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Feb 26, 2009 09:08 AM

Cliff Lede or Robert Sinskey or....?

We'll be in Napa Valley in late March and I'm trying to work out our one-day iteneriary. I've narrowed it down to a few must see wineries and have one spot left to fill... and can't decide! Timing is quite tight and it has to be near Yountville. At the moment it's between Cliff Lede and Robert Sinskey but I'm open to suggestions. What we're looking for is to try (if not buy, depending on how much money we'll have to spend at the time!) some amazing cabs Please help! Thank you!

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  1. For classic Stag's Leap cab I would go to Shafer (make sure you call), Malk or even Pine Ridge before I went to Clif Lede. Sinskey, while I frequently drink their wines is really a Pinot house first and while they do have some very nice Cabs I would say that the above choices are more Cab focused. I did a tasting at Clif Lede last April and I found their wines to be a bit hot. So Sinskey over Clif Lede for sure, but Shafer if you are there during the week and can arrange a tasting.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Brentley

      Absolutely. Shafer is one of the top wineries in California. Stunning wines.
      Two tastings daily at Shafer, one at 10 AM and one at 2 PM. You must make a reservation, but the wines are worth it. Be sure to try to the Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon, the Syrah called "Relentless," and the "1.5" -- a proprietary red blend and absolutely delicious.

      Second choice after Shafer, Pine Ridge. Then Hartwell and Silverado Cellars.

      Sinskey is good for Pinot but definitely second-tier. Clif Lede's wines are incredibly alcoholic and out-of-balance. All the wineries mentioned are in the Stag's Leap District (appellation) on Silverado Trail in Yountville.

      Go here for more info:

    2. What other wineries are on your itinerary?

      3 Replies
      1. re: ThirstyReader

        thanks so far everyone, this is really helping! other wineries: frog's leap, sequoia grove and honig (this is in napa, we're in sonoma the next day). i've had both frog's leap and sequoia's wine and really enjoy them (and also have some sentimental reasons for wanting to visit), but have never tried honig (I've heard it's a nice and friendly place to go to).
        okay, so definitely no to cliff lede (although they seem to get high scores in WG and CG!) and since we'll be trying pinot the next day in RRV probably no to sinskey either. shafer sounds perfect, but we already have an appointment at frogs leap at 2pm and not sure we can make it there by 10am. would you say pine ridge then, as second best, or perhaps silverado? (malk is not open for public tastings and hartwell's opening times do not suit). are they nice places to visit as well as taste? thanks!

        1. re: belma79

          Frog's Leap will be a great visit, but by no means is it a better experience than Shafer in Yountville. Shafer is pretty much tops in Napa Valley. I'd rearrange your schedule to fit it in were I you. Their Cabernets are extraordinary.

          And by the way, Frog's Leap is in Rutherford, so it would not come up in any recs for Yountville, as you requested. It's another 15 minutes north, and not known so much as a strong Cabernet house. But fun winery and fun visit even so.

          As to Pine Ridge or Silverado being second best in the Yountville area, it's really a toss-up. Pine Ridge is probably the better winery, with the better wines and very strong in Cabernet, but Silverado is quite impressive, with very fine wines (refined Cab) and a beautiful structure and view of that area of the valley. Hartwell makes very fine wines also, but the setting is not as beautiful. I just tasted through most of the Stag's Leap District wines last Friday, so I'm up-to-date on the offerings. All three wineries rank very high in the entire Napa Valley, not just Yountville.

          Sequoia Grove is OK, but outside your Yountville limitations also (but not by much) in Oakville, and is not as impressive, in terms of building, scenery, wines, etc. I'd take a pass on Honig also, in Rutherford near Frog's Leap, given these other options, which are far better in my mind (I work in the wine industry in Napa Valley).

          1. re: maria lorraine

            I am not as much of a fan of Silverado but they have an incredible property. Pine Ridge has a very cool tour that ends with a tasting deep in their caves that exposes you to a number of their wines (often things that are not on their tasting menu) but if you skip Shafer as a cab fan you will regret it.

      2. thank you both! this is such good advice. you really seem to know what you're talking about too! okay, shafer it is. we'll start extra early and make it there for 10am. i'll skip honig and try and go to both pine ridge and silverado. also, i should have been clearer, the whole day doesn't have to be in yountville, it's just the way i worked out our schedule. we'll be in yountville morning and then up in rutherford area afternoon (for frogs leap). so the recs i was looking for were for the morning section of the trip. are there any wineries you would recommend between yountville and rutherford, instead of sequoia? (it doesnt have to be a cab tasting, since i'll try the best there is at shafer!)

