Napa Valley Wineries

 

You into drinking?

congrats, you’ve found the booziest gal in Manhattan.

Just kidding, I barely drink and I don’t even live in Manhattan.

Virginia doesn’t do hard liquor unless absolutely necessary. Ask my friends: what does the girl order in a bar? Unanimously they’ll say either vodka cranberry, hard cider or white wine! Yes —through and through I am that girl who sips from a wine glass in a raunchy bar because… it is what it is.

If you’ve been to the US, lived in the US or into fine wine, then I’m sure you’ve heard Napa Valley. There’s something about the air, the sunlight exposure, the wind direction and soil content that makes it a special breeding ground for beautiful wines. I don’t want to go to deep into why Napa wines are supposedly special because I’m not a connoisseur and I’m not trying to con you into thinking that I am. So I won’t tell you about the musky under taste, woody signature or floral scent of the wines I tried. Instead, I’ll just share my experience and tell you which one was my fave.

First things first: where the hell is Napa Valley?

 

Napa Valley

Napa is a county (daerah) in California, north of San Fransisco. Driving from downtown SF to Napa Valley takes less than 2 hours and unfortunately, driving is the best means to get there.

Because it is closest to San Fransisco, a must-hit tourist city in the US, definitely plan on going while you’re in SF. You don’t need to spend the night, just about a whole day.

Should you go to Napa if you couldn’t care less about wine? Yes! Napa Valley is a different scenery. It’s lush with greens and sunny open spaces that are not polluted by traffic, noise or aggressive birds.

The area is also stunning, absolutely gorgeous from end to end. The landscapes are just beautiful and the wineries are picture perfect.

If you’re not into wines and don’t care to pay the fee, then just come to enjoy the place without doing a tour. That way you can still have a nice day out and come home with great IG materials (it is important, I’m not judging).

 

castello di amorosa

📍4045 St Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515
@thecastello

my favorite one.

It’s really easy to see even from my amateur pics that the selling point for this one was the castle. Look at that castle, I mean seriously! Is Kings Landing inspired from this castle? Did Game of Thrones film here? The answer is no but one could hope. The fact that this was an actual castle built centuries ago, equipped with torture chambers, prison cells, war traps and secret hallways just made it even cooler.

Tour + Tasting:
There’s a few things you could do here. You can do just the wine tasting for $30 (+$15 for reserved, aged bottles) or you can do a wine tasting and site tour for $45. There are more premium packs with cheese or chocolate tastings and even a full three-course meal for up to $100. We’re not that bougee so that was an easy pass.
Should you do a tour?

We decided to do a tour because it’s a freakin’ castle and I’m a sucker for old things. Of all the wineries, this is the place to get a site tour.
How were the wines?
One of the best wine tasting experiences I’ve had thus far. For $45 we got a lot, a lot, a lot of wine. You start drinking pretty much in the first 10 minutes of the tour and doesn’t stop all the way to the end. In all, I would say each of us got at least five servings of wine. At least! They served us a few bottles from each category: red, white and sweet wines. Which meant that by the end of it I was nicely boozed out. Their sweet wines were 10/10.
Best thing about it:
It’s a castle! How many times can I say this: it’s a castle. It was beautiful, everything about it was amazing and every second I was there, I played the GoT theme song in my head. So picture perfect, made for great Instagram contents and life memory! Because it was an actual, functional castle when they built it ages ago, the place has nooks and crannies that you wouldn’t have seen without a proper tour. It’s a quirky place. Plus, our tour guide was absolutely fabulous.
Worst thing about it:
There’s nothing bad I can say about this place. I loved the tour, loved the place and loved the wine. If anything, then just the fact that you can only purchase their wines there and some restaurants across the US. You can’t find their product in any supermarket no matter how fancy, and they can deliver but only in large quantities. Their wines are very exclusive because they only make a certain amount of bottles a year.

Domaine carneros

📍1240 Duhig Rd, Napa, CA 94559
@domainecarneros

Champagne poppers only.

