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Artesa winery
Photograph: Flickr/John Weiss

10 best Napa wine tastings with no appointment required

Making a last-minute trip to Wine Country? Check out these Napa wine tastings that don't require an appointment.

By Amy Sherman
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Gone are the days when Napa wine tastings were free and easy. Now the most popular places book up weeks in advance. But there are still plenty of places where you can taste without making an appointment. Whether you're headed to one of the top wineries in Napa, or a satellite tasting room, you’ll be warmly welcomed at these cozy spots which often offer warm patios, stellar gardens, colorful art collections and historic buildings. While at a tasting room you may also be able to book a reservation for a Napa Valley wine tour or a table at one of the best restaurants in Napa

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Napa

Best Napa wine tastings

Oakville Grocery
Photograph: Flickr/rmanoske

1. 1881

Right next door to Oakville Grocery (the oldest continuously operating grocery store in California) stands another historical Victorian home (the original home of the Oakville Grocery founder) which has been recently transformed into 1881 Napa. The winery produces cabs from 13 different sub appellations in Napa. For $45 you can taste four wines from four different appellations. Compare and contrast and, if you like, buy a glass or a bottle to enjoy in the back patio with provisions from the grocery. 

2. Clif Family

Located in St. Helena, Clif Family offers small production Napa Valley wines as well as olive oil, savory nut mixes, fruit preserves, spices and chocolates. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because it is the same people who created the Clif Bar. For cycling fans they also offer bike rentals on site as well as a Bruschetteria food truck where you can have a snack or lunch. For $30 you can partake in their seasonal red and wine tasting which runs about one hour.

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Louis M Martini
Photograph: Flickr/Eddietherocker

3. Louis M Martini

What was formerly a large, industrial 1930s warehouse has been fully renovated and reopened as a tasting center. Head to the counter and choose an experience that suits your mood and your budget. The Crown Bar is open daily and offers four wines for $30. Other options include spending time in the beautifully landscaped park, an underground cellar tour or a food pairing in the clubby Heritage Lounge.

4. Gamling & McDuck

Named for its owners' nicknames (two sommeliers turned winemakers from Minnesota), Gamling & McDuck is in its tenth harvest making cabernet franc and chenin blanc. The artsy and funky tasting room is lots of fun, even if their critically acclaimed wines are serious. The walk-in tasting reflects the affordability of their wines, just $25 to taste five wines and you might even get a chance to chat with the owners. 

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5. The Village

Located at the family-friendly Vista Collina resort is a complex of nine tasting rooms set around a massive lawn. No appointments are necessary here and all the tasting rooms are open daily until 7pm. Trinitas Cellars features lots of fruit forward wines, while you can find slightly more elegant and refined selections at Jayson by Pahlmeyer. Meanwhile, Foley Food and Wine Society offer a wide range of wines from five well respected wineries around California. Tasting flights vary in cost.

6. Alpha Omega Collective

Downtown Napa is filled with tasting rooms and the Alpha Omega Collective is popular with locals. Drop by anytime from 11am until 6:30pm to taste wines from Napa, San Luis Obispo and Spain. The signature flight is $40. If you’re feeling peckish, snag a table and order from the menu of Pennington Provisions or from The Dutch Door around the corner. Fried chicken and chardonnay, anyone?

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7. Ackerman Family Vineyards

At the Ackerman Heritage House, a fully restored 1888 Queen Anne Victorian located downtown on a quiet side street, there are a variety of different tours and tastings, but for walk-ins, the wine tasting salon, also known as the aviary, is open Thursday through Sunday from 10am until 5pm. Here you can try three small-production time-intensive aged wines—a sauvignon blanc, a red blend and a cabernet sauvignon—for $40. After, enjoy a bottle on the idyllic garden patio. 

Sinskey tasting room
Photograph: Flickr/star5112

8. Sinskey

Located on the Silverado Trail, in the famed Stag’s Leap region, is this organic and biodynamic winery. Walk in visitors can choose between two tastings of five wines that include grapes from Carneros as well as Stag’s Leap. The basic flight is $40 and includes a selection of accompanying snacks including black pepper and parmesan shortbread and rosemary and thyme gougeres. When the weather allows, visitors can also enjoy their tasting on the patio with views of the vineyards.

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Artesa winery
Photograph: Flickr/John Weiss

9. Artesa

Views of the bay, plenty of outdoor seating and stunning pyramid architecture, not to mention the wines, make Artesa worthy of a stop. Located in the Carneros region that straddles Napa and Sonoma, it’s just minutes from both cities. Owned by a Spanish company, the winery makes cooler climate wines including albariño, sparkling, rose, chardonnay, pinot noir and other reds. Wine tastings are available for walk-ins; The classic tasting is $35.

Tank Garage Winery
Photograph: Courtesy Tank Garage Winery

10. Tank Garage Winery

Inside the restored filling station at the intersection of Highway 128 and the main drag in Calistoga is a winery tasting room. With a rock and roll vibe, this quirky winery never produces the same wine twice so every visit is an opportunity for exploration and discovery. Pony up to the lubrication bar for the affordable $25 wine tasting, available for walk-ins daily. In addition, weekdays from 3–6pm glasses of wine are available for purchase. The wines are affordable and one tasting fee is waived for every three bottles purchased.

Headed to Sonoma instead?

Photograph: Flickr/Douglas LeMoine

The 10 best Sonoma wineries

Things to do

If Napa is Northern California’s land of wine-fueled luxury, with its chic wineries and tasting rooms, Sonoma is its laid back cousin: equally as beautiful with vineyards producing vintages just as world-class, but less crowded and somewhat more humble.

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