Everyone knows that Kevin and I love Northern California Wine Country. Often our friends and even friends of friends will ask our advice on where they should go when visiting wine country. I felt it was time to finally just make a page devoted to our favorite wineries in California wine country, (watch for a Washington list soon).
These are the wineries that we have visited in all our travels to Napa and Sonoma, each of these offers world class wines and friendly people. We feel that the more you enjoy the people at the winery and learn about their stories the more you will enjoy the wine!
Napa and Sonoma Counties did experience terrible loss with the October 2017 wildfires, but they are open and ready for you to get there and taste wines, enjoy friends and just have a good time!
Napa General Store was the first place Kevin and I ever tasted in Napa. They have a great selection of small producing wineries at their tasting bar. They also have a restaurant which is great for breakfast and a locally focused gift shop as well.
Mark Herold Wines is a favorite with a great selection from every day drinking blends to high end Cabernets. The tasting room is ‘quirky’ which you will notice from the door where the sign says “Hippies use backdoor”.
Gustavo is right around the corner from Mark Herold which is in the Oxbow district. Gustavo you might recognize from the movie Bottle Shock! He makes high quality wines and they make you feel like family in the tasting room.
Paul Maroon makes a range of wines from Chardonnay, Malbec, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon. He doesn’t have a tasting room, but if you can get a taste you won’t be disappointed.
Cyndi and John Kasten have a small vineyard off Big Ranch Road and they produce a Cabernet Blend as well as a Chardonnay and a Port which is so delicious! Contact them for a taste!
Domaine Carneros is part of the French Tattinger Family, they produce high quality Bubbles! This is a must stop to try all their range of bubbles and get your pictures taken in front of the beautiful Chateau!
Artesa is near Domaine Carneros and the whole winery and tasting room is built into the hill and has amazing architecture with water features. The views are breathtaking with the SanF Francisco skyline visible on clear days.
Robert Sinskey is a favorite because they serve little plates of freshly prepared food with your tasting. Great line up of whites and Pinot Noirs. The 2017 Fires got within feet of the main building!
Silverado is the Disneyland of wine! Not that it’s over the top but for the fact that it is owned by Walt Disney’s family. You won’t find Mickey Mouse anywhere but you will get to taste amazing Napa focused wines! Also make sure to notice the original Ratatouille Movie Poster in the lobby, this poster was never circulated and all copies except this one were destroyed after they thought having a wine bottle on a kids movie poster was a bad idea.
Some of my favorite wines, high quality but pricey. This winery is partially owned by Californias Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.
Odette is part of the Plumpjack group, you need a reservation to go here, again high quality but on the higher end price point too.
Chimney Rock sits on land that was once a golf course! Neat property and building great, mainly focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pine Ridge is across the street from Odette. Great Cabernets that will age and be great for collections. Beautiful gardens, friendly staff. They are part of group that owns wineries also in Oregon and Washington and the group has a tasting room in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.
Mumm Napa is a great spot to stop if you get stuck in traffic on the Silverado Trail. With picture perfect views out across the valley and their own art gallery that you can wonder while enjoying a glass of bubbles!
Outside the Valley:
Since 1897 it’s like stepping back into the wild west. Make sure you get to check out the hand dug cave! Also their Sparkling wine is a favorite of mine that I first had at the Napa General Store!
Nichelini Winery is the oldest continuously family operated and owned winery since 1884. They are are something like 6th generation operators now. The tasting room is in the family home, and the homestead cabin is still on the property too.
The JCB Collection Tasting Salon in Yountville is where high fashion/jewelry meets wine. Fun to look at all the crystal and jewelry and taste some quality bubbles!
Cabernet focus with equal focus on ART! Hall wines are amazing examples of what a Napa Valley Cabernet should be, sample while enjoying some of the most art around. Check out the art in the stairwell, it’s all index cards! You can’t miss Hall because Bunny Foo Foo is leaping over the vineyard.
Oldest winery in Napa Valley dating back to 1882, and it was the first tasting room in California! Owned by the Peter Mondavi family (Brother of famous Robert).
Go here for the experience, same owner as JCB Collection. The wines represent different districts and you can see examples of the different soils through the valley.
An authentic Castle! The wines are good but the facility is over the top. This castle has everything from the turrets to the torture chamber!
August Briggs is another winery that we first tasted at the Napa General Store. I realized they were a must have when we served their blend which is called Wishes to a very picky friend of ours and she LOVED it! Small tasting room in downtown Calistoga and we just love their label as well, it’s a dandelion blowing in the wind.
Chateau Montelena really put Napa Valley wines on the map when they won the 1976 Judgement of Paris blind wine tasting in France. They are well known for their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon but they also make a great dry Riesling which is a nod to the original founder of the property. This is another great spot for a photo op too!
Their tasting room is in downtown Calistoga next door to August Briggs. They are from Michoacan, Mexico and have been in the Napa Valley since 1971. Try the Zinfandel and their second label, Farm Worker.
Roche is a must if you are in downtown Sonoma. They have a great outdoor tasting patio with Firepits in the winter and perfect in the summer. The wines range from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Merlot and Syrah. A few years ago their Chardonnay was #1 in Sonoma County! They have an affordable price point as well. If you’re lucky you will be there are Harry’s work days, he’s a hoot.
Gun Bun is another of those great old family wineries, the family has owned the property since 1858. The most impressive part is the giant wine cave, make sure you sign up to take a tour, you won’t want to miss it. The wines range from a Gewürztraminer to a Tempranillo and so many others in-between.
Pangloss has the most beautiful tasting room on the square in Sonoma. It’s like Restoration Hardware meets Sonoma. The wines they offer range from white, rosé and reds. Named after Dr. Pangloss, the eternal optimist in Voltaire’s novel Candide, Pangloss Cellars commitment to optimism as the best way to approach life and what better way to be optimist than with wine!
Laurel Glen is all about Cabernet Sauvignon. The few wines they make are always top notch and delicious. Bettina the owner is so passionate about what she does and it shows in the wine glass.
Kevin and I stumbled in here years back, we had no idea what we would find. We quickly learned that Dawn, Bill and their children are from Australia. The Aussie connection kept us in the tasting room but the wine keeps us coming back again and again. The tastings are paired with special cheese and spices, you will for sure leave with wine, and maybe a new spice or two.
We have all seen this wine in the supermarket, but the tasting room gives you a new taste of this wine we have seen before. They specialize in Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay. La Crema is part of the Kendall Jackson family.
Also part of the Kendall Jackson family, Stonestreet has a beautiful tasting room off the square in Healdsburg. The Estate is a 5,500 acre mountain estate that towers high above the Alexander Valley in the Mayacamas Mountain Range. Ranging 400ft to 2,400ft in elevation. Cabernet and Chardonnay are the main focus.
Trattore is worth the drive out to Geyserville. This location probably has the most beautiful views we have seen. We stumbled in here shortly after they finished their winery and tasting room building. The wines are all amazing and great value, in fact my #1 favorite Cabernet of all time is from Trattore. The fun thing about them as well is that they also make their own Olive oils and vinegars. They have a mill on the property where they create the Olive oil as well.
I’m sure this list will always evolve and grow but as of now these are my favorites! If you try somewhere not on this list please let me know so I can check it out next time I’m down!