Where to “Vineyard” in Napa

Napa, wine, vineyard, friends, California

You know you’re becoming a wine snob when you and your hubby are making a habit of opening $60 bottles of wine on a Tuesday night to watch the Olympics. Okay the truth is, we actually opened two $60 bottles last night.  But we couldn’t help it – Michael Phelps and Aly Raisman were stressing us out.

Anyways, if you know me, I’m all about casting blame elsewhere.  And since I won’t be able to blame it on Olympic athletes for much longer, I’m just going to blame Napa. If you’ve been following along on the blog or Instagram, you know I just went to Napa for the 3rd time in the last 3 years.  I like to think that I’m training for the Wine-Olympics.   And whenever that damn committee decides that drinking expensive Cabs should be an Olympic sport, I’m going to be ready to represent my country.

During my 3 trips,  I have been to around 25 different wineries- all of which served wine, not all of which served good wine.  For those of you planning a trip for the first time, I’m going to pass along an important piece of advice that I wish someone had told me before my first trip.  STAY AWAY FROM THE BIG, COMMERCIALIZED WINERIES! (AKA, if you see the brand sold at Kroger, just. say. NO!)

You go to Napa for one reason, and one reason only- to indulge in expensive wines that you can’t afford in real life!  You can drink Robert Mondavi any day of the week.  But what makes visiting Napa so special is the fact that you can taste wines that aren’t sold in stores.  Most of the smaller wineries are not massively distributed but only sold to their loyal wine club members. And those should be your primary focus.  So let’s break down the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Fun-Sized’s Favorites:

Napa, wine, vineyard, friends, California

Photography by: jessupcellars.com

Jessup Cellars – my absolute favorite!  This is the first label I ever visited in Napa, and it’s the first reservation I make when planning a trip.  The tasting room experience is unmatched – heavy pours, delicious chocolates, and the most knowledgable of hosts.  This is the only vineyard that my husband and I are wine club members of, so that should tell you something!

Paraduxx – This wine was FANTASTIC!!! (esp. for my fellow Rose-All-Dayers out there!)  Probably the reason I loved it so much was because it was recommended to me by my friends at Jessup (go figure).  The grounds were absolutely gorgeous- lavender fields galore!  I’m all about trying new places, but this is one that I will probably make a point to go back to on every trip.  And that’s saying A LOT.

Del Dotto– I feel like I should give you fair warning about this one.  The wine is great, but prepare for a total shit show.  This is a vineyard that you should strategically schedule so that you aren’t already tipsy and don’t need to be totally “with it” afterwards.  It’s an awesome experience because you taste wine in the actual caves.  But when you find yourself in the situation where your friend is photographing your attempt at  portraying a Victoria Secret Angel , don’t say I didn’t warn you. (And yes, there are pictures to prove it.)

Napa, wine, vineyard, friends, California, sparkling wine

Photography by: domainecarneros.com

Domaine Carneros– There are hardly words to describe the beauty that is Domaine Carneros.  You feel like you have been transported to a French Chateau. And the sparkling wine ain’t so bad either. I imagine this would be Lisa Vanderpump’s first stop in Napa.  And if it’s good enough for Vanderpump, it’s definitely good enough for me.

Mumm Napa– Another amazing experience if you are a bubbles lover.  They have a beautiful patio and don’t require reservations- which is a total game-changer if you like to travel on a more “flexible” schedule.

Napa, wine, vineyard, friends, California

Photography by: silveroak.com

Silver Oak– This is one of the only commercial vineyards that I recommend.  First because the facility looks like a Colorado ski lodge.  And just because it’s sold in stores, doesn’t mean you can afford it (i.e. $100 a bottle status). 

Don’t Waste Your Time:

Sterling– If you look at the website, this vineyard draws you in with the gondola ride that takes you up to this white castle on the hillside.  The views are breathtaking.  The wine is subpar at best (and that’s if you spend more money for the “exclusive” selection tasting). In all honesty, this was the vineyard I was most disappointed in- so overrated.

Castello di Amorosa– If you haven’t noticed, the whole “don’t judge a book by your cover” theme applies to Napa.  This vineyard is a humongous castle (complete with mote and tower).  But I think it should be renamed Six Flags Over Napa.  I was stressed and claustrophobic – two words that should never be associated with Napa.  I was just waiting for a Mickey Mouse like character to p
op out from behind the corner. If I wanted to go to Disney World, I’d go to Disney World.

On My List for Future Trips: Napa, wine, vineyard, friends, California

Nickel and Nickel– This is on the top of my list for the next trip.  We tried to go this time, but you basically need to make weekend reservations 3 months out.  But if you see the vineyard and taste the wine, you’ll totally get why.

Pride Mountain– There are several vineyards on Spring Mountain, so make sure you go to at least one of them.  Those vineyards have what most consider to be the most beautiful views in all of Napa.  This vineyard has particularly been recommended to me on numerous occasions, and I can’t wait to test it out for myself.


If you’re really serious about planning a trip, feel free to shoot me an email.  I’d love to give you more tailored feedback to help plan your trip!  And for those of you wine-os who love Napa as much as I do, let me know if you have any vineyards that need to be on MY LIST!

P.S. Check out this blog post for recommendations on where to eat and sleep in Napa 😉

Cheers, Erin


Leave a Reply