Unlike the other wineries in the list, Domaine Carneros is all about the champers. As someone who is against, not just dislike, but against red wine, I am a huge fan of this place. Champagne is great for people who are just recently easing into that wine life. It makes a good transition from cheap, keg beers (the college style) to fancy, high end wines (the adult way). I think a lot of people forget that champagnes are basically just bubbly white wine, without the dryness (bitter, acidic flavor in your tongue). They are very easy to enjoy because they taste like sugarless alcoholic soda.

Tour + Tasting:
$60 for tour and tasting, $35 for just tasting.
Should you do a tour?
You can go without. Just do the tastings.
How were the wines?
They were good! Each of us got two servings of champagne and I think one glass of red during the sit-down, and two glasses of champagnes during the tour. Not a huge fan of reds, but the champagnes were great on my tongue.
Best thing about it:
The place was gorgeous. The estate, which looks more like a dreamy Pride & Prejudice style mansion, sits nicely on a small incline looking out across Napa Valley. You get a beautiful view and great pictures with the estate. Also the fact that it was all champagne made it more enjoyable for me.
Worst thing about it:
This was purely by chance and not their fault at all, but in the middle of our tasting their fire alarm went off so we all had to evacuate and leave the building. It was a scorching hot summer in California so it was hot. Something I could say though, is the tour felt a bit useless to me. It didn’t feel informative. If anything our tour guide spoke more about her experience with wine than the actual wine itself.

robert mondavi winery

📍7801 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, CA 94562

high-rated napa winery.

Feels like it’s necessary to put Robert Mondavi on the list as it is one of the best rated wineries in Napa Valley. For one they own the largest vineyards all across Napa and their bottles can be found anywhere across the US; from fancy restaurants to neighborhood grocery stores. Robert Mondavi is one of the most popular wine names in the US. They produce a wide range of bottled fermented grapes from reds to sweets and even champers. In this tour you’ll get an insider look at the wine making process and to close off, a small tasting of their most popular bottles.

Tour + Tasting:
Basic tour and tasting pack was $45 per person. You get up to 5 servings of wine, the last one being moscato which was my favorite. They also offer just wine tasting experience at different price points, according to how many glasses you choose to have (from $40-55).
Should you do a tour?
If you’re interested in learning wine making then yes do a tour, they do a good job at explaining it. But if not, just do a sit-down, outdoor wine tasting and enjoy the view.
How were the wines?
Their wines were obviously great. Robert Mondavi bottles can be found in most places in the US so it was familiar. They gave you a taste of their red, white and sweet wines so you get a nice variety. I’m not pretentious with my wine so as long as it’s not red, to be honest I’ll probably enjoy it.
Best thing about it:
Their iconic high-arched welcome gate (not fully pictured because it was hard to get a nice pic of it) was stunning to look at. Their estate was gorgeous and I could picture a beautiful summer wedding there (I honestly don’t know why I keep mentioning weddings, but it makes you feel some kinda way being there). Their tour was very informative in terms of wine making. Unlike the other places where you basically just pass through rooms and see/touch things, in here the tour guide really tells you about what’s good and not in wine fermentation. Although it might sound boring, to a geek like me it was actually fascinating. Another thing I want to say, that could potentially be inaccurate but I’m still gonna say anyway, is I think Robert Mondavi winery is one of the oldest wineries in Napa and I appreciate that.
Worst thing about it:
Although Robert Mondavi is still family-owned, by its sheer magnitude it no longer felt personal and exclusive like the other wineries. It felt like a huge production. Personally I enjoy the intimacy of wine tastings so that part of it was lacking here. Small issue.

other recommendations

Here are a few Napa wineries I haven’t tried personally, but tons of friends have recommended to me.

Opus One Winery
📍7900 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, CA 94562
$75 for tasting
Tour unavailable in 2019 due to construction

Stag’s Leap Winery
📍6150 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558
$75 tour + tasting

Chateau Montelena
📍1429 Tubbs Ln, Calistoga, CA 94515
$40 for tasting, $55 tour + tasting

Beringer Vineyards
📍2000 Main St, St Helena, CA 94574
$25-55 for tasting, $30 tour + tasting