napa wineries

Napa Wineries, Tours, and Your To-do list.

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Napa wineries are some of the best in the country, and the world.

Not to mention, just plain delicious.

Whether you decide to visit for a bachelorette party, family reunion, or just a weekend getaway as a thing to do by yourself, there’s plenty to do in Napa and Sonoma and there are several ways to enjoy what the area has to offer. If you haven’t yet, definitely add this gem of a location to your bucket list!

There are a few ways you can explore this gem of an area.

Book a tour bus

These buses will stop by several Napa wineries and allow you to do tastings.  You can choose what kind of tasting you do at each.  The advantage here is that you can bring snacks to munch on during the rides between stops.  When I did this a couple of years ago, we used Dynamic Wine Tours company and I brought all kinds of different cheeses and crackers with me.  It helped from feeling the alcohol TOO much, and we discovered some great wine pairings!

Stay at or near a winery

…and do a single location tour.  If you have several days, you can stay at a local hotel and then slowly explore each Napa winery, 1 or 2 per day.

Ride the wine train

This is a train through Napa valley that includes stops and tastings!  I’ve never actually done this but would love to at some point.  I think it’s a great way to see the countryside, along with eating and drinking of course.

Downtown Napa

If you need a break from winery-hopping, check out some of the tasting rooms in downtown.  There’s also plenty of restaurants and boutiques to choose from to fill your day.

tasting room in Napa downtown
Taken at one of the Napa winery tasting rooms in downtown a couple of years ago.  No judging 🙂

Some Must Do’s for Napa

  • Book a tour.  If not booking a tour, make sure you have a designated driver.
  • Take snacks–crackers/cheese/meats etc.–to help fortify you between tastings.
  • Eat a full meal before embarking on your wine tasting journey.
  • Pace yourself.  If there’s a wine you don’t like, then pour it out into their cisterns.  You’ll get so much wine at each tasting, so don’t fill yourself up on wine that doesn’t appeal to you.  Trust me, there’s more at the next spot.

If you’re a lightweight, share a tasting amongst friends.  I’m not a big drinker.  I’m petite and I definitely don’t have the tolerance I used to.  So when I do tastings, I’ll order one and share it with a friend.  Each sample of each wine is at least 2-3 sips; couple that with 5 samples and you’ve basically got a full glass of wine.  So, if you’re in the category of lightweights like I am, share your tastings.  You’ll last longer through your day. This is also a great way to push your comfort zone and taste more wine than you maybe otherwise would if another friend decides to order a different tasting flight.

The Napa winery connoisseurs are a great source of information. Talk to them and pay attention to the kinds of wines they serve and what goes into each one.  One of the amazing things about Napa/Sonoma is not just the tastings, it’s the whole process.  If you’re there, you may as well take advantage of it and absorb as much knowledge as you can.  I personally find it fascinating (even if I don’t understand all of it) 🙂

Must See Napa Wineries

My most recent trip involved hiring a limo service to pick us up from our Air BnB in San Francisco and then took us to 5 of Napa’s wineries –all of which was our choice, not a predetermined lineup.

1. Sterling Vineyards

If you aren’t afraid of heights, or cable cars, and love views, then definitely put this winery on your must-see list. Once you arrive, you must take a cable car up to the actual winery (yes, it’s safe).  You get fantastic 360 degree views of Napa on your way up and on the way down.

Sterling Vineyards, Napa Winery

Our entry ticket here included 3 tastings in their tasting room, and then three more as you take a self-guided walking tour around their space.  The last tasting is at an outside patio overlooking Napa valley below.

Views from Sterling Vineyard outdoor patio
View from their outdoor patio at the end of our tour.

2. Castillo de Amorosa

This place is literally a castle.

Castillo de Amorosa, Napa Winery

With dungeons

The dungeon of Castillo de amorosa

Our wine tasting was in a dungeon-looking room and let me say, the wines were delicious.

Outside of the castle, in true castle fashion, you’ll also spot an ostrich and her other random bird friends roaming around.

IMG_5594.jpg

Once our tasting was complete, and we came back up to ground level, you’ll enter the gift shop and wine store.  Definitely check theirs out.  They had some of the cutest souvenirs and wine accessories.  For instance, check out this cool wine stopper/pour head:

Wine stopper elephant head

Plus they have some grape vines growing right in their front yard, for all your picture-taking pleasure.

Castillo de Amorosa vineyard

3. Darioush Winery

Even our driver didn’t seem to know about this vineyard but agreed it’s one of the most beautiful he’s ever seen.  It’s definitely high end (tastings are around $50 per person, versus $15-20 at some other wineries), however, even if you don’t do a tasting, it’s worth seeing the grounds. They’re amazing.

Darioush Winery

4. Grgich Wine Estates

With outdoor seating, and the possibility of crushing grapes with your feet, this vineyard is a must-do.

Grgich Wine Estates
Photo courtesy of https://www.grgich.com

In addition, the wines coming out of here, specifically the Chardonnay, gained worldwide recognition when the winery first started, with the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, getting ranked as the best in the world at that time.

5. Domaine Winery

This was the last stop on our journey.  With indoor and outdoor seating, plus dining options, this place is a great stop for both tastings and taking a food break.  Be aware, they stop taking walk-ins for food after a certain hour.  So I would definitely call ahead.  Even if you don’t make a reservation, you can at least plan your arrival there to make the best use of their services.

Oh, and it’s set in a chateau

Domaine Winery
Photo courtesy of https://www.domainecarneros.com/
934eef28-6e95-4db4-bb96-7dd53fea35ef.jpg
Us at the Chateau

They also have grapevines growing in their yard

Domaine winery grapes
Don’t worry, I didn’t actually pick anything 🙂

In summary, there’s something to do and drink, for everyone in Napa.  The five Napa wineries listed were visited all in one day; however, there are tours that are more relaxed should you choose to take it easy and have the time to do so.

So, pick your pace, pick your tour, and get ready for some great wine tastings! I hope you enjoy!


What are your favorite wine country spots to visit?

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