I'm often asked about day trips to Napa. Here's my
preferred winery tour:
First, to set the scene, check out my guide to wineries map on
. It contains map locations, addresses, and detailed
descriptions of my experiences at various wineries. Here's the link:
On to details:
Start out for Napa around 10am to give yourself enough time and avoid some of
the crowds (the route is designed to keep you out of traffic).
Drive to Napa, be sure to bypass the city of Napa itself since there's nothing
of interest there. Shortly after the expressway ends, you'll come to Oak Knoll
Road. Turn right there and on your left is your first stop Trefethen
Winery. Make sure you get a library tasting there (more expensive but
worth it). At that tasting, you'll get to sit on big leather couches in the
private back room of the winery and have some fantastic chardonnay and
cabernet. Don't be shy to ask to taste any wine you'd consider buying.
Continue up Oak Knoll Road until you come to the Silverado Trail. Turn left
and drive to Rutherford. On your right is Rutherford Hill Winery
which is located atop a big hill overlooking the Valley. Stop in for a tasting
and a tour of the wine caves here. Choose a bottle that you liked, buy it, and
head outside to the olive grove for a picnic lunch at a table with a view of
the entire Napa Valley. Ideally, you'll have brought some cheese, baguettes,
or other foods that pair well with wines. You might also bring your own wine
stems (Rutherford Hill will supply plastic cups for picnics but not upscale
Next, go back down the hill and turn right onto Silverado Trail. Drive up to
Lodi Lane and turn left and then immediately right to visit The
Duckhorn Estate. The Duckhorn family graduated from Haas, so if you
meet any of them (and it's possible you might) be sure to tell them that
you're a recent Haas grad. Here you will have a seated tasting in an airy room
with windows looking out over the winery. On the wall is a large mural of
ducks flying over a pond. Be sure to get the more deluxe tasting here so that
you can compare the wines produced from grapes grown all over the valley to
wines produced from a single vineyard. You should also ask to try the Goldeneye, the
best Pinot in Napa in my opinion.
Turn right out of Duckhorn and head down Lodi Lane until you come to highway
29. Turn left and head toward Napa. On your right is the Mondavi
Winery. Turn in here for a quick stop. The Mondavi grounds
are spectacular especially the rose garden. Be sure to take some pictures here
in the afternoon sun. After around 3pm, the sun is sufficiently low in the sky
that the whole place is bathed in gold. If you missed the tour at Rutherford
Hill, you have a chance at a tour at Mondavi as well. Mondavi doesn't really
do proper tastings instead, grab a glass of merlot, sit by the garden and
relax in the afternoon sun.
Turn right out of Mondavi onto highway 29 to head toward Napa. Along the way,
you'll come to Oakville and, on your right, is your last stop Domaine Chandon.
Here, you'll be tasting sparkling wines on a patio overlooking the
beautiful gardens of the Domaine. Be sure to do a sample tasting so you can
compare a brut to a blanc de blanc to a blanc de noir style of sparkling wine.
(Hint: they differ in their blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, the two grapes
used in sparkling wine.)
You might be in the mood for dinner and the Domaine has a lovely restaurant.
Make a reservation here:
that's nice about the restaurant is that there's no markup for wines, so,
while food is expensive (but worth it) you won't get hit with a big wine bill
After dinner, it's time to head home. Fortunately, the traffic will have all
cleared out while you were having dinner, so it's smooth sailing on your way