Bored of hearing about the same Napa Valley wine tasting experiences over and over again? We share with you the most sought-after winery tour and tasting experiences Napa Valley has to offer.
Everyone wants to visit Napa Valley- it’s on everyone’s bucket list and when there’s high expectations, you want to make sure you experience the best the valley has to offer. And since there are 400+ wineries and tasting rooms to choose from where do you start? Lucky for you, you’ve found this article and CellarPass which is led by wine country locals and wine industry veterans that have the pleasure of secret-shopping hundreds of wine tasting, tours and special events every year. Tough job, right?
Living in the incredible Napa Valley community of families, farmers and professionals, singling out only a few, is a much harder task then it may seem! After all, most of the places you will read about here are owned or operated by friends and people whom I interact with on a regular basis. Honestly, there is not a bad winery in the great Napa Valley, but like choosing your favorites is like singling out who’s your favorite child.
Like all things, my choices are subjective. My goal is to provide an original list for you of the wineries that offer the best tours, not just the best wine tastings. With that in mind, if you don’t see your favorite winery here (or are my friend and I didn’t mention your property), try to keep an open mind and know that the wineries listed below, truly are hand-picked because each has something authentic and passionate to share about the Napa Valley. I have done a ton of research and analytics, which together with my insider information will provide you some great touring insights and hidden gems. I am sure that a few of the wineries listed are brands you recognize the name, but have never been, yet.
Raymond Vineyards has a reputation that proceeds itself. Owners Jean-Charles Boisset and Gina Gallo, while flamboyant and full of character, are visionaries and dedicated to preserving the history in Napa Valley for generations to come. One of the things I love most about Raymond Vineyards (besides all the Baccarat Crystal), is the passion for life that never seems to diminish. Empowered by an incredibly loyal, talented and hospitality-driven team at Raymond, the Boisset Family visions (and there are many) come to life with glamour and finesse. There is a long list of unique experiences that one may have while at Raymond. However, if you want to do something after the very popular Winery Tour & Tasting ($55 per person includes a full production tour, tour of the gardens, the crush pad, tank barn barrel cellar and private tasting for up to four people), try the Winemaker for a Day Experience ($125 per person). You get to create your own custom red wine blend, design your own label and take it home and share with your friends and family. Wine educator-led, this experience is perfect for the first-timer or the budding home winemaker. 90-120 minutes. Reservations are required.
Inglenook is definitely a place that you cannot miss, especially if you are travelling with kids as it’s family friendly. Should you come to Napa Valley and not stop by Inglenook, you will never really understand how our valley became what it is today. Owned by the legendary film director Francis Ford Coppola and his wife, Eleanor, the grounds are meticulously looked after and alive with theatrical touches. The Inglenook Experience is a great value at $65 per person and you will tour and taste with a maximum of ten people. If you prefer to have a private tour and tasting, Inglenook can custom design something just for you. The wine educators are full of character and charm and you will walk away wondering why you hadn’t visited sooner. 90 minutes (but you will stay longer). Reservations are required.
Quintessa is a stunning destination all on its own. You’ve probably driven by it dozens of times on your last visit to Napa Valley, but pass by it you will do no more. Created by a Napa Valley pioneer Agustin Huneeus, Sr. who’s created and managed plenty of other wine brands in his 5-decades in the industry (think Estancia, Concannon Vineyard, Long Shadows and Franciscan Estate) I am and will always be a big fan of winemaker, Rebecca Weinburg and her otherworldly creations. The setting on the eastern edge of Rutherford, at the foot of the Vaca Mountain range, Quintessa is a natural mosaic- an assemblage of hills and valleys with a variety of soils and microclimates that come together to reveal itself in a wine of elegance and harmony. The Private Estate Experience ($85 per person) and the Quintessential Experience ($150 per person) are both incredibly fulfilling. Touring and tasting at Quintessa is one of the best experiences offered in Napa Valley. With Agustin’s ongoing pursuit of perfection (hospitality and wine portfolio), guests are never disappointed with the attention to detail, top-notch wines and sensational vibe. 90 to 120 minutes. Reservation are required.
