Exceptional Napa Valley Wineries

        Shafer Vineyards

Update: Our original article has been updated with 2016 information and is now a running list of Napa's best wine tasting experiences.

Choosing among Napa's more than 450 wineries that provide wine tastings can be an ordeal. Identifying "the best" of anything is difficult, and identifying the best Napa wineries is particularly difficult considering all of the wine and non-wine aspects to consider. What type of wine do you like? How much do you want to pay? What type of experience are you looking for? Adding to the difficulty is the large number of Napa Valley websites that only list member or partner wineries.

If you have a general idea of the type of wine tasting experience you're looking for, use our advanced Napa winery search to find wineries based on tasting fees, wine prices, wine ratings, visitor ratings, case production, amenities, use of organic grapes, etc. For example, here are the Napa wineries that produce the highest rated Napa Cabernet Sauvignon costing less than $60 a bottle (on average) and charge $30 or less for wine tasting.

If you just want a list of Napa's best wineries, a top ten list of sorts, our reviewers' favorite are listed below. These wineries represent the best of Napa: unparalleled wines, first-class service, and breath-taking views. If you're planning a trip to Napa Valley, make sure these wineries are on your short list! For more information about Napa Valley, to include events, links to Napa Valley articles, recent reviews, etc., please visit our Napa Valley wineries page.

Bell Wine Cellars

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50% off Tasting at Bell Wine Cellars with Priority Wine Pass

Excerpt from Laura Cropper's review of Bell Wine Cellars:

"Bell Wine Cellars is a true winery experience. When you visit Bell, you will feel as though you are a part of the winemaking process, and you'll experience the friendly, family environment they have created. "

Chappellet Winery

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Excerpts from Tom Riley's review of Chappellet Winery:

"...this is one of the finer points of Chappellet hospitality. Depending on how much time you have, the number of people in your group, or the wine interests and knowledge you bring, the winery staff is more than happy to provide the experience you need. (Tasting fees run from $35 to $75.) This is not a winery that operates on a get-‘em-in and get-‘em-out mentality. There is a pervasive serenity on the mountain because of the natural quiet its surroundings provide, and a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere can be expected whenever you visit Chappellet."

Darioush Winery

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Excerpt from Laura Cropper's review of Darioush Winery:

"Napa Valley is home to world-class wine experiences, but few match Darioush. The architecture is striking, the wines are exquisite, and the hospitality is wonderful. Without question, Darioush should be at the top of your Napa Valley “must-see” list!"

Domaine Carneros

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Excerpt from Elizabeth Smith's review of Domaine Carneros:

"As it turned out, we spent three and a half hours at Domaine Carneros this visit and we did not want the experience to end. After two years living in Napa and approximately ten visits to Domaine Carneros, I firmly believe that the hospitality, experience, and quality of sparkling wines are second to none. My friend and I departed feeling like we had experienced something special that went far beyond sparkling wines and food."

Ehlers Estate Winery

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Excerpt from Laura Cropper's review of Ehlers Estate Winery:

"The beautifully scenic drive heading north on route 29 leads you to the equally beautiful Ehlers Estate Winery in Napa's St. Helena AVA. Ehlers Estate will win your heart with their stunning estate, delicious wines and wonderful story of generosity."

Far Niente Winery

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Excerpt from Mark & Sonja Gudgel's review of Far Niente Winery:

"For the armchair historian of the Napa Valley, few places have more to offer in terms of heritage and intrigue, making Far Niente a must-visit winery for the connoisseur of Napa Valley’s two best–loved varietals. "

Grgich Hills Estate

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2 for 1 Tasting at Grgich Hills with Priority Wine Pass

Excerpt from Mark & Sonja's review of Grgich Hills Estate:

"Today, as the fortieth anniversary of the Judgment of Paris approaches, the world of wine and those of us who inhabit it owe a tremendous debt to Miljenko Grgich, and I can think of no better way to square with that debt, and to experience history, than a visit to the Grgich Hills Estate. There, you’re likely to meet family, fall in love with history, and taste some of the very best wines the Napa Valley has to offer."

