A visit to Napa valley was part of our longer US West Coast family vacation. Split between California and Arizona, between city life and national parks, a weekend getaway to Napa valley fit right in after 4 days in San Francisco. And having local friends who were wine lovers ensured I didn’t have to do research into the best wineries & vineyards to visit in Napa Valley.
Napa Valley Wine Country is known for wine tasting and tours, regional gourmet food, and soaking in the beauty of the vineyards. With more than 400 wineries across Napa, Sonoma, and Calistoga, there is something suited for everyone in Napa Valley. From stunning castles and chateaus to small family-run affairs with their common love for good wine, from Michelin-starred restaurants to small hidden local cafes with their common love for regional fresh produce – this area is a sensory delight. I think I have sold it enough to put it on your USA West Coast Itinerary.
9 of the best wineries & vineyards to visit in Napa, Sonoma, and Calistoga
Established in 1876, Beringer Vineyards is one of the best and oldest wineries in Napa. In 1934, Beringer became the first winery in California to offer wine tasting and tours to the public. Prior to this time, Prohibition had made that impossible.
It is the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa and part of the National Register of Historic Places.
Beringer offers a variety of wine tasting and tour options. The simplest option is a traditional wine tasting in the tasting room for $25. Other options include a tour through the old winery, reserve tastings, and a meal paired with a wine tasting. Children of any age are allowed on the Legacy Cave Tour and on the outdoor patio. Beringer produces a wide assortment of wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and a Red Blend. I recommend any of their regional estate wines or winery exclusives, especially the Zinfandel. Many of their wines can be a bit pricey, but they often run sales. It is worth it to pick up a nice bottle for a special occasion.
Although there is not an on-site restaurant unless you participate in the Library Lunch tasting, visitors are allowed to bring a picnic lunch. Outside the tasting room are plenty of tables perfect for enjoying a meal with a glass of wine. Beringer Vineyards is the perfect place to spend an afternoon when visiting the Napa region. Not only was the wine tasting fairly priced, but the grounds also make for a gorgeous place to spend an afternoon. Besides Napa, there are many other amazing wine regions in the United States.
Website: Beringer Vineyards
Recommended by Francesca Makana| Homeroom Travel
Benziger Family Winery
With over 500 wineries in the region, visiting the wine country makes for a nice California road trip with views of rolling hills, wineries, and farms. Once you have checked off all the Napa Valley wineries in your list, drive a little further to visit the Benziger Family Winery. It is worth the trek.
The winery practices biodynamic farming, and they have third party certification for their green farming practices.
The wine is good and good for the environment! They have animals that help with mowing, pollinating, and spraying herbicides; I hear they even aerate the soil. When visiting the vineyards, you will find adorable sheep, longhaired Scottish Highlander cattle, an insectary, and colorful birds. The winery itself has meandering paths and offers an off-road tour that showcases the beautiful gardens and winery.
There are more than grapes at the winery, you will find olive groves since olives often grow well in the same climates and soils as wine grapes. The olive oil can be purchased during your visit to the tasting room. Book one of their award-winning (considered one of the top 10 winery tours in 2019) Biodynamic Tram Tour. The tour lasts about 45 minutes to an hour and ends at a wine cave. After the tour, you get to taste some of the delicious wines in the Tasting Room.
Visit Safari West located nearby in the heart of California wine country where families can explore the Sonoma Serengeti on an African wildlife safari alongside herds of exotic wildlife. There is a lot to do in Napa Valley, beyond sipping wine. It is the perfect place to rest, go on scenic drives, have picnics, and enjoy that slow country life.
Website: Benziger Family Winery
Recommended by Priya Vin| Outside Suburbia
Cade Estate Winery
Cade Estate Winery offers a luxurious and memorable wine tasting experience on a getaway to Napa Valley. Located above the cloud line on Howell Mountain in the town of Angwin, the views from Cade over the valley are completely mesmerizing.
Cade is most known for its exquisite collection of Cabernet Sauvignon, which they charge high dollar for.
So, it goes without saying that this is not quite the cheapest wine tasting available in Napa Valley. However, the $80 tasting fee is completely worth it for the high-end experience given to each visitor.
