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Napa trip - seeking off-the-beaten-track wineries with good reds

We are spending three days in Napa. We've been a couple of times before, but have visited mostly the more well-known wineries on the main drag. We'd really like to try some smaller, more boutique wineries with good reds, but preferably reds other than Cabs (we tend to like Zinfindels and Syrahs, as well as Pinot Noirs). Wineries with limited distribution and some reasonable wines (less than $50) a plus. Which wineries do you recommend? Thanks in advance.

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  1. I did the trip when I turned 21 with my parents. In Napa we really enjoyed Chateau Montellina they have a great Cab that usually is between 30-40 dollars a bottle depending on the state. It is not so big and has a beautiful pond with swans in the back. Also if you go to Sonoma which, you should, you need to hit Gundlach Bundschu they are awesome and kind of eccentric. Have fun

    1. Galleron is one of my favorites, and distribution is definitely limited, but I'm not sure they have tastings.

      1. If you are willing to make appointments, there are some great choices:
        -- For zins, try Storybook just north of Calistoga
        -- For spectacular reds, including cabs, cab franc, tempranillo, etc. and for a great view of Napa Valley, try Viader, which is in Deer Park, about 10-15 minutes from St. Helena

        1. I haven't been in a few years but really enjoyed Van Der Hayden. It's not your typical Napa tasting room, run out of an old trailer by a Dutch family, but the wines are fantastic.


          1. For Zinfandel, I'd recommend Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, aka the Mecca of Zinfandel. This is a gorgeous area, as picturesque as any in the wine country, and often much less crowded than Napa. If you've never been, then take this opportunity for something new.

            One of my favorite Dry Creek Valley wineries is A. Rafanelli. And I think it's got everything you're looking for. Small, family-run, boutique winery with extraordinary Zins and an equally good Cab Sauv (my personal favorite), as well as merlot. The wine is sold only at the winery and in restaurants - there is no retail availability - so it fits your limited distribution requirement. The current releases are 2007 Zin for $32/bottle, 2006 Cab $45/bottle, Merlot $30/bottle, "Terrace Select" Cab $105/bottle. There's a per-person bottle limit on all (4 per person for the Zin, 3 per person for the Cab), so bring friends if you need to stock up!

            The wine is big, but exceptionally well balanced (both Zin and Cab), made in the old school way with on old world flavor profile. The Cab is a bit young yet, but of-so-very drinkable if allowed to decant sufficiently, and the Zin is perfect.

            And if you love dogs, the two Rafanelli yellow labs are a real treat. After you've driven to the top of the driveway and parked, one will saunter over to the car and lead you to the combo barrel aginig/tasting room. Be sure to make reservations well ahead of time (707) 433-1385. And, remember, this is someone's home - you'll be greeted and served by a family member - not a public tasting room, so please be sure to show up on-time for your reservation so that the next visitors don't have to wait! You'll love it.

            1. Try Dutch Henry, off the Silverado Trail. They have a Cab Franc and a Pinot that will make your eyes roll back in your head.

              1. Make a point of asking after the 2007 releases. Everyone seems quite excited about the 2007 red crop (especially non-cab), some wineries are on the cusp of release and might have a bottle "under the counter" if you express enough interest.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bbulkow

                  provenance winery on 29 before St Helena on left hand side has awesome red wines!Great cabs and merlot.

                2. I was in Napa a little over a week ago. We did a mix of both large and small wineries. I gotta say out of all the places I tried, I highly recommend Hendry Vineyards.

                  You need an appointment, but the tasting is free. It's a pretty small winery, and George Hendry himself hosted us on the tour/tasting. We got to taste their whole library of wines, and we loved all their reds, particularly their Block 28 Zin, Pinot Noir, and estate Cab. I particularly like how we got to compare different wines side by side (2 kinds of Zin, 100% cab vs. blend, etc.)


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: arlenemae

                    I second Hendry. You spend time walking the vineyards with George Hendry and see which "blocks" are zin, cab, pinot, etc. At the tasting, he describes each wine in conjunction with his idea of food pairings. It is really a great time. And, the wines are at a great price point -- I don't think anything is over $40/bottle.