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Prettiest and most picturesque winery?

D Hound Aug 18, 2009 03:46 PM

Hi. Relatives will be visiting in Sept. Though foodies, they are not really into wine. So we want to take them to the prettiest, most picturesque, winery in Wine Country.

Do people have any recommendations?


  1. Mari Aug 18, 2009 03:52 PM

    I have heard that Far Niente has the nicest grounds. Perhaps someone could chime in if they'd recommend it considering the $50 price tag for a tour and tasting.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Mari
      maria lorraine Aug 20, 2009 04:07 PM

      Far Niente is among the most beautiful wineries in America. It's my top choice for beauty: the grounds, the gardening, the old stone winery, the lake, the mindblowing vintage car collection. The wines are excellent across the board. Elegance, finesse, balance -- top flight.

      Here are some others that may be of interest:

      Nickel & Nickel -- lovely old barns, pastoral setting; excellent single-vineyard reds and whites. Sister winery of Far Niente.

      Spring Mountain Vineyards -- stunning. centered around the mansion called Miravalle, which was the Falcon Crest House. Beautiful grounds as well. Wonderful wines.

      Quixote -- designed by Viennese artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, wild

      Schramsberg -- beautiful country setting for this sparkling wine house, which makes some of the best bubbly in America. Stunning caves, just like a trip to France.
      Do not miss.

      Artesa -- modern, bermed into the hill, designed by Domingo Triay, OK wine

      Quixote -- designed by Viennese artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, wild

      Frog's Leap -- lovely, gracious, Victorian revival architecture, great people, good wine.

      Pride Mountain -- unbeatable view from the picnic area. Extremely good wines.

      Clos Pegase -- post-modern architecture by Michael Graves, so-so wines

      Trefethen -- beautiful older winery, on a large compound with a series of distinctive buildings (all a dusty rose color). Classy. Wonderful gardens and grounds. Superior wine.

      Hall Winery -- I'm referring to the second location up in the eastern hills above Rutherford, not the location on Highway 29. This is an amazing setting with a spectactular view, artwork, veranda, dining room (don't miss the chandelier). OK wines.

    2. wolfe Aug 18, 2009 04:03 PM

      Besides a 107 room castle does Castello di Amarosa have anything to recommend it?

      2 Replies
      1. re: wolfe
        Mariana in Baja Aug 18, 2009 06:58 PM

        Castello di Amarosa - ugh. Not at all pretty - IMO just plain dumb.

        1. re: Mariana in Baja
          maria lorraine Aug 20, 2009 04:08 PM

          <<Besides a 107 room castle does Castello di Amarosa have anything to recommend it?>>

          No. It's a steep ticket for the fake castle: $25 weekdays, $35 on weekends. The wines are probably the worst wines I've ever had at a winery.

      2. Paul H Aug 18, 2009 06:46 PM

        My three favorites are:

        Hartford Family Winery,
        Lynmar Winery, and
        Arista Winery

        These are all in Sonoma (or thereabouts). I don't think there is anything "pretty" in Napa.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Paul H
          adamshoe Aug 18, 2009 07:32 PM

          Do you mean "artesa" or "Arista"? Artesa is stunning; wines-hit and miss. It's across the hiway from domaine carneros (also very pretty) and near the DiRosa preserve, an amazing art destination. adam

          1. re: adamshoe
            Paul H Aug 18, 2009 08:24 PM

            Arista. The Japanese garden is really special.

            1. re: adamshoe
              mariacarmen Aug 20, 2009 01:00 PM

              i agree that Artesa is a gorgeous spot, and not typical of the other wineries, design-wise. I used to like their Pinots very much . . .

            2. re: Paul H
              D Hound Aug 18, 2009 08:24 PM

              Sonoma is fine too (anywhere in Wine country). I will keep an eye on reports, and soon start planning my visit(s). I will report in mid September or so, after my visit(s).

              Thanks to everyone for their recs (keep them coming!)

              1. re: D Hound
                drycap Aug 19, 2009 07:06 AM

                Since wine isn't your primary goal here, you might consider Jordan in Healdsburg. I think you can tour by appointment. It's basically a French chateau perched on the top of the hill overlooking the valley. Stunning views.

            3. lynnlato Aug 19, 2009 07:15 AM

              If they are art lovers, Clos Pegase has an amazing collection of art in the winery and also scultpures in the vineyard. The caves are amazing and the owner, jan shrem, is a serious art collector. www.clospegase.com. Last I knew, tours were free.

              A friend who lives in the area (she's a sommelier) was married at Quintessa and I heard it is just gorgeous. I have never been myself though. According to their website, tours are by appointment only and tastings are $45. http://www.quintessa.com/

              1. s
                Sharuf Aug 19, 2009 07:20 AM

                My usual tourist guide routine would include one of the following.

                -- Buena Vista in Sonoma, as the oldest winery in the state, has a charmingly antique look to it. It's in a very pretty setting, right outside the the wonderful historic town of Sonoma. Roaming around town makes for a bonus side trip.