Nickel & Nickel is a gorgeous estate. You may have seen it as you drive up Highway 29 towards St. Helena. Greeting you upon your arrival is typically a group of beautiful horses grazing in the picture-perfect pasture. The wines are incredibly special because they are single vineyard and made in small batches with lots of care. On the Winery Tour & Tasting, you will discover why the property is uniquely suited to make single vineyard estate wines, tour the historic farmstead, the underground barrel cellar and state-of-the art winery. $80 per person. 90 minutes. Reservations are required.
Hourglass Vineyard is an enchanting place with a big story to tell. Jeff and Carolyn Smith have embraced the art of creation in every way possible. Along for the long haul, their team of talented partners has proven to be the right mix of all things that make a vineyard and wine sing an earthy, ethereal tune. The wines are more than just a wine, they are art and highly regarded by their cult following, as well as wine critics all over the world. I think Jeff Smith says it best, “Making wine of great personality is not like making Coca-Cola or Budweiser (two things I quite enjoy). Formulas are the realm of consistency, but not of artistry. Chasing the Holy Grail of wine is an art form: ephemeral, complex and ever-evolving.”
The tours and tastings are limited by appointment only as they typically limit their day to three to five private tastings a day, max. In other words, reservations are not easy to come by, so don’t attempt to book last minute because they are completely private and shy themselves away from the typical winetasting offered by the busy and impersonal tasting rooms on the valley floor. For $100 per person you can enjoy the winery tour, absorb all the history and taste in a very posh cave. Once you go in, you won’t ever want to come out. And best of all, once you taste the wines, you won’t want to drink anything else. 90 minutes to 120 minutes. Reservations are required.
Davis Estates has been on my radar since its inception a decade ago. With a dream team of visionaries (Mike Davis, Cary Gott, Howard Backen on board, the estate and tasting room have evolved into an exceptional manifestation of a collective dream. Located in Calistoga, right next door to the exclusive Calistoga Ranch, Davis Estates can’t help but glow. With a range of unique experiences, the VIP Experience ($225 per person) reigns supreme. Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the estate and caves, taste in the VIP Crush room and indulge in their reserve wines beautifully paired with small bites prepared by the Estate Chef. Be vigilant about making your reservation as space is limited and demand is high. In fact, LuxeSF named Davis Estates Winery of the Year in 2019. Limited to four guests. 120 minutes. Reservations are required.
Schramsberg Vineyards, owned and operated by the well-known Davies Family who have been in the Napa Valley for generations, is a must-experience tour and tasting. With 50+ years below their belt, they know a thing (or two) about how to be a good steward of the land and making really good wine. Known for their sparkling wines, they also produce some incredible other still wine varietals. The estate in Calistoga is impeccably manicured and more like a national park, than a winery. To this day, the Davies still lives on site in one of the historical farmhouses. You can book either the Tour & Tasting All Sparkling ($95 per person) or the Tour & Tasting Reserve Wines and Cheese Pairing ($125 per person). Both experiences are fabulous, so it is just a matter of what you prefer. Schramsberg offers both tours multiple times a day, but be sure to call well in advance as they sell out quickly. 90 - 120 minutes. Reservations are required.
Chappellet Winery may be one of the most incredible places I have been in Napa Valley. Add to that, the ever so delicious wines, the panoramic views and the incredibly nice team and you have a place called heaven on earth. You may have never ventured off to this part of Napa Valley, but you’ve definitely heard of the legendary vineyards around Chappellet as they are all cult-level properties. Think Colgin, David Arthur, Kuleto and Ovid. From start to finish everything that Chappellet provides is curated to make you feel special- as you should, right? It might take a little longer to drive up the winding roads of Pritchard Hill, but you will be happy you went. The view of Lake Hennessey along from this altitude on a summer day is amazing! Profound and emotionally moving, Chappellet’s wines exemplify the very best attributes of its kind (Antonio Galloni). There are two tour options – The Private Estate Tour & Tasting ($85 per person) or The Signature Tasting & Estate Tour ($95 per person). I’d go for the latter option, as you will get to try the Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, which is like nectar for the gods. 90 minutes. Reservations are required.
Beringer Vineyards may be dismissed just because you think it’s a boring, supermarket brand, but don’t leave it off your list. Beringer has so many options to choose from that it can be difficult to decide which one to pick. And if you are a newbie, they are a perfect fit for you! Don’t worry, whatever you choose, you will be sure to leave feeling like you know more about the Napa Valley than you could ever dream of. Beringer is rich in history and provides plenty of information about the early days of Napa Valley which I find very interesting. And being a local, I learn something new every time I visit. I strongly believe the Taste of Beringer Tour is the best value. This experience is a one-hour, in-depth tour of the stunning estate and the sensory gardens. Proceeding the tour, you will make your way to the historic Rhine House and taste hand selected reserve wines (that you can only try at the winery), paired with seasonal culinary treats. Being the oldest winery in the valley, Beringer should not be missed. $55 per person. Reservations are required.
