Go to Napa
October 14, 2005 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Going to Napa area for a couple of days. Need recommendations.

Recommendations on the layout (where to start), wineries (interested in smooth tasting, rich reds and very mellow --with lots of malolactic fermination-- whites). How can I get the most without paying exorbitant wine tasting fees?
posted by Taken Outtacontext to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If by the Napa area, you mean Northern California's wine region in general, then by all means steer clear of Napa proper to keep your tasting fees minimal to nonexistent. Sonoma, Healdsburg, and Russian River are some of my favorite tasting areas.

If you are going to be in the Napa Valley itself, do not miss Cosentino Winery. My brother joined their wine club and every single bottle I've tasted has been excellent. Their Novelist Meritage White is exactly what you're looking for. Great prices on bottles, but tasting fee is $5, or $10 for reserve wines.
posted by pmbuko at 11:18 AM on October 14, 2005

There are exceptions, but if you're looking for more affordable tasting fees then avoid the main drag. There is a certain notable filmmaker who charges $15 for a flight of four (WTF?). Skip that and go right next door to Grgich Hills. They have a wonderful dessert wine now, though the name escapes me. The main drag does have some good casual food options including V. Sattui and Taylor's Refresher.

Drive a little west and crossover to Silverado Trail. Some recommendations: Silver Rose (koi pond), Beringer (lift up the mountain), Sinskey (serves food some days). I also recommend just exploring on your own.
posted by quadog at 11:36 AM on October 14, 2005

Correction: Drive east to Silverado Trail. If you drive west you'll be in Sonoma. As pmbuko says, maybe not such a bad idea.
posted by quadog at 11:38 AM on October 14, 2005

On the other hand, that filmmaker also has a surfboard from a notable Vietnam war film on display. That is undeniably cool. The tasting was pricey, but it was a neat winery none the less.
posted by brundlefly at 11:42 AM on October 14, 2005

Merryvale has wonderful reds. I went with a wine club member, which meant we could taste anything for free, which would be my recommendation for how to do it! Otherwise, I think it's $10-$15 for tastings.

And if you're going out of Napa, I had some marvelous reds up in the Russian River Valley (known for Zins, especially), much farther north, and many of those wineries did not have tasting fees.
posted by occhiblu at 11:49 AM on October 14, 2005

Dutch Henry. Seriously.
posted by fixedgear at 11:58 AM on October 14, 2005

Eat at the CIA (cooking instutute of america) at the northern end of Napa. Students prepare and staff the whole thing so food is amazing and fairly cheap. I had one of the best meals of my life there and it was only about $15 per person.
posted by mathowie at 12:27 PM on October 14, 2005

Check out upcoming events for the timeframe you'll be there.

I second eating at the CIA, St. Helena, CA -- sister to the Hyde Park, NY campus and training ground for many world-renowed chefs.

If you are lucky enough to get a reservation -- and have the wallet for it -- by all means take in a meal at the French Laundry in Yountville!
posted by ericb at 4:14 PM on October 14, 2005

If you absolutely must go to Napa, get a good, up-to-date guidebook and find small, off-the-beaten track wineries that are only open by reservation. (Obviously, make reservations.) Then, it'll only be your party and the person from the winery, who may quite possibly be the winemaker.

However, to second or third or whatever pmbunko - go to Sonoma county instead. That post is right that the town of Sonoma has some great places (my favorite is Gundlach-Bundschu), as does the Russian River and Alexander Valley. And much smaller crowds. Not too long ago, tasting fees were few and far between in Sonoma. That's not so anymore, but they do tend to still be on the lower end compared to Napa.

"Sonoma makes wine, Napa makes auto parts." - Tommy Smothers
posted by robhuddles at 4:46 PM on October 14, 2005

If you can't get a reservation at the french Laundry (highly unlikely on short notice), Bouchon is great and less expensive. And also woned by Thomas Keller.
posted by fixedgear at 4:57 PM on October 14, 2005

Second Grgich Hills.

French Laundry is sublime, and like others say it is impossible to get in on short notice (2 months to the day reservation is required). I would go to Bouchon over CIA, though it is more expensive.

Domaine Chandon(sp?) is nice (champagne). I wouldn't go to Mondavi. Cake Bread is always crowded, but it has high recognition value and nice wines. Silver Oak is good, has a nice tour and breathes more "rareified" air than other vineyards - I would go there and Grgich.

My all-time favorite vineyard is Chateau St. Jean (pronounced gene - seriously) in Sonoma.
posted by gnash at 12:30 AM on October 15, 2005

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