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The best Napa Valley wineries

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

Photograph: Courtesy Cuvaison

Planning a trip to Napa Valley can be an overwhelming experience. With over 400 wineries in the region, choosing a select few to visit during a weekend getaway is akin to rolling the (very boozy) dice. Luckily, we've made things a little easier with our guide to the best Napa Valley wineries, from sprawling, kid-friendly grounds to grandiose estates. Each has something unique to offer, whether it's a bottling class or homemade mozzarella. Just be sure to intersperse your visits with some fantastic restaurants and bars before heading back to your hotel for some much-need shut eye. What? Drinking is hard work.

Visit these Napa Valley wineries

Schramsberg

If you're a sparkling wine fan, Schramsberg is a must. The winery is serene and understated, surrounded by gardens, ponds and vineyard fields. Tours are a bit pricy, but each is both a history lesson and generous tasting from storied bottles such as those filled with blanc de blanc, a sparkling chardonnay that was the first wine Schramsberg produced back in 1965 (also what Nixon served at his Toast to Peace in Beijing in 1972). The caves are full of history as well; no corporate concrete here, just mossy stone walls and a master winemaker had-turning bottles using the same technique developed by Madame Cliquot—yes, that Cliquot.

How to visit: Schramsberg offers tastings (with cave tour) at 9:30am, 10:30am, 11:30am, noon, 1:30pm and 2:30pm. Each five-wine tasting lasts one hour and fifteen minutes and costs $65; complimentary (and delicious) breadsticks served. Tastings are by appointment only.

In short: Rustic; historic; best bubbly in the region

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V. Sattui Winery

If ever there was a family winery, V. Sattui would be it. The bucolic stone buildings are surrounded by 2.5 acres of picnic grounds, where visitors can sit down at a picnic table with a bottle of wine and goods from the on-site deli, featuring over 200 cheeses, cured meats, sandwiches and the most incredible meatballs. The St. Helena winery offers a varied selection of wines—primarily from Estate Vineyards in Napa Valley—ranging from a bright and crisp Dancing Egg riesling to a smokey Anderson Valley pinot. Become a member and you'll be able to sample (and buy) wine futures—wines that have been made but not yet bottled. 

How to visit: V. Sattui is open seven days a week from 9am to 6pm. A six-wine flight tasting is $15; food can be purchased from the winery's deli. No reservations required.

In short: Family-friendly; fantastic food; wide selection of varietals

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Cuvaison

At this understated eco-friendly winery, your tasting will take place on a stone patio overlooking rolling hills of chardonnay and pinot noir vines, the two varietals Cuvaison is best known for. The minimalistic architecture of the sun-filled, glass-windowed tasting room—designed by Gould Evans—makes for a tranquil place to sip, swirl and take in the view. Glance to your left and you'll see 1,400 solar panels atop the winery (the most visable of Cuvaison's many green initiatives) or across acres of vines for a view of Domaine Carneros, Cuvaison's closest neighbor. Keep an eye out for affable winemaker Steve Rogstad, who's often walking the certified sustainable vineyards, tending to his fruit.

How to visit: Cuvaison is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm, with the last seating beginning at 4pm. A four-wine flight tasting lasts one hour and costs $25; no food is served. Tastings are by appointment only.

In short: Small and quiet; expansive views; stunning architecture

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Raymond Vineyards

Raymond Vineyards might look like every other winery off the St. Helena Highway, but step inside and you'll be thrust into a riveting, sensory-based experience. Travel down the Corridor of Senses where you can smell complex aromas out of perfumed boxes; step into the Red Room, where walls are layered in velour and fur; or get up close and personal with your vino through a wine blending class, resulting in a unique bottle wrapped in a custom-designed label. And yep, those are mannequins in lingerie you see hanging over the Crystal Cellar. No big deal. Raymond Vineyards offers a number of varietals from their diverse collections, including LVE (a collaboration with John Legend) and their Estate collection. 

How to visit: Raymond Vineyards is open seven days a week from 10am to 4pm. A five-wine flight costs $25-$30; no food is served. No appointments necessary for general tastings.

In short: Extravagant; sensory-overload; blend your own wine

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Duckhorn Vineyards

Located just off the Silverado Trail in St. Helena, Duckhorn Vineyards is primarily known for merlot, along with cabernert sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. Walking up to the tasting room, visitors might feel like they're entering a quaint New England home; instead, a covered patio holds high tops and tables where you can enjoy a leisurely tasting session along with cheese and charcuterie bites. Be sure to try the single-vineyard Three Palms Merlot—the first wine ever made at Duckhorn, and an incredibly sessionable bottle. 

How to visit: Duckhorn is open seven days a week from 10am to 4pm, with the last seating beginning at 3pm. A five-wine flight tasting costs $30; a charcuterie plate (meant for two people) is available for an additional fee. Tastings are by appointment only.

In short: Small and quaint; great for couples or small groups; relaxing

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Domaine Carneros

Is this a vineyard of the set of a Jane Austen novel? Domaine Carneros is a stunning winery known for its sparkling wine and pinot noir, which visitors can taste inside or on the terrace of a picturesque chateau inspired by the Château de la Marquetterie in Champagne, France. After climbing the estate's grand staircase, rewards yourself with a glass or a full flight that includes samples of sparkling wine, like a late disgorged (when sediment is removed from the bottle) brut or a Verméil demi-sec. 

How to visit: Domaine Carneros is open seven days a week from 10am to 5:30pm. A four-wine flight tasting costs $30; cheese, charcuterie and caviar (ooh la la) pairings start at $19. Tastings are by appointment only.

In short: Stunning scenery; elegant; fantastic bubbly

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Sullivan

Beautiful grounds and a small, sun-flooded tasting room greet visitors to the off-the-beaten-path Sullivan Winery. In addition to an educational (and delicious) tasting, you can peruse the Sullivan art and car collection and stroll the grounds. The staff here is friendly and incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the wines they serve, and the atmosphere is a welcome change of pace from the more bustling, touristy wineries closer to town. Try robust red here, especially the merlots and cabernets, and be sure to look for Apollo the vineyard dog.

How to visit: Tastings occur from 11am to 4pm daily. The classic, 4-wine estate tasting is $35 per person; the reserve estate tasting is $50 per person and the Sullivan VIP experience tasting, which includes a local cheese and charcuterie plate is $75 per person. Tastings are by appointment only.

In short: Intimate and secluded; full-bodied reds; excellent hospitality

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CADE Estate Winery

CADE may look like a fortress at first, but behind those thick walls is a wine collection we wouldn't mind being stuck with. Designed by architect Juan Carlos Fernandez, the winery is an angular structure that looks out onto sweeping vineyard vistas below. You'll mostly be trying carbernet sauvignon here, organically farmed and crafted at a high elevation in the Modern Howell Mountain style. Tastings give visitors insight into CADE's most recent releases, but if you want to explore the winery more, sign up for a cave tour—you'll get a glimpse into the workings of a top-notch winery, plus tastings and small bites.

How to visit: CADE is open seven days a week from 10am to 4pm. A four-wine flight tasting lasts one hour and costs $40; no food is served. Tastings are by appointment only.

In short: Breathtaking architecture; beautiful views; eco-friendly

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