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Jul 10, 2008 09:27 AM

Top 5 Napa Wineries

Please post your Top 5 bullet list for wineries not to miss in Napa (Unique Experience, Views, Quality of Wine). Zins, Sangioveses, Viogniers and Buttery Chards are some of our favorites. If you have any specific contacts we should search out at the wineries, please include them too!

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  1. Like my Sonoma response, check out my response on your initial thread.

    BUT, if you perfer Zins to Cabs, my Zin list in Napa would be:


    (ok, that is only 4)

    6 Replies
    1. re: whiner

      Good list, Whiner.

      Similarly, mine would be:

      Outpost (Zin!)
      Pride (Zin!)
      Smith-Madrone (Riesling!)
      Lamborn (Zin!)
      and L***** (I'm not allowed to mention it because I worked there three years ago). (Syrah!)

      Gee -- is there anyone in Napa making a good Viognier? My favorites are all from Central California...

        1. re: baron45

          Nope - you are right. What WAS I thinking????

          While they are known for the Cabernet Sauvignon, I actually prefer their Merlot and CabFranc.

        2. re: Carrie 218

          Pride makes an excellent viognier! Also, in warmer years, the Catie's Corner vineyard in Russian River usually yields fantastic Viognier, wihch is bottled by many including Christopher Creen and Lost Canyon. I'm a big fan of Iron Horse's viognier as well. Alternatively, some really good viognier is being made in the Sierra Foothills, too.

        3. re: whiner

          Chimney Rock (especially Élévage, their Bordeaux blend) and their VIEW!!!
          Trefethen (Chardonnay) beautiful family owned property - historic vineyards. Family still lives on property.
          Honig (reserve Sauvignon Blanc) also super-friendly
          Grgich Hills (he made the Chardonnay that beat the French in 1976!)
          Far Niente (If you LOVE buttery Chards, you shouldn't miss theirs!)

          1. re: ChefJune

            Hi, ChefJune,

            Just a slight correction on Far Niente...they use no malolactic fermentation in their Chardonnay, so they really cannot be characterized as buttery.

            They are very well made Chardonnays, and FN grows some of the most beautiful Chardonnay fruit in the valley. The Far Niente Chardonnays taste luscious, round and full -- yet clean. That roundness or creaminess in flavor is due to sur lie yeast aging though, and not the "buttery" fermentation known as ML.

        4. Rombauer



          Van Der Heyden

          Beaulieu (sp?)

          These will change within the next 5 minutes tho. I would throw Silver Oak and Pine Ridge too... I dunno.

          Just, whatever you do... HIT ROMBAUER.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pavlov

            Excellent advice pavlov on the Rombauer..Silver Oak too..
            We are going for 3 days in September and friends are meeting us so we all get to choose several this list is giving me more ideas..
            Anyone been to Blankiet Estate?

          2. Unfortunately, except for the buttery Chards (and even those are becoming more a thing of the past), the varietals you've listed aren't a focus of Napa Valley. Napa Valley is known for Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay, and to a lesser extent, Sauvignon Blanc.

            As far as the other varietals you mention:

            Sangiovese -- almost not made anymore here at all; the varietal doesn't do well here and isn't economically feasible here. Nobody beats Italy for their quality and price with this grape, by far.

            Zins -- see the Whiner list; he knows his wine. If you want Zins, head to Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma -- that's Zin country. Check the wine board for specific recs.

            Viognier -- very little made: Beringer, Stag's Leap Winery, Freemark Abbey, Darioush are the few wineries producing it. More made elsewhere in California.

            Buttery Chards: Rombauer, Franciscan, Cakebread

            Look for chards with heavy malolactic fermentation. Two Chowhound threads focused on this entirely --
            "Napa wineries with chardonnays with heavy malolactic fermentation"
            "ISO "Buttery" Chard"

            2 Replies
            1. re: maria lorraine

              Most sangiovese here in grown on and around Mt Veeder.

              1. re: Brandon Nelson

                Do the wineries in the list below source their Sangiovese fruit from Mt. Veeder? Which ones do?

            2. For Sangiovese in Napa there is Luna on the Silverado Trail. They do a reserve Sangiovese as well as use it in blending with several other of their wines.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Carrie 218

                Located in Wooden Valley 9 miles northeast of Napa, Altamura Winery makes some of the consistently best (if not the best) Sangiovese in CA. This is in the Napa Valley AVA just southeast of Atlas Peak. Altamura focuses primarily on producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese.

                1. re: Carrie 218

                  That's probably the only decent Sangiovese in Napa Valley. Luna also makes a Pinot Grigio -- actually a Pinot Gris in style -- that is also good. That might be a good visit for you, Butterfly. Be sure to go up in the tower.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Just to clarify, Butterfly -- I believe Maria Lorraine is referring to Luna as the decent Sangiovese because I know they have a tower which is a cool thing to climb up.

                    1. re: Carrie 218

                      Yes, Carrie, Yes, Butterfly.

                      It's Luna Sangiovese and PG I was referring to. I thought I was replying directly to Carrie because when I posted BN1's post hadn't showed up yet -- the computers on this site are slower than mo-lasses.

                      BN1 has a good body of wine knowledge, and knows his California Sangiovese. He writes more in these two posts:

                      And that caused me to do a little checking. While I maintain that there are fewer and fewer producers of Sangiovese in Napa Valley (Shafer very ceremoniously threw in the towel on the grape a few years ago, and it is expensive to produce in Napa), there are more Napa Sangiovese producers than I thought: Pride, Garguilo, La Sirena (the very talented Heidi Barrett), Del Dotto, Showket, Luna, Kuleto, Swanson, Venge, Silverado, and Benessere, to name most of them.I'm not saying they're all good; I'm saying they're here.

                      Sangiovese grown in this country has never blown up my skirt like that produced in Italy. It doesn't seem true to itself here; it isn't varietally correct. Sangiovese wine here is usually over-ripe, extracted and powerful -- it's not like the easy-drinking red-fruit of Italian-grown Sangiovese.

                      But still, there a number of Napa Sangiovese producers for Butterfly to choose from. It's expensive to make here, though -- the Altamura is $45, and for that you could have a really good Italian one or a pretty good Cab or very good Merlot. But BNI is an informed fan, so read what he has to say.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        Corrections: La Sirena and Garguilo no longer make Sangiovese. Garguilo makes only a Rosato of Sangiovese. Venge has been sold.

                        Prices of Napa Sangiovese:
                        Pride (if you can find it -- very limited quantity) $70
                        Del Dotto $45
                        Showket $35
                        Luna $25
                        Kuleto $35
                        Swanson $75
                        Altamura $45
                        Silverado $25
                        Benessere $35

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          Thanks so much, ML, for all that research! And Swanson is trying to sell it at $75 a bottle!?!?!?!?!? OHMYGOD.

                          No frigg'n way -- there is way much better juice out there for the money, thankyouverymuch.

                          1. re: Carrie 218

                            Juice? Reminds me of a Mitch Hedburg joke:

                            "I saw this wino eating a grape and said 'DUDE! You have to wait!'"

                            1. re: Carrie 218

                              So Carrie,

                              What are your favorite "juices" of any varietal in the valley/prices?

                              Again, I can't thank all of you enough for all of your time and opinions! They are greatly appreciated!

                  2. Rombauer is overcooked (Zin) and overpriced, IMHO.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: epicurious_sf

                      Agree on the zin in regards to Rombauer. Just had a bottle a couple days after this thread started and was surprised. I hadn't had it in quite some time. Bullseye.