OK, let’s be honest – as long as you are not from the US, wine is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think “California”. Hollywood, Venice Beach, plastic surgery – sure, but wait, wine?! All in all, let’s have a look on our wine tasting experience in Napa Valley wineries!
I would never describe us as wine-know-it-all. However, wine tasting in Napa Valley wineries has been on our bucket list forever, so we decided to add it to our US West Coast road trip. Sun-soaked valley covered with vineyards, small family owned wineries with lovely American houses, the best White Zinfandel in the World… What else do you need to be happy?
NOTE: Please don’t expect sommelier’s opinions from us. Everyone has a different taste and likes different things, so we focused on what our experience was.
|Tip: Find out more how our West Coast road trip itinerary looked like and how to rent a car in the US!|
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST NAPA VALLEY WINERIES FOR YOU?
The number of wineries in Napa Valley is tremendous! It is not surprising it is one of the most famous wine-growing regions in the World. We were facing a huge dilemma where should we go for perfect wine tasting – well, we had only 450 wineries to choose from…
If you love a particular type of wine, it may be easier – just head for a winery with the best one in the region! You can find some help here – a lot of wineries are described. You have to be prepared that a lot of wineries charge 20-30$ for wine tasting.
The other option is Napa Valley Wine Train – which takes you for a ride along the Napa Valley and you have an opportunity to taste different wines from the region, without going out (but you can end up rolling out from the train…). You can also add a tour in one of the associated wineries.
After long, long discussions, we decided to visit 3 wineries: the most popular Napa Valley brand in the World, the most popular among tourists and smaller, family owned one.
SUTTER HOME WINERY – THE FAMOUS ONE
Go to the shop in Poland. To the wine shelves, to be exact. What do you see? Yeah, I know. Sutter Home. Germany – same story. UK – again. Sutter Home wines are everywhere! It’s definitely one of the most famous Napa Valley wineries.
I have been in love with their White Zinfandel since forever. This is not a surprise – Sutter Home started production of this type of wine as the first one in the history, however, as always there is an element of coincidence. While preparing red wine Zinfandel from 1975 vintage, part of juice was put aside as didn’t ferment properly and contained a lot of sugar. Two weeks later one of the employees tasted the mixture and – kaboom! The delicious pink wine was there! Thanks to this type of wine, Sutter Home became the best-selling wine company in the States and one of the leading globally.
WINE TASTING: Very broad range of wines for tasting, all standard ones, which you can buy in your corner shop plus selected posh wines (Reserve). Every sweet-tooth will fall in love with Moscato and Pink Moscato. If you are looking for light wine perfect for relaxing summer in the city – you have to taste Pinot Grigio. Of course, it goes without saying – trying White Zinfandel is a must here!
OUR REVIEW: Strongly recommended! We went twice 🙂 At the first time we bought 2 bottles, but after opening the first one in a hotel, we knew we need to come back for more! The next day we stocked up on some more wine for our further trip.
FEE & PRICES: Wine tasting of selected 5 red and 5 white ones are free of charge. If you want to taste something more high-end (Reserve wines), you have to pay additionally. A standard bottle of wine – up to 7$. For example, high-scored Red Blend (91 points, Tasting Panel) costs 6$. Excellent value for money.
INFO: Sutter Home Winery
CASTELLO DI AMOROSA – THE POPULAR AMONG TOURISTS ONE
Tripadvisor is full of splendid reviews about this winery and it’s considered to be one of the most touristy Napa Valley wineries. Owner of our B&B also highly recommended visiting the castle. How could we even think about skipping this place? Thousands of tourists just can’t be wrong. Well, they can.
Actually, this winery is literally a Tuscan castle. When I wrote literally – I meant it. The author of the whole idea spent 14 million $ to ship 200 containers of old building materials and timber from Italy to the States. Not surprisingly, he went bankrupt. New investors turned the idea of Tuscan-style winery into just another profitable business.
You are charged on the castle tour. For tourists’ amusement, you can even find a torture chamber in the castle! It would be all fine, were it not for the fact that the castle was opened in 2007… Your guide constantly reminds you that wines produced here are so exclusive and you can’t buy them anywhere else. Then he will start talking: “Well, why only a bottle? You should buy a barrel and you will be our VIP!”. In the end, you can visit a shop, where you can buy a lot of wine-related things like caps, hoodies and of course soap (sarcasm).
WINE TASTING: Maybe this constant insisting on buying wine or probably we don’t know the stuff… It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t fabulous. Just average. We came there with an idea to buy a bottle, but nothing seemed appealing enough.
OUR REVIEW: The place itself is very nice. If you want to get to know how to build a Tuscan castle for yourself – go ahead. But if you have ever been to a winery in Italy or France, you may leave disappointed. Somehow I understand why this place is so popular – this is just a Disneyland for adults with a pompous idea. This place is super-crowded with tourists. We had mixed feelings after all.
FEE & PRICES: Guided tour with wine tasting of 5 standard wines costs around 40$. Additional charge for tasting Reserve wines – 10$. Bottles starting from approx. 30$.
INFO: Castello di Amorosa
HEITZ CELLAR – THE COZY ONE
At first glance it may not look spectacular, but we really enjoyed it simplicity and modesty. It fulfilled our expectations how wine tasting in Napa Valley should look like in 100%. Tasting room is in the cozy house made of grey stone, surrounded by picturesque vineyards. This place participated in creation of one of the best 12 wines of XX century – Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet (Wine Spectator).
WINE TASTING: Exceptional Chardonnay and Port. We were the only guests there, so we spent a lot of time talking about history of this place. We felt pampered by the service. All in all, we ended up buying bottle of Port – which reminded us Vinsanto from beloved Santorini island.
OUR REVIEW: It is a must-see place! Very exclusive, both cozy winery. Our best wine tasting in Napa Valley!
FEE & PRICES: Free tasting. Bottles 20-40$.
INFO: Heitz Cellar
Can you recommend other Napa Valley wineries? For more our adventures in the US, click here!
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