EAT DRINK SLEEP // A Guide to Napa ValleyAs many of you know, this past December I had the pleasure of visiting Napa Valley for an all too short weekend. I’ve been itching to go to Napa for years, so when the opportunity presented itself I was obviously all in! I’d like to introduce the second installment of the EAT. DRINK. SLEEP. series! Today I’m giving you all the full lowdown on my tour & tasting journey through DRINK., which may very well be the most important, because let’s be honest…most people dream of visiting Napa Valley for the wine! There are a TON of spectacular wineries and vineyards to choose from, and no possible way to visit them all in one stay so it’s important to decide which vineyards you want to simply ‘see’ and which you want to actually ‘experience’. Below I’ve given a brief overview of my experience at specific locations, along with recommendations for each. Cheers!Grgich Hills Estate Grgich Hills Estate travel guide1829 Saint Helena Highway // Rutherford, CA 94573
Grgich Hills organic farming

First up on my trip agenda, Grgich Hills Estate – an understated vineyard many may not have heard of, yet this family owned and run establishment is full of accolades. Known for their award winning Chardonnay, Grgich is a wonderful, no frills stop for the fine wine lover. All of their fermentation and bottling is conducted on-site, producing a medium size number of cases each year. Aside from their numerous achievements, Grgich is best know for their innovative organic growing techniques: “Grgich Hills has been organically farming its vineyards since 2000. Committed to natural winegrowing and sustainability, we farm our five estate vineyards without artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, rely on wild yeast fermentation and use our passion and art to handcraft food-friendly, balanced and elegant wines.”

My visit at Grgich was short and sweet beginning with a tour of the and back-end facility, followed by a tasting of their Napa Valley selections as well as a few vintage pours. I also decided to bring some of Grgich back home with me and shipped their ‘at-home tasting kit’ to my family for Christmas. Best idea ever, by the way. They absolutely loved it and it was a creative way to share my Napa experience with them!

Favorite Varietal: Fume Blanc Napa Valley
Recommended Experience: Casual Tasting Room
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Pine Ridge Napa Valley

Pine Ridge Napa Valley5901 Silverado Trail // Napa, CA
Pine Ridge cave tour

I booked a tour & tasting to Pine Ridge rather short notice on the recommendation of a friend, so glad I took her advice. I’ll be honest, I had never heard of Pine Ridge before she mentioned it, but this tucked away vineyard is definitely worth visiting again. Pine Ridge boasts a beautifully designed tasting room, with chic, modern elements paired with warm dark wood.

Aside from the tasting room and grounds, the real gem at Pine Ridge is their maze of wine caves used for storing and fermenting wine selections. Luckily for us, the caves also serve as a tour and tasting location. After walking through the well light tunnels, an area opens up hosting a large round table fully stocked with stemware and small bites for tasting. The venue is used daily for tours and tastings up to 8 people, as well as for private events [excluding weddings].

Favorite Varietal: 2008 Cave 7
Recommend Experience: Cave Tasting & Tour
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Domaine Chandon Napa ValleyChandon Napa Valley1 California Drive // Yountville, CA
Domaine Chandon bubble

Sparkling wine fans rejoice – Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley is the premiere sparkling winemaker of the region, with 3 vineyards located in Yountville, Carneros, and Mt. Veeder yielding quality grapes comparable to that in traditional French Champagne. My second day I had the pleasure of exploring Domaine Chandon, while I’ve always been partial to their bubbly, I learned that Chandon’s still wine selections are also outstanding. At affordable price points, they’re a perfect pairing for  dinner parties or simply everyday wine at home – not to mention a conversation started, as most people are unaware of Chandon still wines!

Unfortunately the day I visited Chandon the weather was overcast, cold, and drizzly which kept the outdoor tour short and sweet, although we definitely took our time enjoying pours by the fireplace afterward. If you’re planning a stop to Chandon I would highly recommend extending your stay a couple hours by visiting the only on-site, vineyard restaurant in Napa – étoile. You won’t regret it! Check out my full experience at étoile.

