Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Eating and Drinking in Napa

I feel ever so lucky to know amazing crazy foodie people that knows all sort of places to go and eat. I'm trying desperately to convince my husband that we need to make a road trip down to Napa before we start having kids. I'm hoping to make it happen in two weeks. Wish me luck.

In hoping that we will go to Napa, I have asked multiple friends about Napa, Yountville, and Sonoma.  One of my friends who has been there multiple of times gave me a four page report of winery, restaurants and things to do there. I love my foodie friends!

I spent most of yesterday online researching more about each winery and places to stay.  I wish we had a whole week to drive down to Napa and back but unfortunately we only have a few days. We are hoping to leave Seattle on Saturday morning - spend the day in Portland and then Sunday early morning drive down to Napa, then spend Monday and Tuesday in Napa and then drive home on Wednesday.

Okay here we go for some Napa recommendations

Tips my friends gave me:

Plan ahead and map out the wineries, Napa is quite big and there is a lot of driving involve
Check the tasting fees, they can really add up. Certain places will let you do one tasting fee for two people
Call ahead to see if you need an appointment
It’s going to be warm at this time of the year, don’t "cook" your wine in the car
Buying wine at the winery is cool because it’s direct but it tends to be the most expensive way to buy it.  The rub is that some wines are only available at the winery.
They have biking tours available $139 about 3 - 4 wineries

Wineries That Built Napa

1429 Tubbs Lane, Calistoga, CA        
Tasting Room Hours: 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily           
(August 23 - Closing at 3:00 for a private event)
  • Love the estate cab, one of our favorites, very casual atmosphere
  • Won the famous 1976 Paris tasting (Judgment of Paris) that put Napa on the map
  • Tasting price: $20 per person, no reservation required
  • Vineyard Tour: $30 per person, no reservation required, available on Mon or Wed at 10:30 am

Highway 29, Oakville, CA 94562
Tasting Room Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m daily

  • Think Chateau Ste Michelle of Napa, high volume producer.  Wines are ok, very nice estate, touristy, lots of tradition
  • Tasting price vary depending on which tour you go on: ~ $25, no reservation needed but can make a reservation online.  Spaced is limited so they do recommend making reservation in advance

915 Oakville Crossroad, Oakville, CA 94562
Tasting Room Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9am – 5pm, Sunday, 11am – 5pm 

  • One of the most popular higher end wines right now.  The tasting room isn’t much to write about.  Go because you want to say you drank Silver Oak.
  • The Silver Tour and Taste:   available Mon – Sat, 10am and 1pm; Sun. 11am and 1pm.  1 hour, $20 per person.  Reservation required.

6150 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Tasting Tour Times: 10:00 AM and 2:30 PM daily.

  • Another winner in the Paris tasting, the Stag’s leap appellation in Napa is one of the more famous ones, a little bolder, more stone/mineral .
  • 90 minute tour, $55 per person, reservation needed - call to reserve space

Wineries with a View

1111 Dunaweal Lane Calistoga, CA 94515 
Tasting Hours: Monday to Friday 10:30 - 4:30 pm, Sat, Sun 10 am to 5 pm
  • Take a tram up to the top of the hill overlooking Napa, beautiful.  Our friends got engaged there.  They said the wines are okay, but the views and overall experience is quite good
  • Book your tram online (Book through Vino Visit and we will automatically apply a $5 discount. Your tickets will be held for you at Will Call in our Wine Shop at the lower tram station. 
  • Tasting Admission: $25 (Visitor fee includes aerial tram, self-guided tour, complimentary tasting of five wines and a souvenir wine glass)
  • Reserve Wine Tasting Upgrade: $30, Includes additional tasting of a selected Reserve Wine, plus all of the General Admission features.
  • Sterling Silver VIP Experience: $35, Customized tasting of Single-Vineyard and Limited Release Wines.
  • Sterling Gold VIP Experience: $40, A three-wine flight of our "Best of the Best" Reserve wines!

