3 Days in Napa at our Top 10 Wineries

Every year since 2003, Sally and I have spent a few days in Napa discovering great wine, enjoying wonderful food, and relaxing. This year was our 10th annual visit, so we decided to rehash all of our favorites. Wow – what an amazing trip!

Picking the top 10 was tough

We’ve visited a whole lotta Napa wineries, so picking our 10 favorites was very difficult. These wineries represent the 10 where we’ve consistently enjoyed the wine and the experience over the years. We’ll be the first to admit they aren't necessarily the best in all of Napa since we haven't been to them all. And, spoiler alert, our Top 10 list isn’t the same after this trip.

Day 1

Wind-swept at Kuleto EstateWe woke up from a restful sleep at the Napa River Inn and headed downstairs to Sweetie Pies for a light breakfast, which is included with the room. The town of Napa has a lot to offer, and the Inn’s luxurious accommodations and personal service make this a great home base to take it all in. Special bonus – you can walk to dinner at a lot of great local restaurants so you don’t have to worry about that extra glass of wine.

Today’s schedule included three wineries. Peju wowed us with their beautiful tasting rooms and their silky smooth Cabernet Francs, one of which earned the vaunted “P.F.G” designation. Miner Family was like a small party, where we laughed, swapped stories, and tasted incredible wine after incredible wine including a Merlot we really loved. The last stop of the day was way up on the mountain at Kuleto Estate, whose driveway alone is two miles long and whose wine is fairly exclusive and correspondingly pricey.

Dinner that night was at the Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin BBQ. They feature BBQ that hits the spot after a day of wine tasting and a crowded dining room that attracts the after work crowd. If you go, prepare to share a table with a few other folks which only adds to the fun.

Day 2

Overlooking the vineyards at CuvaisonWe visited another three wineries today. First up was Mayacamas Vineyards, an off-beat winery nestled in the hills of Mount Veeder that makes wine the really old fashioned way, including the use of some equipment that’s over 100 years-old. The next stop was Hess Collection, an amazing winery that makes a lot of incredible small production wines in addition to their consistently outstanding mass market vintages. The final winery of the day was Cuvaison Estate Wines. Full disclosure – we are wine club members – but nonetheless we spent 2 ½ hours relaxing in their Carneros tasting room sampling outstanding wine after outstanding wine.

This night we ate at Mustards Grill, which can best be described as offering delectable comfort food that hits the spot after a long day full of wine. Sally had their famous Mongolian Pork Chop and I had their off the bone lamb special. Both were outstanding and we had a great time in their bustling dining room.

Day 3

Beautiful view at CadeThe last day of wine tasting was a busy day with four planned stops. First up was Vincent Arroyo, which tastes most of their wines right out of the barrel and sells much of it as futures before its even bottled. The next stop was Clos Pegase, which has pretty good wine and a really good art collection. Curious note – we didn’t like their wine nearly as much as we remembered it, but then we learned that Cuvaison’s winemaker Steve Rogstad used to be the winemaker at Clos Pegase.

Our next stop was Frank Family Vineyards, which was the biggest disappointment of the trip. We remembered a fun, informal tasting experience that offered outstanding wine. Today’s Frank Family is limo city where they have the cheek to charge tasting fees up front and charge prices much higher than their wine is worth.

Every wine trip includes a bonus visit, and this time our bonus was Rombauer Vineyards. We had met Bob, the assistant manager at their tasting room, while he was drinking wine with us at Miner Family. Despite the large Saturday crowds, Bob showed us a great time and poured us some outstanding wine, including my favorite Chardonnay.

The final stop on the trip was Cade Estate. Set high up on Howell Mountain overlooking Napa Valley, they specialize in superb Cabernet Sauvignon. They also pour wine from their sister winery, PlumpJack, who also produces amazing Cabernet Sauvignon. Their relaxing, seated tasting was a wonderful way to close our Top 10.

Dinner on our last night in Napa was at Ristorante Allegria. They offer outstanding, reasonably-priced Italian food and a wine list that consistently yields good value. The restaurant is in an old bank building, so you are surrounded by character was you enjoy your meal. 

The final verdict

We’ll follow up with a few more posts to share additional details about our visit. For the time being, let’s just say we need to clear out some more room in our wine closet. And, we can’t wait to go back. 

Posted on April 16, 2012 .