Favorite Varietal: étoile Brut [sparkling] Carneros Chardonnay [still]
Recommended Experience: Tour & Tasting – Followed by lunch at étoile
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Robert Mondavi

Robert Mondavi travel guide7801 Saint Helena Highway // Oakville, CA 94562

Scenic ViewsRobert Mondavi was originally not on my list of must-see wineries, however I generally always have a bottle of RM around my home, so when I had a little extra time between tours I couldn’t pass this one up. The winery, although definitely a bit commercial, is beautiful. It’s the perfect place to grab a sip of your fave wine {or hey, a glass} and soak up the gorgeous views at the base of the Mount Veeder.

Favorite Varietal: Chardonnay
Recommended Experience: Visit the Grounds [no tour necessary]
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Newton VineyardNewton Vineyard header
2555 Madrona Avenue // St. Helena, California
beautiful gardens

Let me start off my saying, this vineyard should be at the top of your ‘must see’ list for Napa Valley. Small, personalized tours, Alice in Wonderland type gardens, breathtaking views, and an absolutely beautiful tasting room – all of which can be found at Newtown Vineyard. The only winery located on the south side of Spring Mountain, originally a private residence, Newton Vineyard has since been acquired by LVMH {Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A.} and opened its doors to the public by appointment only. I would highly recommend booking your visit to Newton far in advance to reserve a tour & tasting.

My experience at Newton was incredible. From start to finish the knowledgable staff goes above and beyond to engage in conversation with each individual on the tour, answer questions, and educate in a relaxed atmosphere. Bonus: our tour guide even offered to take multiple pictures throughout the tour, how sweet! I was taken by not only the breathtaking views of the valley below, but I can’t even describe to you the amount of detail and beauty you’ll see in the gardens at Newton Vineyard. Definitely a place to re-visit over and over again…it that’s beautiful. Furthermore, their tasting room does not disappoint. Following the tour, guests are escorted to a gorgeous glass walled room overlooking the mountain and seated family style to enjoyed perfect amounts of unfiltered wine selections, delicately paired with mouth watering bursts of flavor prepared by chef Perry Hoffman and the staff at Domaine Chandon [a sister vineyard].

Favorite Varietal:  The Puzzle
Recommended Experience: Tour & Tasting

dotsBeringer napa valleyBeringer header2000 Main Street // St. Helena, CA
Beringer rich history

Beringer Vineyard is clearly one of Napa’s most popular places for visitors, entering into their 3rd century of wine making it’s no wonder people flock to Beringer. The estate is massive and immaculately kept up. The original Rhine House Mansion still stands intact for guests to tour and taste in the dining room. “No winery or vineyard more thoroughly embodies the timeless appeal and seductive flavor of Napa Valley than Beringer Vineyards, Napa’s benchmark producer since the establishment of the vineyard in 1876.”

Favorite Varietal:
Recommended Experience: Visit the Grounds [no formal tour necessary]  dots

Domaine Carneros

Domaine Carneros1240 Duhig Road // Napa, CA 94559
intimate tasting room

Domaine Carneros was my last stop on the way out of Napa Valley, which turned out to be a somewhat unexpected surprise. A magnificent multi story mansion sits at the entrance overlooking spectacular views of the vineyard. Domaine Carneros is one of the only wineries in Napa Valley with duel table service options: an intimate indoor tasting room with fireplace as well as outdoor terrace seating, which makes it the perfect spot rain or shine!

Favorite Varietal: Brut Cuvée
Recommended Experience: Tasting Room

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Girard Winery

Girard6795 Washington Street // Yountville, CA

fun atmosphereThe fun, lively atmosphere is reason enough to stop by Girard during your visit to the Napa region. The tasting room is a bit smaller, off-site location in comparison to the majority of Napa Valley wineries, but with plenty of spirit to make up from the lack of space! With young, friendly staff serving up large ‘tasting’ servings, be sure to call a taxi after this fun visit.

Favorite VarietalUncorked Chardonnay
                                    Recommended Experience: Tasting Room
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Comments

Chandon and Etoile are both very close to my heart. So glad to hear you enjoyed your experience. Hope you’ll come visit again on a sunny day so you can really take it in.

My family has been in Napa since the 1920;s. When I visit them now its so funny we do not drink so we ignore the wine tasting. The shopping and restaurants in Napa are what I love to do. The sightseeing is what is so fun for me as a photographer. I love to shop downtown Napa. Do not miss Shackfords kitchen store. Its fantastic. I remember Napa before any tourists used to come, its a sweet small town with really nice people.

Excellent overview of all the winerys!