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Sep 21, 2012 10:49 AM

Best Big Name winery and Oakland lunch help

Planning a trip to Napa/Sonoma and my SO really wants to go to a couple of the "big" producers despite my discouragement of the idea. What would you recommend for the best standard Napa spot with big cabs? Opus One, Silver Oak? We're planning to do this place first and do a full tour, etc. to kind of kick off the trip. I'd like to go somewhere that has bottles under $75 because I'm sure he'll insist on buying one.

Also, we'll be arriving to Oakland airport at 11:30 then driving to Napa wineries and want to grab lunch either in Oakland or on the way. Somewhere relatively fast as we're going to try to hit 3 wineries that afternoon before driving on to stay in Healdsburg.

Thanks for the help!

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  1. Bottles under $75 may not happen by the way - the standard premium cab price is now around $120-140, regular cabs around $75.

    So there's a bunch of standard ones:
    Robert Mondavi (Reserve appt/not the standard)
    Beringer (Reserve not the standard)
    BV (reserve not the standard)
    Joseph Phelps
    Stag's Leap (isn't what it once was)
    Shafer (among wine people)
    Chappellet (among wine people)

    I'd say there is a strong strong prejudice against Silver Oak at this point. I'm not sure why it has been singled out as the one to loathe, but people love to hate on it. Opus One as well - but to less of a degree. Opus One you barely get to taste anything so I'd knock that one out.

    5 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      I'm kind of surprised to hear that. With my family we went to Silver Oak in Alexander Valley a couple years ago (again someone who "had to" go there) and we found bottles right around $75. But I have heard Napa is a whole different ballgame...

      I'll check out the other suggestions, I pretty much marked off Opus One already due to high cost considering what you get but thanks for confirming that decision. I'm glad we'll be spending the rest of the time in Sonoma where prices are more reasonable. Even the rest of the day in Napa I think we're going to do places on Spring Mountain as I heard that's a lot less touristy and crowded.

      1. re: PHXeater

        Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain, and plenty of wineries that are not on Hwy 29 are not crowded at all. Most are by appointment. I will say the prices are distinctly higher than in Sonoma (by about 50% a lot of 'em), but it really isn't that touristy off of Hwy 29.

      2. re: goldangl95

        Just curious, what's the prejudice against Silver Oak?

        1. re: aloha925

          Silver Oak wines were well-marketed and well-respected for many years. Alas, no more. Still, Silver Oak coasts on their reputation from the past. They no longer deserve the shining accolades of yesterday. Not that their wine is bad, it's just that many other wines of the same category are far better. And many of those wines that are better are also cheaper.

      3. you might consider Chateau Montelena. pleasant tasting room and small park around it, in French-inspired landscaping. the basic Napa Valley cabernet (multiple sourced grapes) is $50, the signature estate wine is $140, and their zin is one of better ones from that end of the valley in a polished (more claret-like) style, probably <$40, if it hasn't changed in the past ten years.

        1 Reply
        1. re: moto

          Good suggestion. It is on the very north side of Calistoga, so it is rather far from other wineries, but it is beautiful and the make good wines (if slightly overpriced - but so are all the big standard napa cab producers).

        2. Last time we were out there, we found Duckhorn to be the best experience among the larger producers. Their gardens are beautiful and you don't feel rushed at all. Phelps was also beautiful but things are more structured there. Both charge a premium price for the tastings and both recommend reservations (Phelps demands it, I think, or at least they insist you arrive at certain times).

          I don't think they fall into the category of "big names" but I'd also recommend Hall Winery. They just redid their space to go all green and though their top labels are up over $100 it's still possible to get a very good Cab out of them for ~$50.

          2 Replies
          1. re: nokitchen

            Hall is not well known outside of people who know Napa cabs, but among those - it is a favorite, so I'd count it. I would highly recommend doing an appointment at their facility at Rutherford over stopping by the tasting room off of Hwy 29.

            I will note that for me at least, I'm not impressed with their offerings that are on the lower side (and that's not a snob thing I just didn't really get excited about their wines until we were up into the $100 a bottle range).

            1. re: goldangl95

              I welcome all suggestions since we'll be doing smaller places the rest of the day, I just specifically asked for larger producers since that doesn't seem to be a common's usually how to avoid large producers!

              We're willing to go over $100 as well but for a large producer that I can buy anywhere I'm not interested in spending a ton of money.

          2. Does Opus One still offer their Second Label, Overture?

            1. I don't know how fast they can be, and parking is a bit of a hassle, but Chop Bar at 4th & Alice, just off the Jack London Square district and the Oak St. exit off Hwy 880, can probably wrap up a take-out order for car munching (be careful with coleslaw-topped sandwiches; somewhat messy for a driver, LOL!). Website lunch menu is at and Yelpers seem okay with the lunch sandwiches.

              Chop Bar is between 880's Oak St. exit and the Harrison St. on-ramp (6th St. goes one-way, off the freeway and then right back on it after 3 short blocks). IF YOU TAKE THIS ENTRANCE back onto 880, be very careful about the lanes you are in: you enter onto the freeway on the extreme RH lane which quickly becomes an exit-only lane, so you need to merge left. But after one mile the freeway splits again: half the lanes go to San Francisco/Bay Bridge, and the other half heads north to connect to Hwy 80/Berkeley, which leads you to Napa.