                -- Benziger Family winery in Glen Ellen gives tram tours of the vinyards and explanations of their green farming philosophy. Folks with an agricultural interest will like this. Just up the road is the historic Jack London park, for a bonus side excursion.

                -- Sterling Vinyards at Calistoga is an ultra mod facility scenically planted on top of a hill. The main attraction is riding in the arial tram swinging over the picturesque Napa Valley carrying you up to the winery. Calistoga makes a nice side trip, and you may want to enjoy one of their hot springs spa offerings.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Sharuf
                  Robert Lauriston Aug 19, 2009 08:28 AM

                  It's hard to beat Buena Vista. It's lovely and a place of real history rather than a contrived tourist attraction. Plus Sonoma Valley is not as wildly overrun with tourists as Napa Valley.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    rworange Aug 19, 2009 09:19 AM

                    I third Buena Vista. Maybe not so much pretty as charming and what one would expect a real winery to be rather than the pre-fab touristy feel of so many places.

                2. sfcitygal Aug 19, 2009 08:02 AM

                  Domaine Carneros is always lovely to visit. Its in a grandiose looking chateau, perched on a hill. It has a large terrace with ample outdoor seating and gorgeous views of rolling hills. Its particularly nice because unlike most of the wineries, where you stand at the counter for the tastings, you can sit and relax at one of the outdoor tables (they have indoor tables also, if it is chilly) and a server brings choice of flight/glass. They have a sparkling flight, a red flight, or you can order by the glass. They also have really nice cheese plates to complement each flight, caviar and smoked salmon that you can order to accompany the wine and view.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sfcitygal
                    maria lorraine Aug 20, 2009 04:09 PM

                    We call it the Faux Chateau. OK views, good reserve Bubbly called Reve, but not much else.

                  2. baron45 Aug 19, 2009 08:47 AM



                    4 Replies
                    1. re: baron45
                      Sharuf Aug 20, 2009 03:08 AM

                      Chateau Montelena has a lovely building and charming spacious grounds.

                      1. re: baron45
                        Robert Lauriston Aug 20, 2009 10:46 AM

                        Only if you like being lied to about who put them on the map.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          Paul H Aug 20, 2009 03:35 PM

                          Grgich denial? They do make a very good traditional style California Cabernet. I would think you would be a fan!

                          1. re: Paul H
                            Robert Lauriston Aug 20, 2009 04:05 PM

                            They make some good wines.

                      2. f
                        forestd Aug 20, 2009 06:20 AM

                        I think that Matanzas Creek Winery in Sonoma is also very picturesque.

                        Forest Davenport

                        1. j
                          jmarek Aug 20, 2009 09:00 AM

                          I think Iron Horse is a spectacular location. The tasting is outside and very laid back with a gorgeous view. It feels a million miles away from the bustle of Hwys 12 and 29. And even if you aren't that into wine, how can anyone not like bubbles? The buildings aren't much to speak of, if you are looking for that kind of thing... it's all about the setting.

                          (Full disclosure: my father used to work at Iron Horse)

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: jmarek
                            vulber Aug 20, 2009 03:27 PM

                            v. sattui is great

                            1. re: vulber
                              wolfe Aug 20, 2009 03:33 PM

                              May we disagree with you?

                              1. re: wolfe
                                vulber Aug 20, 2009 04:48 PM

                                i would disagree with those comments quite a bit; but regardless, that thread didn't say anything about the picturesque-ness of it, which is what this thread is discussing. i happen to love the wine and deli there, but even if you odn't, you can't deny that it's gorgeous

                                1. re: vulber
                                  maria lorraine Aug 20, 2009 05:28 PM

                                  It's just that -- in comparison -- other wineries are far more gorgeous *with* wonderful wine.

                                  Read more in this thread specially on V. Sattui:

                                  1. re: maria lorraine
                                    brucemac707 Aug 21, 2009 06:28 PM

                                    V. Sattui and his "castle" embody everything that's wrong with Napa Valley.

                                    1. re: brucemac707
                                      Mariana in Baja Aug 21, 2009 06:40 PM

                                      Agree totally with brucemac - look at me - I've got lots of money and no taste or sense. If they like art, a visit to Hess would be pretty special.

                                      1. re: Mariana in Baja
                                        maria lorraine Aug 21, 2009 08:30 PM

                                        The Hess Collection refers to one of the single best contemporary private art collections that exists. It's also a winery. Definitely worth the visit, and the drive up into the Mt. Veeder hills. There are two levels of wines available -- very good "everyman" wines, and then a higher level of wines, among them the excellent Mt. Veeder Cabernet.

                                        1. re: maria lorraine
                                          mare Aug 22, 2009 08:56 PM

                                          At Hess the tours are free and the wine is good. I think they offer art tours, too. I never tire of driving there.

                          2. a
                            Allfrog68 Aug 23, 2009 10:18 AM

                            I was recently at Stryker Sonoma near Healdsburg and thought that was a very beautiful setting.

                            1. free sample addict aka Tracy L Aug 25, 2009 12:28 AM

                              i am a sucker for a picnic table overlooking a vineyard. Quintessential wine country experience. My vote is for Gundlach Bunshu in Sonoma.


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