Larkmead Vineyards

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Excerpts from Tom Riley's review of Larkmead Vineyards:

"In a business where braggadocio, self-importance, and delusions of grandeur seem to be standard operating procedure, it’s refreshing to come across a winery that chooses to keep a modest profile, to play it low-key."

"Visiting Larkmead can seem like you've pulled up to the summer getaway of a friend or relative, who just happens to have a very nice farmstead smack in the middle of some of Napa’s finest vine land."

"The interior of the homey reception center is cool and sophisticated, a perfect counterpoint to the reception you receive, which is warm and friendly."

Madrigal Family Winery

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Excerpt from Elizabeth Smith's review of Madrigal Family Winery:

"At the end of the tasting, I lingered a bit at the tasting bar with Tara. She offered me more tastes, which I graciously accepted. I didn’t want the tasting at Madrigal Family Winery to end. I felt like I had spent the afternoon in the Napa Valley the way it used to be – unhurried, genuine, and real."

Opus One

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Excerpts from Elizabeth Smith's review of Opus One:

"The long drive and approach to Opus One were indeed glorious, and I felt like I was entering another time and place. The building is reminiscent of a museum, complete with a spiral staircase and a glass pyramid that reminded me of The Louvre in Paris."

"As my friend and I prepared to depart to visit another winery, we both admitted we didn’t want to leave. The impressive Opus One Winery was not at all daunting, but rather, it was like its wine: approachable, delightful, and unforgettable."

Quintessa Winery

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Excerpts from Tom Riley's review of Quintessa Winery:

"A visit to Quintessa is an invitation to enjoy what’s best about the Napa Valley: committed relationships with the land, dedication to making fine wine, and the insistence on quality and sophistication in every task or gesture, no matter how small."

"Once you enter the pavilion, with its sleek lines, where the wood cabinetry marries seamlessly with the glass walls, you get the sense you’ve stepped into a wine spa. The table is covered with high quality stemware and china trays filled with cheeses and meats. The view across the vineyards on a clear, blue-sky day is breathtaking, and the surrounding woods have reduced any environmental noise to a whisper. You’ve entered another world."

"There are not many bells and whistles at Quintessa. They make only one wine. They have only two tastings and tours. Their winery doesn’t fill up acres and acres with massive hospitality centers and production facilities. But, the singular focus with which they approach every aspect of their work, the dedication to quality at every point, makes them a standout in a region filled with superstars."

Round Pond Estate

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Excerpt from Laura Cropper's review of Round Pond Estate:

"After tasting Round Pond's delicious wines and mouthwatering food, taking in the beautiful scenery and strolling through the garden, I felt like I just went on a mini-vacation. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!"

Schramsberg Vineyards

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Excerpt from Mark & Sonja Gudgel's review of Schramsberg Vineyards:

"One of the neatest things about the tour was that it was conducted almost entirely in Schramsberg’s immense series of caves, amidst hundreds of thousands of gallons of sparkling wine. The caves are over two miles in length and had taken fifteen years to dig well over a century prior, rendering them as brimming with history as they were with wine. The cool and dimly lit caves helped to create a time capsule taking us back to when the author of Treasure Island and his young bride had paid a visit to the very same location."

Shafer Vineyards

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Excerpt from Tom Riley's review of Shafer Vineyards:

"When you make a reservation to visit Shafer Vineyards, you’re immediately sent a confirmation email filled with all sorts of information about the winery and your appointment. If you read that document carefully, you learn just about everything you need to know about the Shafer mindset: precise, professional, and personal."

Stags' Leap Winery

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Excerpt from Anthony Marocco's review of Stags' Leap Winery:

"Overall, the tasting and tour was unbeatable, even if you aren't a club member. It's well worth the price of admission and should be considered a spot to post up for lunch and enjoy a bottle while relaxing and letting the stress melt off. Be sure to visit this historical landmark; it will not disappoint!"

Trefethen Vineyards

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Excerpt from Mark & Sonja Gudgel's review of Trefethen Vineyards:

"Perhaps the most wonderful thing about Trefethen, however, wasn’t available to the optics, only to the inquisitive. Trefethen remains family-owned in a region where massive corporate buyouts almost unequivocally lead to bottom-dollar management. Because the family remains in control of their own winery, Trefethen is a more maneuverable ship, able to swiftly navigate the waters of sustainable farming and solar power with admirable ease."