        6 Replies
        1. re: belma79

          Let's review a schedule. You'll be at Shafer from 10 AM to 11:30 or so. Pine Ridge is very close by on Silverado Trail, so that would be a good one to hit afterwards. That takes you to 12:30 or so, and you're going to have to eat lunch, especially with all that tasting. So, arrange to pick up lunch early in the morning before you get to Shafer that you can eat in the car or outside at Pine Ridge at the picnic tables, since there's no place around there that serves food. You could grab something fast in the village of Yountville, but the offerings are limited (Ranch Market, Bouchon bakery sandwiches) and you will be backtracking in terms of driving. By that time, it will be close to 1:30, and you won't have enough time to do another tasting before Frog's Leap at 2 PM. So, what I'd suggest -- since you're going to be in an intoxicatingly beautiful place -- is to just sit somewhere beautiful and drink in all that beauty for 20 minutes or so. After Frog's Leap, you could hit another winery. To that end, I'd be tempted to head south on Silverado Trail just a touch to Mumm Napa Valley to taste some bubbly and see the permanent Ansel Adams exhibit. Stunning patio area there, and I'd recommend your tasting some of the older bubblies, the late-disgorged offerings. Or you could head to one of the other wineries mentioned, like Silverado.

          1. re: maria lorraine

            thanks maria, sounds like a plan! i really like the idea of mumm, it didn't occur to me before to go for bubbly, but it's a great idea. it's funny how my initial questions was about cliff lede or sinskey and now it's about neither! the only thing i'm slightly worried about - we can't pick up our car rental in SF before 8am, do we have enough time to drive to Shafer for 10am? not sure how long it takes with traffic etc (it will be a tuesday morning). should we swap it with Frogs Leap and do Shafer PM with F.Leap AM (they do their tasting at 10.30, which would give us a bit more time - although I know it's further north, so maybe not by that much). thanks again.

            1. re: belma79

              Yes, do the swap and hit Frog's Leap at 10:30 AM instead of later in the day.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                will do! thanks again. and, very quickly as you've already helped so much, any wineries in sonoma you think are a must? i've done lots of research but would really value your opinion. one or two names would be great. (and then i promise, no more questions!)

                1. re: belma79

                  Do a Chowhound search with
                  user:whiner AND Sonoma AND wineries.

                  Whiner has impeccable taste in wine.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    i've just been reading through the search results - and once again, great advice. just want to say thank you again, you've been a great help! take care.

        2. Hi again. Just want to say that I'm absolutely devastated - Shafer is booked up for both tastings on the day when we're in Napa (and we can't go any other time). I'm just devastated, no other word for it! It seemed perfect. )o: So Pine Ridge and SIlverado then, as second best options? I just need to be comforted really, that even though they're not Shafer, they're still okay!

          2 Replies
          1. re: belma79

            All. Is. Not. Lost. Ask Shafer to call you if there's a cancellation (there often is).
            Call back and plead your case. Pine Ridge and Silverado are wonderful. You'll have a wonderful time in any case. Lots of great wine here. You'll love your visit. Pick up lunch somewhere on the drive in.

            1. re: maria lorraine

              thanks maria! and the good news is, since my post, there turned out to be a cancellation in the afternoon at shafer, so i'm in! so all is truly great. i'll also definitely go to either pine ridge or silverad, or maybe both. thanks again for your help.

          2. Hello. Just want to say I'm back from my trip and to thank you again for all your advice. To be honest I wouldn't have made many of the choices I did without this board and I'm so glad I did. Shafer was spectacular! It was worth every penny. The wines were amazing, as was the hospitality. It was such a privilege to spend a couple of hours there and to taste those wines. Our group was especially lucky as they were bottling the latest 1.5 that day so we actually got to see this happen AND got to taste the wine, one year before its release. And to top it all off the wine was poured by the wine maker himself! We also got to meet both John and Doug Shafer. I also went to (in Napa): Sequoia Grove (ok, good cab, friendly tasting room), Frog's Leap (really fun tour and a great property) and Mumm (nice place to relax after a day of tasting). The next day in Sonoma I did Ridge (I love their wines, so it was great), Preston (very pretty grounds, ok wines, Sauvignon Blanc drinks nicely), Hartford (tasting room a bit too slick, but I thought their pinots were excellent), and last but by no means least, Merry Edwards. Her pinots are lovely and it was wonderful to be able to taste such a range. So thank you again for all your suggestions and help. And a piece of advice I would give to anyone planning a trip to either Napa or Sonoma, don't be afraid to make appointments, it's the best way to experience the wines!

            2 Replies
            1. re: belma79

              Sounds like a great day at Shafer. By far the best tasting experience I've had in Napa and Doug Shafer stopped in and said hello briefly as well (I believe it was last March). The 2 dogs on the property add to the experience, but I appreciated how they pleasantly but quickly lead you into the tasting room and spend a good hour 1/2 on an amazing flight. Was surprised to find the Hillside Select available for purchase the day I was there and I hope to make the visit an annual event. Experiencing the bottling of the 1.5 and talking with the winemaker must have been terrific.

              1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

                yes, the wine bottling really added to the whole experience. they were selling hillside select on the day i went as well (according to the host, it's because they've grown tired of saying "no" to so many things!). sadly, a bit too expensive for me, although i did buy a bottle of the merlot. slightly regret not getting "reckless" - i really loved it.