the Oakville Grocery, about 1 mile away. There are many more, but you've gotten enough info to last you the trip.

              Most of all, enjoy,

              9 Replies
              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Just stayed in napa in May and by far schramsberg was my fave. It's one of the only champagne wineries and it was an incredible tasting. Make an appt. We all enjoyed Peju that was fun and then there is an italian winerey that was built brick by brick and I am blanking on the name.

                Coppola/rubicon was not worth it. I seem to have the same palate as you and didn't enjoy the wines at all.

                eat at Redd if you want the best meal ever. we did the 5 course chef tasting and we all agreed the best meal ever eaten.

                1. re: drewb123

                  Two of the best tours we took were at the Gloria Ferrer wine caves (sonoma) and the Phelps vineyards, both very in depth. The great part of the Ferrer tour was at the end, sitting on a patio overlooking the vineyard, drinking sparkling whites with their special spiced nuts!. Also while you're inapa and you want a great experience, check this place out. We did and loved it.

                  Have a great time.

                  1. re: jnk

                    Oh so much to do so little time! I had come across Golden Haven in my spa searching online. My husband and I are very much into the whole spa thing.

                    We only have 3 days, maybe 4 in Napa (I have a friend in SF we're trying to hook up with on the last day, but he also lives part time in Tuscon so he might not be around). I'm seriously thinking of asking my husband if we can change our plans and forsake Monterey completely this trip. Monterey wasn't a choice for me, he's the one who wanted to go there too and I really thought trying to do both with such little time made no sense and the more I read about Napa and surrounds the more convinced I am of this.

                    I'm gonna have to do some real sweet talking on this one...

                    1. re: sivyaleah

                      If you have fun, and I'm sure that you will, you might want to do a week in early Feb. and really do some tasting. Hwy 29 will be empty, as will the TRs. The folk there will LOVE to have you and likely pull out some surprises from the "library." I try to get up that way, before the Mustard Festival kicks off, and do some serious tastings.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        I'll tell ya, coming out there in February sounds fantastic - it will be the dead of winter here in the northeast and while I know the weather there won't be "perfect" it sure will beat snow and ice! I'll have to keep that in mind.

                        1. re: sivyaleah

                          Hey, tasting wine in a friendly TR with a light mist falling and needing a sweater to stay warm, is pretty nice. You have to remember, though, I'm coming from "Sunny Arizona," so some fog and cool is something that I miss from other areas of the US! The only downside is that some of the restaurants close, so it might pay to call and secure reservations. Though they will likely not be filled, there will likely be fewer open.

                          OTOH, late Feb, driving down from SF to LA, before heading East to PHX, the orchards along I-5 are in full bloom, as far as the eye can see. A sight to behold. It makes the full-day drive from SF to PHX worth every moment, even with the LA traffic!

                          Besides, the folk at the wineries will give you undivided attention. This is something that they cannot do with the crush of the Summer, and early Autumn.


                  2. re: drewb123

                    With regards to the Coppola wines, the only one that I have ever enjoyed has been the Rubicon, but for the $, I'd rather have Insignia, Diamond Creek, and many, many others. All of the rest (portfolio tasting a few years back, so changes could well have been made since) were not impressive enough for me to ever purchase, at almost any price-point.

                    Another that I like is St. Clement (now part of, and next door to, Beringer, via Beringer-Blass). Very good wines, that one does not see every day, and the neatest TR folk, you're likely to meet in Napa.

                    Do not know Redd, but it's been a while, since we did more than a day trip from SF, or Sacramento, so a lot has probably changed. I'll add them to my list.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      I met my husband on the porch at St. Clement. Every year on our anniversary we drink a bottle of Orropas. By the way it was the last week in January that we were there.

                      1. re: chickstein

                        Hey, great minds must gravitate to neat architecture in Napa, with good wine, at "odd times" of the year! Very good wine (though I have not done a tasting, since Beringer-Blass), great people, and a neat building. After three days of tastings, I took my wife back on her one half-day off, just because of the building - oh, and the wine, and the people in the tasting room...


                2. I second the Schramsburg tasting -- very educational as well. It's fun to ride the tram at Sterling Vineyards and Cliff Lede has some amazing artwork -- nothing like a glass of their bubbly on a hot day.