To do a wine tasting at Cade, an appointment is required between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. every day of the week. They keep groups small, which allows tastings to be conducted at one large table in their sleek lounge. The small groups make it easier for each participant to get individualized attention, and the chance to ask as many questions about the wines as they’d like. High-end as it is, Cade has a very approachable feel, and will even allow you to bring your kids to the tasting if needed.
In addition, each person gets their own cheese and chocolate plate to nibble at while drinking the wine, all of which pairs beautifully together. You will taste about 5 wines, which are incredible and will tempt you to splurge on a special occasion bottle to ship home.
Other perks include a tour of the property, where you’ll get to walk through the rooms where the wine is made, and smell the lovely aroma of French oak barrels. When you’re done, you can enjoy one more glass of your favorite wine in front of a fire on their chic patio, while taking in the gorgeous views of Napa Valley below.
Website: Cade Estate Winery
Recommended by Theresa McKinney| Fueled by Wanderlust
Castello di Amorosa
If you’re keen to soak up some serious atmosphere on your trip to Napa, you can’t miss the imposing Castello di Amorosa.
This castle was inspired by 13th Century Tuscan architecture, has 95 rooms used in the winemaking process, 5 towers with battlements, and was built using medieval construction methods in part.
Once you make it inside, be sure to catch the view of the surrounding vineyards and mountain ranges. Like many of the bigger wineries in Napa, Castello di Amorosa charges a fee for admission and tasting. You can explore two levels of the building, and taste five wines for $30 per adult. Children (5-20) cost $20 and get a glass of grape juice at the end. You can elect to take a guided tour, which takes about 2 hours and will show you more of the castle including the torture chamber, armory, and grand barrel room.
Wine buffs will want to taste the Morisoli-Borges Cabernet Sauvignon and the single-vineyard Melanson Cabernet Sauvignon. Both have received sparkling reviews from lauded wine critics.
Wine tastings come with the usual offering of breadsticks to cleanse your palette between tastings. But if you’re a little more adventurous and willing to part with a few more dollars, there are a couple of other tours you can do. The wine and cheese pairing tour includes local cheese. Then Castello di Amorosa takes things up a notch. The Antipasti and Wine pairing tour comes with an assortment of bite-sized delicious treats, while the Royal Food and Wine pairing tour allows you to sit in the Royal Apartment and enjoy full meals inspired by the wines they are paired with.
Also, read – San Francisco Itinerary for first-time visitors
Website: Castello di Amorosa
Recommended by Katherine Fenech | Bright Lights of America
Château Montelena Winery
The gorgeous Château Montelena Winery in the Napa Valley is one of the most beautiful wineries in California. Located in Calistoga, Château Montelena is a must stop for wine tasting. Some of the best wines to sample are the cabernet sauvignon and the chardonnay. Even if you are not indulging, make sure to stop by Château Montelena to walk the beautiful grounds and gardens.
The winery is a massive stone castle covered in vibrant ivy. It sits on a hillside, overlooking a peaceful lake and the sprawling vineyards.
The winery offers walk-in bar tastings to sample their wines. Château Montelena is one of the most popular wineries in the region so the tastings can get busy. To skip the wait, it is a good idea to make an online reservation.
Château Montelena is a kid-friendly winery (except for estate tours and tastings). After your tasting, make sure to take a walk in the Chinese Garden around the lake for gorgeous views of this epic Château. Don’t miss Château Montelena if you are spending a weekend in Napa!
Recommended by Julie Laundis| Wandering Sunsets
Amongst the 3 wineries we visited on our trip to Napa Valley, Domaine Carneros was the grandest. If a stunning chateau with manicured gardens, great tasting sparkling wines paired with delectable bites is your thing, then don’t give Domaine Carneros a miss.
This landmark Chateau was founded by the Taittinger family and is best known in the Napa region for its sparkling wines. It is a landmark on your way from Napa to Sonoma. The winery offers 4 different wine tasting menus – from sparkling wines to red wines to a mix of both, and you can choose from different cheese and artisanal food platters to go with this. It is best to book a tasting session in advance.
Sipping a bubbly from their terrace overlooking the estate vineyards which contribute to most of the wines produced, you would not have a care in the world!
We enjoyed the estate tour as well. The guide took us to the production areas where different machinery and bottles were kept. The traditional method that the winery has been using to make their sparkling wines came through quite well. Though they allowed the 2 kids in our group, this beautiful winery is best suited for couples.