Truchard Vineyards

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Excerpts from Tom Riley's review of Truchard Vineyards:

"For all their groundbreaking work in Carneros, for which they are justifiably proud, the most important value at Truchard is family. It is in the very fabric of the place. When you turn off Old Sonoma Road past the Truchard sign, it’s easy to think you’ve made a mistake, because instead of arriving at a winery, you have the distinct impression you’ve pulled into someone’s driveway. And, of course, you have. The winery sits in Tony and Jo Ann Truchard’s backyard. That is, if you can call stunning hillside caves and acres of rolling vines a backyard."

"The diverse menu – cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet franc, and tempranillo – was an impressive line-up, a testament to what is possible in the cooler parts of Napa. Their flavors were varietally true but the wines were lighter, more restrained, with greater acidity, than similar bottlings found in other parts of the valley. A refreshing change from the powerful productions one often associates with this part of California. What’s also refreshing about Truchard wines? Their prices, a notch, or two in some cases, below the going Napa Valley rate. These prices, combined with their quality, make Truchard wines an exceptional value."

VGS Chateau Potelle Winery

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Excerpt from Laura Cropper's review of VGS Chateau Potelle Winery:

"Chateau Potelle aka “VGS” is located in a small, country house on the northbound side of picturesque Route 29 just south of the historic town of St. Helena. You’ll know you're there by the beautiful surroundings and the famous, yellow front door. The tasting room blends French country elegance and modern Napa style. My tasting partner and I booked an appointment for a tasting of wines and small food pairings prepared and designed by the one and only, Chef Ken Frank of La Tocque. This tasting is priced at $45, which is a steal for the quality of the wine and the food."

Volker Eisele Family Estate

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Excerpt from Mark & Sonja Gudgel's review of Volker Eisele Family Estate:

"By the time we left, though we have visited hundreds of wineries over the past several years, many of them far more famous or far better funded, we had no doubt in our minds: The Volker Eisele Family Estate is the quintessential winery of the nation’s most famous wine producing region, truly emblematic of the agriculture upon which the industry is built, of more than a century of history and tradition in viticulture, and of the American dream to sustain yourself upon a plot of land you can call your own. A throwback to a simpler time, and a family operation in every way; the lover of marble bars and manufactured rocket juice, of glitz and glamor and of all that the Napa Valley has come, in its ugliest places, to resemble would do well to pass it by. But for the true enthusiast of wine, for what wine is and can be, the product of an artisan and a portal into special places and times that cannot be accessed by any other method, an appointment at the Volker Eisele Family Estate may prove to be nothing short of transformative, and an opportunity to experience the Napa Valley for what it once was, and what some of us hope quietly in our hearts that it may one day be again."

Alpha Omega Winery

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Save $15 on Single Vineyard Tasting at Alpha Omega with Priority Wine Pass

Excerpt from Elizabeth Smith's review of Alpha Omega Winery:

"As we tasted, chatted, and relaxed, I was happy that we had a table outside to enjoy the beautiful Napa Valley weather and pre-sunset color changes of the sky and scenery. The sounds of the fountain, soft conversation, and gentle laughter paired well with Alpha Omega’s beautiful wines."

Black Stallion Winery

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Excerpt from Laura Cropper's review of Black Stallion Winery:

"Black Stallion is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon with friends tasting award-winning wines!"

Chimney Rock Winery

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Excerpt from Tom Riley's review of Chimney Rock Winery:

"I moved into the cool of the tasting room, a welcome escape from the rapidly rising valley temperatures, and couldn’t help but smile. That’s the effect Chimney Rock has on its visitors. During my hour-long visit, I confirmed this by watching closely every time the heavy oak door opened. Not a single person entered without looking happy to be there. Comfortable surroundings? Air conditioning? Magic? Take your pick. Whatever it is they’re doing at Chimney Rock, it’s working."

Duckhorn Vineyards

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Excerpts from James Houston's review of Duckhorn Vineyards:

"Nestled on Lodi Lane just off the Silverado Trail, the Duckhorn headquarters has the decidedly non-commercial feel of an opulent inn or even a weekend home, full of wood and brass and porcelain."