Tour and tasting available at 10 am
Appointment required via reservations@pridewines.com or call 707.963.4949

  • $15 per person
  • Beautiful and really good wine for the price.  It is higher end but not crazy expensive like you’ll find a lot of wineries are.
1120 Deer Park Road, Deer Park, CA 94576
(About 10 minutes from St. Helena)
Hours: 10 am to 4:30 pm daily

  • Need an appointment, this is a cult wine, smaller, family run, absolutely stunning views.  We sat outside for our tasting and loved it.  Finesse, elegant.
  • Tasting Experiences:  Our standard "Portfolio Tasting" includes a flight of 4-5 current release wines from our VIADER estate and DARE by Viader selections for $45/person.
  • Our "Reserve Library Tasting" (minimum 4ppl) features current releases with a Library selection of our highly coveted VIADER proprietary cabernet blend, and our "V" petit verdot blend for $60/person.  Cheese pairing included.
  • RE lines, information about the history of the winery and each of the wines. Walk-through tours of VIADER's winery and underground caves are available daily at 10:00am.

200 Taplin Road, St. Helena, CA 94574
(800) 707-5789

  • Monday through Friday beginning at 10:00 a.m. with the last tasting beginning at 3:30 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, tastings begin at 10:00 a.m. with the last tasting beginning at 2:30 p.m. There are two Terrace Tasting options, $30 and $60; both include our flagship wine, Insignia.
  • Reservation required:   Email Luba Rusyn, Guest Services Manager lrusyn@jpvwines.com or call 707.967.3720
  • Another “Say you drank” wine.  In this case it’s insignia which we liked but found overpriced.  The price has come down but I think it’s still close to $200.  They have lower end wines to try as well.  Beautiful grounds so worth a stop.

4070 Spring Mountain Road - St. Helena, CA, 94574
Tours: 10 - 4 daily

  • Make reservations online
  • $40 per person
  • Small, new family owned winery.  Tasting room is just a counter in their barrel room but wow, what a view.  It’s on the same hill as Pride, all of the wineries on that hill, Deer something have great views.

Great Experience

1000 Lodi Lane, St. Helena, California 94574
(888) 354-8885
Hours: 10 to 4 daily
  • Duckhorn and Paraduxx are a part of the same company and have a great experience where you sit outside at a nice table in a garden and get served.  We loved it at both places.  
  • Duckhorn has fantastic merlot, Paraduxx wines were just ok to us, they were Zin blends and we’re not into Zin that much.  Both are worth a stop that is more along the lines of hanging out and enjoying the company than purely wine tasting.
  • Portfolio Tasting $30, reservation required and available online
  • Directions:  From San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge:    From San Francisco, cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and take Highway 101 North. Take the Napa-Vallejo exit (south of Novato). Follow Highway 37 toward Vallejo, and exit on 121 heading north toward Sonoma. At the intersection of 116 and 12/121 (Schellville) bear right toward Napa. At the intersection of Highway 29 and 12/121, turn left and go north on 29...
1350 Acacia Drive, Oakville, CA 94562
(707) 944-2861
Hours: 10 to 3 daily

  • High end wineries, very good overall experience, you get a tour of a fancy facility and sit down and have a tasting of a few vintages.  It’s expensive but these are a couple of the premier Napa wineries.  I’d say Chateau Montelena wine is just as good but without the pomp… that said, we went to these for the pomp.
  • Reservations required, $50 with cheese pairing
1601 Silverado Trail, St. Helena, CA 94574
Hours: 10 to 4 daily

  • Reservations required, $65 per person

Really Good Wine

1991 St. Helena Hwy, Rutherford, CA 94573
Hours: 10 – 5 daily

  • The Rubicon estate cab is fantastic, also expensive.  We love the Cask as well which is more reasonably priced at around $70.  This is owned by the Coppola family – yes that movie making Coppola family so it’s neat seeing some of the memorabilia they have and they have beautiful grounds.  Tasting room is pretty simple, just go to the bar.
  • Call and make reservation
  • Price vary per tour
  • This is a link to a great article on how Francis Ford Coppola restored Inglenook Winery
8210 St. Helena Highway, Oakville, CA 94562
Hours: 10 – 5 daily

  • $10 Main tasting fee
  • $20 Reserve tasting fee
  • No reservation required
6154 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558
Hours: Mon to Fri, @ 10 & 2 pm, arrive 10 min early

  • Higher end, guided tour then sit down tasting, good experience, we recommend, similar to Far Niente & Quintessa.  Very good wine.
  • Shafer is located at 6154 Silverado Trail, on the east side of the Silverado Trail, about seven miles north of Napa and 3/4 of a mile south of the Yountville Cross Road. Distance from San Francisco to Napa is approximately 50 miles.
  • VISITS ARE BY PRIOR APPOINTMENT ONLY. For fastest response time, request a visit using the link to our online form.  At the time of reservation we charge your credit card the tasting fee of $45 per person. If you need to cancel your visit and would like to receive a refund, please give us at least 48 hours notice.

