Best wineries in Napa Valley to taste world-class wine

Merlot, chardonnay, pinot noir—these Napa Valley wineries are making some of the tastiest vino in the world

Photograph: Yelp/Wil S. Nickel & Nickel

The Bay Area draws young winemakers like New York attracts artists—every year, oenophiles crown a new crop of hot, up-and-coming vintners, whether they’re working from the rocky Central Coast or a warehouse in Berkeley. But there’s something to be said for rediscovering the OG classics. These Napa wineries offer the quintessential Wine Country experience, whether you’re seeking inspiring vineyard views, hidden-gem caves, an abridged wine-making education, or simply some standout Cabs.

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Napa Valley wineries

1

Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Robert Sinskey's idyllic estate includes 200 picturesque acres of vineyards dotted with fruit and oak trees, edible gardens, flowering plants, and grazing sheep. The focus is on organic farming and natural winemaking processes, resulting in particularly distinctive Pinot Noirs. Sample the selection in the winery’s atmospheric stone and redwood tasting room.

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2

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

Stag’s Leap wines have a serious pedigree, but the tasting experience is friendly and unintimidating. The winery is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon—its 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon won the 1976 Judgement of Paris and was named one of the Smithsonian's "Objects that Made America." The glass-encased tasting room offers panoramic views of the Stags Leap Palisades, while the wine caves, designed by Spanish architect Javier Barba, feature over 34,000 square feet of tunnels. Request a taste of the famed Cask 23.

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3

The Hess Collection

Founded by Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess, this winery on the rugged slopes of Mount Veeder is nearly 30 years old. The sustainable vineyard is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but it’s equally renowned for Hess’ museum-caliber collection of contemporary art, displayed on-site in a 13,000-square-foot gallery. The gallery focuses on living artists, including work from Franz Gertsch, Francis Bacon, Magdelena Abakanowicz, and Leopold Maler.

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4

Domaine Carneros

It’s all about the bubbly at Domaine Carneros. And where better to sip something sparkling than the terrace of a château? The building, inspired by the Tattinger family’s 18th century home in Champagne, France, features a Instagram-worthy grand staircase, manicured gardens, multiple outdoor terraces, and a fireside salon with views overlooking the vineyards. And while sparkling wine is the estate’s main event, more recently it has expanded its Pinot Noir offerings. Don’t miss the Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs, which you can pair with cheese or caviar for a seriously decadent flight.  

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5

Saintsbury

Saintsbury founders Richard Ward and David Graves met as enology majors at U.C. Davis. They named their rustic, unpretentious winery after George Saintsbury, the 19th century literary historian and oenophile. Saintsbury is the ideal spot to hang out on a warm day. Rather than a stuffy tasting room, you’ll find tables set among the winery’s English-style gardens. (In cooler weather, tastings move to a barn-like cellar overlooking the vines.) The winery is best known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, crafted by head winemaker Tim Colla.

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6

Artesa Vineyards & Winery

Artesa is the work of the Codorníu Raventós family, renowned Spanish winemakers whose roots in the Penedes region near Barcelona date back to 1551. The winery’s name, Artesa, is Catalan for “handcrafted,” a nod to the family’s style of single-estate wines. In particular, Artesa is known for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but it also nods to its Spanish roots with a crisp Albariño. The tasting room overlooks the rest of the 350-acre estate, offering a birds-eye view of the rolling countryside. Wine pairings are popular here, whether that’s chocolate, cheese, or tapas.

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7

Nickel & Nickel

Nickel & Nickel is a refreshing counterpoint to the crowded, over-merchandised wineries in Napa, with an intimate feel and a range of single-vineyard wines. Don’t miss the barrel cellar, a cool, 30,000-square-foot space encased in stone and lined with French oak barrels. Similarly, the fermentation barns are built in a traditional style, incorporating hand-joinery and post-and-beam construction.

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8

Starmont Winery and Vineyards

Perched on the historic Stanly Ranch, Starmont’s tasting room is bright and airy, swathed in distressed wood and white walls. The modern vibe carries through to its green production methods: The winery recycles all its process water, diverts 98 percent of its waste from landfills, and uses solar energy. In the summer, the winery throws lively parties, including weekly “socials” with food trucks and live music. The fire pit-equipped patio is a prime spot to soak up the scene.

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9

Judd’s Hill

Founded in 1989, this family-run winery is small (production is limited to less than 3,000 cases each year) and inviting—there’s no visitor’s center or gift shop here, instead, you’ll find Judd Finkelstein, the winery’s good-natured namesake, who has a penchant for fruit-forward Pinot Noirs and Hawaiian shirts. Tastings are hands-on, educational affairs, in which staff guide you through tasting notes and local history. If you’re looking to delve deeper still, sign up for one of Judd’s Bottle Blending sessions, in which you and three to five friends can create your own red-wine blend. 

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10

Truchard Vineyards

This family-run winery grows a dozen different grape varieties and produces its own estate-grown Chardonnay, Roussanne, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. Though the property only spans about two miles, the greater estate encompasses 400 acres, sprawling among the foothills of the Mayacama range and Mount Veeder. But while the property is undeniably pretty, the real highlight here is the 11,000-square-foot wine cave, where you can taste and tour.

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