"The garden in late afternoon November sunlight is like a Thomas Kinkade painting if it weren’t a cartoon. Beautiful in the extreme. Beyond it, a small tour group moves slowly through intimate vineyards framed by woods."

"While I have not yet had a whiff of Petrus or Masseto, I have a hard time believing the Three Palms Merlot 2009 couldn’t stand in the ring with them and state its case for California as a world-class Merlot region. This delicious wine explodes from the glass, momentarily scrambling my brain with its aromatic intricacy and pillowy, mouthfilling texture. Its flavors evolve over the ten minutes I sit with it, with the initial burst of ripe black cherry and fresh winter spice giving way to forest floor, raisin and toffee on the finish."

Failla Wines

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Excerpts from Tom Riley's review of Failla Wines:

"Failla’s tasting room can be found inside a small, yellow, wooden house that, once you enter, seems more hunting lodge-cum-frat house than a winery hospitality center. The bookshelves that line the walls are filled not just with books on California and the history of wine but with empties from producers around the world. The walls themselves are a collection of oddities, where antique prints fight for space with deer antlers and cow horns. The Lodge, which is the building’s actual name, is charmingly eclectic, inviting, and comfortable."

"Is Failla a Great, capital G, winery? I’ll let you decide. Trust me, though. When you leave after your tasting you’re not going to be thinking about how much you missed the marble tasting bar. You’re going to be thinking about the wine. It’s the wine that matters."

Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards "The Room"

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Excerpts from Elizabeth Smith's review of Flora Springs Tasting Room:

"This isn’t just a regular tasting room; it’s designed to look and feel as if you are tasting in an estate cave, but a beautifully decorated one. Behind the tasting room, there is an open outdoor space, the Vineyard Courtyard, where event gatherings are held and one can catch a glimpse of vineyards and beautiful sunsets later in the afternoon and evening. Above the tasting room, there is a roof-covered, open-air event space called the Rooftop Lounge, which is where I have enjoyed one of their movie nights."

"I am always pleased with the friendly and educational interaction between tasting hosts and visitors. As soon as my friends and I walk in the door, the hosts immediately greet us, ready to give us a great tasting experience. They seem genuinely happy to be there and that happiness is contagious. When I think of Flora Springs’ The Room, I immediately think that the F in Flora must also stand for fantastic, favorite, and most of all, fun!"

Frog's Leap Winery

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Excerpts from Laura Cropper's review of Frog's Leap Winery:

"Alicia encouraged us to take a glass and walk around the garden. We viewed the gardens, the chicken pen and the serene fountain. The fountain leads into a small, man-made square pond surrounded by cement. The pond is complete with lily pads and other water-loving plants and is a great place to sit and relax with a glass of cabernet!"

"Frog’s Leap Winery is a go-to type of place regardless of the circumstance. It's lively enough for a small group of friends but quiet enough for a romantic date. I’ll be back for sure!"

Homage Vineyard

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Excerpts from Sherrie Perkovich's review of Homage Vineyard:

"Micro-winery standout Homage, is an absolute must-stop for serious Cabernet Sauvignon lovers when visiting Napa Valley. Owners Simon & Avia Hawksworth are a pure delight."

"The wine tasting experience takes place in the Hawksworth's home at their cozy patio table, surrounded by vineyards and mountains, which is truly spectacular. While there, have the Hawksworths tell you their wonderfully romantic story about how they met and what brought them to Calistoga. Homage currently produces 400 cases of a single Cabernet Sauvignon. If you are fortunate, they may have one of their library wines available to taste with the current release. This tasting experience isn’t for everyone. Serious Cab lovers looking for a rare, hidden gem…this is for you!"

Jericho Canyon Vineyards

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Excerpts from Sherrie Perkovich's review of Jericho Canyon Vineyards:

"If I had to choose only one word to describe Jericho Canyon, it would be breathtaking. Although often overused, the word breathtaking might actually be an understatement of the speechless beauty visitors will encounter at this winery."

"Be sure to opt for the Polaris (ATV-like vehicle) vineyard tour of a portion of their 135 rugged acres, where Jericho Canyon’s phenomenally friendly and knowledgeable staff create a unique and energetic experience."