Checkerboard Vineyards, located on 300 acres up near Calistoga atop Diamond Mountain, had me at “hello.” Having read about the winemaker connection to Harlan, I was so excited to drive up the long driveway (two-and-one half miles long, to be exact) and see what all the hype was about. This is another area of Napa Valley few visitors get to enjoy- and you should! And what’s great about Checkerboard Vineyards is all the hype swirling the valley is absolutely valid. Winemaker, Martha McClelland has magic hands and a high IQ. Getting a tasting scheduled at Checkerboard is an elusive process, but once you are in, you are in. The Private Tour & Tasting lasts close to two hours and is pricey (call them to get more details), but well worth the effort. 120 minutes. Reservations are required.
Palmaz Vineyards was one of the very first wines I tasted as a Napa Valley resident and I was an instant fan. Having had the good fortune to meet Florencia Palmaz in my book club, I had no idea how special that was. Florencia is a lover of life, food and wine and her glow can be felt long after she leaves the room. Through the years, I have come to realize that Palmaz Vineyards has captured the hearts of most people who have any clue about what quality means. No surprise there! The Palmaz Family comes from Argentina and they bring their passion for the land, their heritage and their charm together in a very Napa Valley way. Make a point to visit the winery and experience the exceptional Private Tasting and Cave Tour and you will take a little piece of Napa Valley life home with you. The tasting comes with a small bite paired with each wine. Palmaz Vineyards simply put, is unforgettable. And if you are lucky, you might be able to convince your host for a sneak peek of what is the most coveted collector car collection in the world, under the radar and hidden at the winery. $100 per person. 120 minutes. Reservations are required.
Fantesca Estate & Winery is a winery where visitors come from around the world to celebrate and enjoy life. The scenery at Fantesca is prettier than a postcard and you will be compelled to convert all your friends and family to your new-found gem. If you haven’t heard of Heidi Barrett (the winemaker) then you better Google her right now because she is known as the Queen of Cult Cabernet. The Private Tour and Tasting is decadent by virtue and you will hear the story of Fantesca, tour the earthy caves and taste some of the most sought-after wines in the world. I’d recommend that you book during the week, as you will have better luck. $150 per person (refundable with purchase). 120 minutes. Reservations are required.
Jarvis Estate was the first winery in the country that was entirely built underground. I’ve been to a lot of wineries, but I have never experienced anything like Jarvis. The drive up Atlas Peak Road is like a corkscrew and there is no cell reception (until you get in the caves where they have great Wi-Fi). The grounds are stunning and well maintained. When you open the massive doors to the caves, you will understand that you have arrived at a very unique winery. The entire experience, from here on out, takes place inside the hallows of the mountain. You will be guided through the subterranean maze and see the Cuvee Gallery, production facilities, and an underground waterfall- wow! Ask your guide about the Crystal Room (not part of the tour). In the Crystal Room there are many exceptionally large Crystal formations that are out of this world. I have never been able to forget the energy of that room and its totally worth seeing for yourself. The crystals radiate a force, which is almost as powerful as the well-crafted wine. After your tour, you will be seated in a stately room (still underground) and taste through the lush wines (only available for purchase at the winery). It’s no small feat to get a reservation at Jarvis, as they book up well in advance. $100 per person. 75-90 minutes. Reservations are required.
Amizetta Estate Winery is off the beaten path, at the very top of Greenfield Road and overlooks the majestic Lake Hennessey form the north side. The views here showcase a vantage point of the Napa Valley that is magical and unique. Founded in 1984, after Spencer and Amizetta Clark planted their terraced hillside vineyards, the winery is truly a special place. Amizetta Estate Winery will offer a nice respite from the bigger wineries on the valley floor. Currently the winery offers a tour of the terraces, production facilities and tasting room. It is quite a long drive up the mountain, but worth the effort as the wine is even more spectacular than the stunning views (if that is possible)! Family owned and operated, a lot of care and love has gone into everything you experience at the elegant and beloved Amizetta. Call to make reservations and learn more. Expect to be there for at least 90 minutes.
