Napa is home to a number of wineries we love to visit, and visitors frequently ask us for recommendations. Of course we try to tailor our suggestions to each person's interests, but there are a few wineries we feel confident proposing to the readers of this blog.
Aaron Logan and used under the Creative Commons 1.0 license)
Wineries such as Jericho Canyon, Seavey Vineyard, Schramsberg and Quixote all offer terrific tours/tastings, but their wine prices (and in some cases tasting fees) are too high for us to recommend them here. Okay, the Schramsberg tour is pretty amazing, so we take that back.
Since most visitors to Napa arrive from the South, we'll start with Artesa, in the Carneros region in the southern part of Napa Valley (see (here, here and here for more on Artesa). We generally like their wines but think they could be much better. Still, they are a good first stop on a Napa visit because they offer a wide variety of wines and prices are reasonable (by Napa standards). But perhaps the best reason of all is that the property and views are stunning.
The Hess Collection Winery is in the hills north of Artesa on the southern slopes of Mt. Veeder. It, too, is a beautiful property, although it lacks views. We like HCW wines, but we have not kept up with them. We love visiting the winrey, though, to see Donald Hess's art collection, displayed in a museum spanning 3 stories. This is extremely modern art, and much of it will not be to everyone's liking, but it is sure to provoke thoughtful conversation. There is a tasting fee but no charge for viewing the art.
Between Napa and Yountville you will find Elyse Winery. Elyse produces a wide range of wines, including Cabernet, Zinfandel, and Rhone-inspired blends. The wines are delicious but not cheap. Still, the rosé can be had for only $15.
The next stop working Upvalley would be Mumm Napa, on the east side of the Valley just south of Rutherford. On the spectacular porch overlooking vineyards you can enjoy the bubbles that we think offer the best value in Napa. When you need to cool off, you can pop into Mumm's art gallery to see two exhibits. One exhibit changes every couple of months, and we tend to love or love-to-hate whatever is on display. There is also a permanent collection of Ansel Adams photographs that are simply exquisite. No charge to visit the galleries.
Leaving the valley floor and heading east on Highway 128 past Lake Hennessey will take you to Neyers Vineyards. Neyers offers a wide variety of wines made by the talented Tadeo Borchardt. These are all exciting, distinctive wines that reflect their origins. Not cheap, but inexpensive for Napa, with most in the $20-$35 range (and several at $48). All are delicious, and tasting with hostess Phoebe Ullberg is a delight.
Keep heading east on Hwy 128 and you will soon be at Nichelini. This is a charming place abounding with cats and bocce courts, and the owners have great tales about how they continued to produce wine through Prohibition. They have some unusual offerings such as Sauvignon Vert, and prices are reasonable (again, for Napa). Still, we think the experience of the visit itself is the best reason to go.
Burgess Cellars lies in the hills above the Valley--spectacular views once again--near the town of Angwin. Burgess offers terrific value, at prices that are reasonable for wine this good: the excellent Cabernet retails for $36, and the Merlot and Syrah are $25. Sadly they have stopped producing their Grenache. We shall miss it. Well worth a visit.
Last on our list is Casa Nuestra, on the Silverado Trail between St. Helena and Calistoga. These guys are old school and produce their wine without the modern accoutrements so common throughout Napa Valley. They produce a number of wines, and while prices have crept up of late most are still under $30. Nubian goats welcome visitors, and stepping into the tasting room is like traveling backwards in time. Good times.
Do you have a favorite that's not on this list? Please let us know. Stay tuned for lists for Sonoma and Mendocino before long. Any other requests?