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Napa Newbie, wants to make the most of her trip.

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Hi everyone -

My husband and I are making plans to head to Napa late this summer. We've been hyping this trip for years and now that it's time, I'm a little overwhelmed checking out what wineries to visit.

Our friends have recommended the following:

Quintessa
Rombauer
Cakebread
Mumm
Hess
Sterling

But I wanted to reach out and see what the natives thought. I'm happy to go to some off the beaten path places and would love to experience great local places (and not end up standing next to someone I know from New York. ) I like very crisp minereal types of white wine (Sav Blanc generally) and I've never met a red wine I didn't like.

Any recs would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. You don't provide how many days or where you plan to stay. The best way to enjoy the wine country is to pick 4 or 5 wineries in one vicinity and either have a picnic lunch or plan your wineries around your lunch choice.

    I like Hess and Artesa and Gloria Ferrar is not far from those if you like Champagne. I usually hit those with guests and then head to Sonoma. Buena Vista is nice for picnics with lots of tables and no crowds. Chateau St. Jean is also lovely for picnics, but deep in Sonoma County so I would plan on going to Benzinger or Kunde (maybe the Mayo Family food and wine pairing) if I headed that way.

    However, you may have different goals. There are wineries with fab wine, wineries with only private tours, beautiful wineries, and hidden gems. Sometimes the most beautiful wineries have crummy wine, or the best wineries only provide tastings of "too young" wines which can be off-putting unless you get a special tasting.

    Sterling is fun, but in St. Helena - so if you want to go there I would plan to stay in St. Helena/Calistoga area. I am not a fan of their wine.

    In sum, you might want to narrow choices by deciding on home base, providing number of days you will be tasting, and tasting goal (photographs or wine?).

    Napa
    Healdsburg
    Kenwood
    Sonoma
    St. Helena
    etc.....

    1. Quintessa is very nice but very expensive - wines are over $100/bottle. I also like Duckhorn, Whitehall Lane (reds) and Joseph Phelps. Schramsburg does a cool tour as well if you like champagne.

      One thing that my wife and I (and our friends) do is to go to Dean and Deluca to grab food (meats, cheese, dips, etc) or some other deli and take a couple of bottles we've bought along the way and have a picnic lunch at the tables near Rutherford Hill winery. It's above Auberge de Soleil if you keep going up the road until you hit the winery and there are picnic tables to your right. Great views, and is off the main path...

      or you can get the same views on the patio of Auberge, which makes for a lovely lunch.

      -----
      Rutherford Hill
      200 Rutherford Hill Rd, Rutherford, CA

      1. Can't praise Pride enough. Wonderful place and the scenery is beautiful. You can picnic up there as well.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ElizabethReed

          great call on Pride...

        2. You didn't specify any interest in touring, but if you are interested in the winemaking process, I highly recommend taking the the tour at a champagne producing site. The tour at Domaine Chandon is very good and there is a very nice tasting salon.
          You might want to try the Sauvignion Blanc at Whitehall Lane.
          If you do choose to go to Sterling, you might go around the corner to the Silverado trail and give Cuvaison a try. Not a Sav Blanc place, but I find that they make consistently good wines.
          Have fun!

          1. Just wanted to post my very recent experience at Mumm. I live in Napa and went to Mumm last Sunday, mainly to check out the photo exhibit which was very nice. It's a beautiful winery, but unfortunately we experienced poor customer service when we tried to have a tasting. They seat people in their enclosed area or on the patio for tastings. We could see many empty tables in the tasting areas. There was a long line to be seated that wasn't moving . . . when we managed to flag down one of the staff, they just said there was a wait with no real good explanation as to why they were keeping so many potential customers standing. After waiting 20 minutes in line, (still many visible "available" tables, we voted with our feet and drove on up the road to a place that was more customer friendly. I was very surprised and a little embarrased as I was hosting someone from out of town . . .

            1. p.s. I have had wonderful visits to both Hess, and Artesa. Both are very beautiful and a little off the beaten path. However, be forewarned that for me it's about the ambiance and less about the actual wine:-)

              1. Given that initial list, I would frankly take a deep breath and start from scratch. Right off the top, Sterling is known for its gondola ride, and not for quality wine. Rombauer makes the butteriest Chardonnay known to man, which is the opposite of what you'd be looking for. Cakebread still trades heavily on its name, but the wines are okay, so this wouldn't be the worst choice in the world. Qunitessa is pricey, Hess can have its moments, and Mumm is okay for sparkling.

                I work in the wine business in Napa, and just recently, I had the opportunity to show a few friends around for a couple days. We went to Ehlers, Chappellet, Terra Valentine, Pride and Behrens Family. These places all require appointments. If I were to spend some time at places that take walk-ins, I would try Plumpjack, Elizabeth Spencer, and Grgich Hills.

                My overall advice: Make one winery appointment per day, schedule a nice lunch, and then fill the time exploring the multitude of walk-in tasting rooms.

                www.thirstyreader.com

                1 Reply
                1. re: ThirstyReader

                  I would try to get over to Chateau Montelena and Castello di Amerosa in Calistoga. We were just in the Napa Valley are a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed tastings at Goosecross in Yountville, Domaine Chandon is also wonderful there. Sequoia Grove and Louis Martini were two other very nice places to wine taste in this area. We loved the 2006 Gnarly Vine Zin @ Louis Martini, we also tasted the 2007 Petite Syrah and the 2006 Meritage. Cheers! :)

                  -----
                  Syrah - Now Petite Syrah
                  205 Fifth Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

                  Meritage Restaurant
                  165 West Napa St, Sonoma, CA 95476

                2. Just got back late last night and we go to Schramsberg on every visit. If you are a sparkling/champagne lover, everything about this winery is just wonderful. Fabulous history (with a cool White House connection, served by every president since Nixon), generous pours and a nice price range of wines. Not as touristy as some of the others like Mumm or Chandon, but well worth your time. Appointment only here.