Castello Di Amorosa is definitely an unusual sight to see anywhere you go, not to mention the Napa Valley. If you’ve seen Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories, you’ve seen “The Castle”. At Castello Di Amorosa. And the moment you arrive, you’ll see why this makes for the perfet movie set. Built by proprietor, Dario Sattui, he spared no expense to source artistans from around the world to re-create a medieval inspired Tuscan castle and winery in world famous Napa Valley. Each stone was brought over from Italy and together the structure is nothing short of magnificent. Many locals steer clear of the grounds on the weekend, as it’s often so busy that you feel like you are in line for a ride at Disneyland. Don’t dismay, the Castle has its hidden charm, beneath the surface. If you can get a reservation for the Diamond Tour & Reserve Wine Tasting ($60 per person), you will venture down into the dungeon, where Dario displays his infamous torture chamber that includes an extraordinary collection of macabre artifacts. As you tour through the castle you will learn all about castle life and then sip on some surprisingly good reserve Italian wines. Overall, the castle is grand, to include a chapel, colorful frescos, a moat and exotic animals that are fun to look at. Visit the castle at least once while you are in town; it’s an experience unlike no other. Maximum of 12 guests. 120 minutes. Reservations recommended.
Newton Vineyards is situated near the top of the prestigious Spring Mountain. All the experiences here are lovely and guests can explore the stunning manicured gardens should they desire. Having said that, the best experience at Newton is the Vineyard Exploration Tour. For $250 per person, you will be driven to the top of the property in a deluxe utility vehicle. There you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking panoramic views of the Napa Valley from an elevation of around 1600 feet. Nothing really else like this in Napa Valley can replicate this vista! After gazing at the scenery, you will enjoy an intimate tasting on a custom-built platform nestled among the Cabernet Sauvignon vines overlooking the legendary Spring Mountain District AVA. The tasting menu is customized for each group. When the founder, Sir Peter Newton was alive, I had the great honor to meet him. He was a visionary and had immense passion for crafting bold wines on the mountainsides of Napa Valley. And to carry the theme, the winery itself was designed to blend into the mountainside and includes elements that speak to the founders’ native lands. Rose gardens, a pagoda, an Asian-inspired red gate, lanterns, an old English phone booth and a French garden all grace the grounds. Offered May through October. Five-person limit per session. 120 minutes. Reservations are required.
Stags’ Leap Winery in the Stag’s Leap District is tucked away in a beautiful valley of it’s own, just off of the Silverado Trail. As you drive through the tree lined, quaint backcountry road, you will want to pull over and take a few pictures. Take some and let your friends cry of FOMO! As you roll up to the tasting room, you will feel like you are approaching a historical royal manor and that is because you are! Since 1893, Stags’ Leap Winery has been a colorful and historical part of Napa Valley as one of California’s earliest winery estates. Places with history always have the best stories too! As you tour with your guide, you will walk along the bocce courts and the vineyards while hearing about the goings-on at Stags’ Leap over time- the previous owners of this estate will surprise you. If you are extra lucky, you’ll get a chance to tour through the old “post office”, hear about the “mummy” parties and the secret rooms as the stories are unforgettable! The wines are approachable, graceful, can be cellared for decades and the hospitality is impeccable as they strive to deliver an excellent presentation and educational wine tasting. Be sure to experience this hidden gem. $75 per person. 90 minutes. Reservations are required.
Del Dotto Venetian Estatein St. Helena (not to be confused with their other two locations) looks like it has been teleported from the romantic Italian town of Venice. Inspired by their Italian heritage, the Dave Del Dotto created a spectacular place where everyone loves to visit. The interior is OMG! The staff, spot on. I’d recommend the Cave Experience & Barrel Tasting as it offers the perfect experience for the newbie to the Oenophile as they introduce you to barrel futures tastings right in their caves, big pours and fabulous tasty bites all along the way. Just think you can taste wines that haven’t even hit the bottle yet- so cool! Tourists and locals alike absolutely love the local wine educators who lead the tours, as most of them are locals who are dedicated to the land and the wine. If you are a serious wine collector, you know Del Dotto’s wines deliver- 100pts that is! $75 per person. 90 minutes (at least). Reservation are required.