"After your adventurous and rigorous tour through the property, guests are treated to a unique, seated wine tasting in their wine cave. The wine tasting appointments are private for all guests. Your wine educator / tour guide will focus all their attention on you and your group, and you won't have to worry about being stuck next to the "annoying couple.""

Pride Mountain Vineyards

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Excerpt from Elizabeth Smith's review of Pride Mountain Vineyards:

"However, we continued along our way and found ourselves outside on a patio area overlooking the magnificent vineyard scenery, the perfect place for photos. We concluded our visit by purchasing a couple of bottles of wine and picnicking directly facing what is left of the 1890 stone winery building, basking in the glorious, sunny weather and contemplating a return to the exceptional Pride Mountain Vineyards."

Robert Sinskey Vineyards

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Excerpts from Tom Riley's review of Robert Sinskey Vineyards:

"Although it was our first time through their doors, we were welcomed like long-lost relatives and felt immediately at home."

"In the years since our first visit, RSV has become one of our old reliables, a winery that we offer to any one who asks us, now locals ourselves, for a Napa recommendation."

"The winery’s front and side yards are covered with rows of organic herbs and vegetables, where Culinary Director Maria Helm Sinskey, who also has as her official title “chief cook & bottle washer,” sources many of the ingredients for the popular one-and-a-half hour-long “Farm to Table Tour."

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery

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Excerpts from Martin Redmond's review of Smith-Madrone Vineyards:

"The scenic drive up to Smith-Madrone winds up Spring Mountain through lush evergreen forests and other vineyards scattered about the mountain. Once you arrive at the property, you’ll be greeted by one of the Smith brothers who always conduct the tours."

"I heartily recommend a visit to Smith-Madrone. I considered all the wines to be excellent, and it was a delightful and informative tour and tasting!"

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

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Excerpts from Tom Riley's review of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars:

"Ever since turning the wine world on its collective head with a surprising win at the now legendary Judgment of Paris in 1976, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar (not to be confused with its neighbor, Stags Leap Winery, or the Stags Leap District AVA), has stood near the top of the American wine charts for their steady production of some of California’s finest cabernet sauvignon."

"You get the immediate sense that SLWC has been dealing with crowds for some time. Umbrella-covered tables on the patio, a gurgling fountain, ivy covered walls. And, there is enough kitsch and clothing to keep the non-wine-curious interested, but not enough to confuse any visitor. When you come to Stag’s Leap, it’s obvious that they are all about the wine."

Starmont Winery and Vineyards

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Excerpts from Laura Cropper's review of Starmont Winery and Vineyards:

"The winery has a beautiful and inviting outdoor patio with comfortable couches and chairs surrounding two fire-pits, a perfect spot for enjoying the picturesque views of Carneros' vineyards and hills. There are also bistro style tables, Adirondack chairs and additional seating in the tasting room if the weather is not cooperating. There is usually an afternoon “Carneros Breeze” that comes in from the San Pablo Bay so a light sweater can come in handy! Soft music in the background contributes to a relaxing place to have a tasting."

Storybook Mountain Vineyards

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Excerpts from Anthony Marocco's review of Storybook Mountain Vineyards:

"Our first trip to Napa would have not been the same if had we not taken the opportunity to visit this establishment, learn the history, taste the flights, and enjoy the gorgeous, historical property."

"As we chatted with some of the other guests in the group, we decided to purchase a few bottles and inevitably joined the wine club because, well, it’s just THAT good. After a couple of hours spent with Rick and the group, we exchanged pleasantries and headed out on our next excursion, but few could top the experience we had at Storybook Mountain. If you are in the Napa area and you have some time to make an appointment, be sure to make one at Storybook Mountain. You will be talking about their wines and the experience for many years to come."

V. Sattui Winery

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2 for 1 Tasting at V. Sattui with Priority Wine Pass

Excerpts from Becky Eckelkamp's review of V. Sattui Winery:

"Not only is V. Sattui an idyllic place to taste a variety of excellent wines and enjoy a tranquil picnic, it personifies the American dream. Twice."

"Because of its history, service, variety and quality of wines, unique gourmet shop, beauty, and the fact that you can’t get their wines anywhere else – V. Sattui is a must-visit Napa winery."

Published: Sept. 4, 2013

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