In the past few years, wineries have seen a dramatic change. Many winemakers now offer virtual winery tours and virtual tastings. In Napa, California, the wildfires were so frequent and destructive that they increased pressure. Smoke from the fires could affect the quality of grapes. Vineyards also feared losing their vines. Many vineyards were unable to escape the fire, but they still poured glasses and welcome visitors.
It’s a good time to visit Napa Valley to rebuild vineyards and to finally learn why America’s most popular region for wine has earned its title. Here are 25 vineyards you must visit if you can make it to Napa. If you’re not able to see, they offer virtual tastings or can ship wine anywhere in the United States.
Domaine Carneros, a producer of both pinot noir and traditional method sparkling wines, knows this better than anyone.
The grounds of the winery are breathtaking. A majestic chateau provides a stunning backdrop for a glass or two of wine. The founding winemaker established Domaine’s reputation, Eileen Crane, who took great care in every step of the production process. She retired in 2020 after 42 years working in the wine industry. To avoid bitterness in the grapes, they are harvested at night. There are also 18 different clones of Pinot Noir to create the perfect balance and complexity. Domaine Carneros has also achieved Napa Green certification, proving its commitment to sustainability. (via Domaine Carneros).
Master of Wine Dr. Liz Thach describes the 2013 Estate Pinot Noir: “A delightful pinot with classic Carnero’s red cherry and raspberry, complimented with subtle spicy oak. There is also a hint of earthy mushrooms.” Medium-bodied and well-balanced, with silky tannins.”
Visitors can choose from a wide range of tasting options. Flights start at $40, and there are also food options such as cheese, charcuterie, and caviar. There is even a vegan board. Reservations are required for all visitors. They can be made online or over the phone.
A sprawling estate in Oakville, California, is home to manicured vineyards and wine caves. Far Niente is as idyllic and dreamy as it sounds. Since 1982, the estate has vinified cabernets sauvignons. The brand also produces chardonnay.
John Benson founded the vineyard in 1885 when he came to California during the Gold Rush to try to strike it rich. The grounds were closed during prohibition but were reopened 60 years later.
Solar power was introduced to the winery in 2008. It is proud of its net-zero electricity usage. The vineyards are organically farmed, and they produce more energy than what they use. American Winery Guide described the experience as intimate. “Tastings at Far Niente are intimate, because the winery sees so few visitors on a daily base that our names, and those of the other guests, appeared on a chalkboard sentry which greets visitors within the front doors. Our tasting took place in a charming, elegantly-decorated side room. We tasted a few vintages of a creamy, delicate chardonnay. Then, we tried a few more rich, bold cabernets sauvignons. And finally, the dolce. Each was paired with delicious cheeses to bring out the best of each wine.”
Far Niente offers virtual wine experiences that are personalized so that you can experience the Far Niente winery from anywhere across the country. The majestic ginkgo tree that lines the drive would make this a great place to visit in the fall when the leaves are changing.
Brown Estate, as the only Black-owned wine producer and bottler in Napa Valley, has high expectations. The pressure is not too much for the Brown family. The family has built a loyal fan base with their delicious wines and unmatched hospitality.
Bassett Brown and Marcela brown, two doctors from Southern California who were searching for a place to spend their summers in 1980, bought the land. They purchased the old walnut orchard and fixed the structures. They planted vines. For a decade, they were merchants selling their grapes either to local negociants or winemakers, who would bottle the grapes in their names (via MBE). After 15 years, Deneen Coral and David took over the vineyard. They decided to make wine.
Deneed Brown, an MBE reporter, said, “Mom’s and Dad’s intention was not for us to get into the wine industry.” They were still running their Southern California medical practice and expected us all to join them. After five years of growing grapes and selling them, we realized that the way producers were handling our fruit made it special. We had a ‘We should sell it ourselves’ moment. moment.”
The Brown Estate Tasting Room is now located in the heart of Napa. The tasting room is a warm and welcoming place. Zinfandel, in particular, is worth trying. Reservations are necessary. The price of a two-wine flight starts at $50. You can add a cheeseboard for an extra fee. You can book on the website. Inglenook has existed in some form or another since 1879 when ship captain Gustave Niebaum bought the estate. Niebaum purchased the estate with the intention of turning it into a winery and vineyard. The chateau, which was built in 1887, featured the first California grape-sorting tables and the first bottling lines.
Francis Ford Coppola, the director, and his wife Eleanor purchased a portion of the property in the 1970s and the remainder in 1995 so that the chateau would once again regain its former glory. Inglenook may not be the oldest estate in Napa, but it is unmatched for its glamour.
The Estate Library offers tastings from Thursday through Sunday for $100 plus tax per person. Other tastings are also available, with prices starting at $60 plus tax per person. They offer different flights. You can also opt for the Private Library Tour and Tasting, which costs $125 per person. It includes a cheese board and charcuterie. All tastings require an appointment.
Napa Wine Project said it best, “It’s what a winery should look like and feel like – visually stunning with layers of history and depths of stories collected throughout its 140+ year history.”