Website: Domaine Carneros
Recommended by Shweta | Zest In A Tote
Grgich Hills Estate
We visited Grgich Hills Estates during the Fall harvest with two toddlers in tow. While Napa with kids age 2 and 4 might not generally be an ideal vacation option, our visit to Napa was part of a Northern California vacation that also included time in San Francisco and Yosemite. And, we didn’t want to miss out on Napa wine just because it was a family vacation.
Our kids are pretty happy to tag along wherever we want to go, and Grgich Hills Estates was a particular treat to them because it was the only winery to offer grape stomping.
Grape stomping is not something you see every day, but we were familiar with the concept after a visit to the Geneva Grape Jamboree a few years earlier in Ohio. Grape stomping involves standing in a barrel of grapes and literally stomping to make juice. We didn’t actually let the boys stomp grapes on their own (at Grgich or elsewhere), but they nonetheless had a blast watching others. Stompers at Grgich stepped onto a new white souvenir t-shirt to forever capture their grape covered feet. We enjoyed a tour and tasting and thought our trip to Grgich Hills Estates was worth the cost.
We had the perfect fall day to enjoy a tasting and tour in addition to watching grape stomping at Grgich Hills Estates. We thought that the winery was a good value for what it offered and would definitely return, especially during the stomping season.
Website: Grgich Hills Estate
Recommended by Catherine D’Cruz | We Go With Kids
Raymond Vineyards has a light and airy tasting room located in the Napa Valley region of St. Helens. The tasting room pours both white and red varietals. One of Raymond Vineyards’ specialties is their Cabernet, which I found to have a nice, palatable balance with a smoky undertone. They’re also known for their Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. In addition to the main tasting room, Raymond Vineyards also offers tastings in the Cellar Room. This is a vibrant, dim room with more of an industrial atmosphere. Tastings in the Cellar Room are by appointment only and showcase how decanting can affect a wine.
One neat aspect that set Raymond Winery apart from other wineries I visited in Napa was the Hallway of Senses. Down a long corridor, glass jars ran along the wall, perched on hands coming out of the wall. Each jar had a cord to squeeze which would push out a burst of air with that scent – of which ranged from vanilla to floral to smoke to strawberry. It was really interesting to smell the scent and then sip the wine to see how each smell affected the taste of the wine. Raymond Vineyards also has a fun wine blending experience so you can create your own wine.
An educational experience that isn’t solely related to wine is the Theater of Nature on Raymond Vineyards’ property, which showcases how nature and the environment play an important part in the making of wine, which can greatly affect the outcome of the taste and body of the wine.
This isn’t one of the more kid-friendly wineries in Napa and the cost can vary depending on any add-on experiences you do, like the wine blending class, but if you just do the tasting then it’s on par with other tasting costs in Napa.
Website: Raymond Vineyards
Recommended by Gina Tarnacki| Evergreen & Salt
You’ll find Sterling Vineyards nestled in Calistoga, California. It’s a popular winery in Napa for several reasons. Most of which include their phenomenal selection of Bordeaux and Burgundy-style wines.
Sterling Vineyards is one of the most visited wineries in Napa Valley. In 2019, Sterling boasted the official wine of the Emmy Awards Season.
Throughout the years, Sterling has won many awards and collected much recognition for the quality and flavor of their wines. Guests also love Sterling Vineyards because of their uniquely distinct Greek architecture (gorgeous white stucco). The iconic towers at Sterling feature authentic bells rescued from St. Dunstan’s Church in East London. You can hear them ring every 15 minutes.
Sterling is one of the older wineries in Napa, founded in the 1960s. Inspiration for Sterling Vineyards came from the raw, unadulterated, beauty of the Napa landscape. You can appreciate that beauty today when you visit one of Sterling’s scenic outdoor terraces.
To get to Sterling’s terrace and tasting rooms, you’ll climb high into Napa’s hillside via a tramway. This experience makes Sterling Vineyards the perfect activity for families with children. Although, anyone can enjoy this short, scenic, ride. While you visit Sterling Vineyards, don’t miss their impressive collection of art and wine-related artifacts. Sterling offers a few different tasting menus to choose from that feature exclusive wines, sparkling wines, and food pairings.
Recommended by Valentina Djordjevic| Valentina’s Destinations