987 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, CA 94574
Hours: 10 to 5 daily

  • All about the wine, Cathy Corison leads the female wine making contingent in Napa.  The experience is pretty low key and there isn’t much view but they give you a lot of tastes of some very good wine.
  • Reservation required, prices vary depending on tour

1183 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
We are closed on some holidays.

  • Tasting fee is $10 per person.
  • Owned by Silver Oak now, very good merlot but that’s about all they taste and it’s very simple.
  • Appointments by calling or email Tours@twomey.com


The following wineries are all about the Disneyland meets vegas type winery they have.  We didn’t especially like any of the wines but you should go to one to see just how commercial some of the wineries have gotten.  Pretty cool places to take pictures too.  

  • Clos Pegase:  1060 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515      Phone: 707.942.4981   Hours: 10:30am-5:00pm, daily
  • Darioush4240 Silverado Trail, Napa, California 94558, USA  Phone: 707.257.2345 Hours: 10:30am-5:00pm, daily
  • Peju8466 St. Helena Highway (Highway 29), Rutherford, CA 94573, Phone: 800.446.7358 Hours 10 - 6 daily
  • Castello di Amorosa Winery: 4045 North Saint Helena Highway, Calistoga, CA 94515, 707.967.6272, Hr: 9 - 6 daily

Avoid:  I won't even bother writing any info on these wineries. Visit at your own risk. You have been warn.

  • V Sattui
  • Merryvale
  • Grgich Hills

Sonoma:   If you have time, you should really consider Sonoma, it’s way less developed than Napa, very picturesque, and will offer better wine value.  The following places we absolutely loved.

  • Stonestreet:  7111 Highway 128, Healdsburg, CA 95448, phone: 800-355-8008, hours: 11 to 4:30 p.m
  • Chateau St Jean:  8555 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, CA 95452, Phone: (707) 833-4134; 10 to 5 daily
  • Jordan1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, California 95448-9003, 800.654.1213; Mon - Sat 11am
  • Ferrari Carano8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, phone: 707.433.6700, 10 - 5 daily


  • We heard Bottega Ristorante is really good, we’d probably go there next time – Chef Michael Chiarello, celebrity chef.  It’s in Yountville where all the Thomas Keller restaurants are including the French Laundry.
  • We didn’t like Bouchon but you may still want to go.  
  • Heard Mustards is good too, it’s by Cindy Pawlcyn, same chef/owner as Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, she’s a celebrity chef.
  • Didn’t like the Culinary Institute’s Greystone restaurant although it was neat to go to the Culinary Institute of America.
  • Tyler Florence has a restaurant in Napa, Rotisserie & Wine
  • Cole’s Chop House is supposed to be really good if you are in for steak.

Places to Stay:

If you have anything else to add this list, please let me know. Any advice, recommendations, or tips would be greatly appreciated!



      1. Good list! :) We hope you have a great time Quynh. (Jim & Yeni)

      2. Thank you so much Yeni and Jim for giving us this list :) It's going to be a big help to us when we get down there.

      3. Hey Quynh, it's Giang! I actually planned Christine's bachelorette this past May in Napa. We spent one day in the St. Helena area and ate at Ad Hoc. We went to Grgich based on one girl's rec. I can see why you should avoid Grgich if you are in the main tasting area. We had a private tasting and they took us to a separate room from the main one, which made for a nice tasting for the group.

        I went to Ad Hoc, Boon Fly Cafe, and Redd with Chris in '09, definitely a nice experience! The sommeliers are very helpful!

        I didn't see any sparkling wine places on your list. A few big ones include Domaine Carneros, Mumm and Chandon. I've been to the first two and enjoyed Carneros more, it didn't feel as touristy and you can easily visit it if you plan to go to Boon Fly.

        Also if you plan to spend some time in St. Helena, Dean & Deluca is there. Another one that I enjoyed was Napa Valley Olive Oil, we picked up a bottle of olive oil. Their oil is more on the fruity side.

        We cycled on the Silverado Trail from downtown Napa to the olive oil place, it's a lovely, scenic trail! It's not too hilly or congested with traffic if you plan to cycle it!

        Hope you enjoy! Giang