Hello all, I'm an Angeleno, visiting friends in the Bay Area next weekend (July 12-14). I'll be driving to the Napa Valley around 1 PM on Saturday the 13th and have a 4 PM reservation at Smith-Madrone, which is the latest reservation they offer. Is this doable? Will I have time for one other winery along the way? (I was thinking maybe Heitz since it's also in St. Helena & you don't need a res).
I think I need a clarification...
You will be arriving in the Napa valley and arriving around 1:00 p.m.?
The valley is long and getting from "down valley" (i.e., downtown) to "up valley" (where Smith Madrone is) can take some time if there is a lot of traffic.
Look to circumvent that traffic by going up the Silverado Trail.
If you hit the downtown area around 1:00 then it is still possible to stop at another winery before SM, yes. Heitz is not a bad stop considering their history, but I prefer their fortified wines now.
Ah.... in that case, head straight up via Silverado Trail and cut over on Deer Park Road. If there is time, you could stop in at Ballentine (probably the closes to SM that has interesting wines).
Don't backtrack into St. Helena or you will be caught in really bad traffic and it will take you forever to get through it back towards Spring Mountain Road.
If you have a smartphone, and don't have it already, download Waze. (Warning it does zap battery if you don't have a car charger). Expect it to take 2.5 hours to get to Smith Madrone if there is traffic. Plus you need to allocate about 40 minutes to a tasting.
I am a nervous planner, so I would drive as close to Smith Madrone as possible before deciding whether I have time to stop anywhere. I have a feeling unless traffic is light you probably won't be able to comfortably fit in a tasting before.
These wineries are all about half an hour away from Smith Madrone and you can just drop in:
Agree with CarrieWas218 - Heitz's regular offerings in the tasting room aren't very impressive. I like Hall's more premium offerings but they are very pricey.
But if you look at the map, all of Goldang95's suggestions (albeit decent ones), put you on the south side of St. Helena and getting THROUGH the town itself can take 30+ minutes if there is a lot of tourists that day.
Best to stay at the wineries that are north of the town and approach it via Silverado Trail, avoiding going through St. Helena entirely.
I agree. Take Silverado Trail all the way to St. Helena, and turn left on Pratt Avenue to cut over to Highway 29. Another left onto 29, then go less than a block and turn right on Elmhurst. Go one block and turn right onto Spring Mountain Road. Then, you're on your way up. No traffic whatsoever.
Barnett is right across the street from Smith-Madrone. Good cabs, better Pinot Noir.
Paloma (excellent Merlot) is on the way, as is Robert Keenan (love their wines -- lots of finesse).
Schweiger is near, such a homey winery, and beautiful wines.
The beautiful Spring Mountain Vineyards is on the way. You won't have time for a tour but you can see the amazing grounds and walk into the dear little house where they sell the wine.