So, you’re headed to Napa Valley and want to visit a winery. But which one? There are more than 400 open to the public in California’s prestigious vinous heart — and they’re not all created equal. With your cash on the line (tastings are chargeable) you want an experience that goes above and beyond. That’s where the wineries listed below come in — they deliver much more than samples of the region’s esteemed cabernet sauvignon. They come with exclusive experiences and daring architecture, knock-out food pairings and insider tours. Book well ahead to secure your picks, as the valley gets busy. And hire a taxi too — pours can be generous.
Main photo: Inglenook, Rutherford
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Opus One Winery
1. Opus One Winery, Oakville
This lauded collaboration between Cali icon Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild — of Bordeaux’s Château Mouton Rothschild — pairs Napa glamour with French precision in a sleek contemporary space. Patience and deep pockets are essential for snagging a tasting slot within the hallowed walls of Opus One; in high season they can book up months in advance. Entry-level flights of three wines, sipped in the serene courtyard, cost from around £85pp — not as bad value as it sounds given the bottles retail for upwards of £500. Money no object? Settle into a glass-lined space overlooking the vines for a new gourmet food and wine offering, launching in autumn 2022.
Where to stay Carry on channelling the Gallic vibe at nearby Auberge du Soleil, Napa Valley’s long-standing luxury resort with a sublime restaurant overlooking the hills. Book in for sunset hour and arrive thirsty; the lengthy wine list deserves your full attention.
A tasting at Robert Mondavi Winery (Alamy)
2. Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville
Robert Mondavi Winery is best known for its signature fumé blanc. Created in 1968, the wine is made with dry oak-aged sauvignon blanc grapes, which were at the time an unpopular variety in California, but went on to become a great success. It was opened in 1965 by the eponymous Napa Valley winemaking guru (see Opus One, above, another Mondavi project), whose pioneering methods brought fame to this New World wine region. Mondavi was a philanthropist and a lover of art, good food and, naturally, fine wine, with his winery reflecting these passions. Drop by for summer concerts, bicycle vineyard tours amid the property’s sculptures, an extensive art collection, walk-in tastings, wine-paired dinners and twilight tours around this Spanish mission-style winery.
Where to stay After a day of walking around the winery you’ll want to soak your feet and ward off any hangovers with a stint in the hot tub at Rancho Caymus Inn*.
3. Inglenook, Rutherford
This grand historic estate feels a bit like a film set — but then again, it’s owned by Hollywood royalty Francis Ford Coppola. Wander through the landscaped grounds, through the greenery-lined manor doors and into the library-style tasting room dressed in retro wallpaper and belting out jazzy tunes. The atmosphere at Inglenook is 10/10 and the wines follow suit. Made under the watchful eye of Philippe Bascaules — also the MD at esteemed Bordeaux estate Château Margaux — the flagship red, Rubicon, is bursting with dark red fruit and rippled with silky tannins. But our personal favourite? The Rhône-style white blend, Blancaneaux, all golden and peachy.
Where to stay Book into Hotel Yountville*, where the stone frontage echoes some of the old-world grandeur of Inglenook. After a morning of serious wine tastings, install yourself by the suntrap pool with a good book and a glass of frivolous rosé.
4. Ashes & Diamonds, Oak Knoll
Napa wineries don’t get much more Instagrammable. But the angular mid-century aesthetic and citrussy colour palette at this new-wave Napa outfit is only one part of the draw. Ashes & Diamonds sources grapes from cooler climate vineyard sites to make fresh, approachable wines that are interesting and contemporary — perfect if you find classic Napa reds a bit too hefty. The food and wine pairing is next-level, too: book ahead to devour the fermented potato bread and labneh, charred romanesco with date agrodolce, and spiced chicken with chickpeas.
Where to stay If you like the vibe here you’ll love the slick stylings of Stanly Ranch, a luxurious stay amid vineyards just a 15-minute drive away. Don’t miss the spa — one of the finest in the valley.
5. Chateau Montelena, Calistoga
One of the names that changed it all in Napa. Montelena was the white wine winner of the 1976 Judgment of Paris, the landmark French vs US tasting depicted in the film Bottle Shock (Chris Pine played Montelena’s current CEO Bo Barrett). Styled after a European chateau, the grand, greenery-clad property looks just like it did in the movie. Come for a tasting in one of the wood-panelled private rooms, then wander around the lake and its Chinese-inspired pavilions.
Where to stay Montelena has been in sun-baked Calistoga for ages, and so has Dr Wilkinson’s*, a mud spa and hotel open since the 1950s. Renovated bedrooms are retro in a good way, with mid-century furniture and house plants.
6. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Stag’s Leap District
Not to be confused with the similarly named Stag’s Leap Winery, this cabernet powerhouse was the other Napa winery to win big at the Judgment of Paris — you can see some of the original documentation displayed in the tasting room. Despite the pedigree, Stag’s Leap doesn’t rest on its laurels, turning out silky wines that bring a loyal following to the buzzy window-lined space. Sign up for a Celestial Tour & Tasting, which plunges you into the cool cellars, decked out with a giant steely Foucault pendulum. It includes a seated food and wine pairing where, if you’re lucky, winemaker Marcus Notaro might in pop in for a chat.
Where to stay An eco-conscious stay in idyllic nearby Yountville, Bardessono* is set in a LEED-certified Platinum building and has its own organic garden on site. Spa-style bedroom suites bring the therapist to you.
Four Seasons Napa Vallley
7. Elusa Winery, Calistoga
This intimate, open-by-appointment winery has the visitor experience nailed. Elusa shares its site with the Four Seasons Napa Valley, and the winery’s cabernet sauvignon vines are dotted throughout the hotel grounds. Call ahead for the chance to tour the space with hospitable winemaker Jonathan Walden and sample a catalogue of cabernet sauvignon dating back to 2012, all paired with local cheeses.
Where to stay You’re already at the Four Seasons Napa Valley*, so you may as well check in. Vines are close enough to the rooms that you can reach out and pluck off a grape (though, for Walden’s sake, please don’t).
Round Pond Estate
8. Round Pond Estate, Rutherford
Make no mistake, Round Pond does tasty wine — crisp sauvignon blanc and inky cabernet sauvignon, plus fruity nebbiolo and sweet white fortified. But many visitors also come for the tutored olive oil tastings, set on a shaded terrace overlooking the purple Mayacamas Mountains. Like most of the estate’s grapes, the olives are ripened under the rays right here in Rutherford. Try them in Spanish or Italian varietals, pure and clean or ripened with zingy Meyer lemon or fragrant rosemary.
Where to stay It suffered in the 2020 wildfires — the Michelin-starred restaurant was a casualty and has yet to reopen — but luxurious resort Meadowood* is back. There are 36 lodges which are rustic on the outside and relaxing on the inside, with huge beds and windows that overlook forested slopes. Come for rambling grounds and family-friendly facilities, including tennis courts. Bonus points: three gorgeous outdoor pools.
Long Meadow Ranch (Alamy)
9. Long Meadow Ranch, St Helena
If Old MacDonald had a not just a farm, but a multi-million-dollar ranch in the heart of St Helena, it might look like Long Meadow. The bucolic-chic winery grows on over 2,000 acres across three counties — not just grapes, but fruit and veg too — and serves up the bountiful results in its headquarters here, via a restaurant, café, farmers’ market and tasting room. There’s a delicious diversity of wines to be tasted, from sparkling blanc de noirs from the Anderson Valley to sangiovese and merlot from Napa.
Where to stay If you’re feeling nostalgic for low-key Napa Valley farm life, Wine Country Inn* has a homely feel coupled with vineyard views and private patio space. Its smaller, low-key space is the escape you need from the wine-tasting crowds.
10. Grgich Hills Estate
Perfectly manicured rows of vines, undulating mountains beyond — the view from the tasting terrace at Grgich is special. You’re here to enjoy the flight of five limited production wines, sipped over 90 minutes while comfortably seated, so you can really soak up the scene. And soak up the history; founder Miljenko “Mike” Grgich was the winemaker who crafted Chateau Montelena’s winning 1973 chardonnay, and is a Napa legend who’s still going at age 99. The estate’s whites are sublime as ever; snap up a couple to take back home from the shop.
Where to stay Napa town, a 20-minute drive to the south, has been awash with new restaurant and bar openings over the past few years. Get in the heart of the action at low-key Inn on Randolph*, a B&B set in a historic home.
Artesa Vineyards & Winery
11. Artesa Vineyards & Winery, Carneros
Is it a winery or a Bond villain’s hideaway? However you interpret the dramatic semi-subterranean architecture at Artesa, you certainly can’t knock the sweeping, bird’s eye view. Here in southerly Carneros the skies are big and the landscapes are wide-angle; as you sip the local pinot noirs, chardonnays and fizz you can also fill up your camera reel. If things are looking familiar, that’s because the winery featured in Netflix film Wine Country, starring Amy Poehler.
Where to stay It’s little more than a five-minute drive to Carneros Resort*. With three restaurants, bikes to hire and private cottages with fireplaces, it’s got it all — though we’d be spending most of our time by that pool.
Hall St Helena (Alamy)
12. Hall St Helena, St Helena
Culture enthusiasts should be sure to make a stop at Hall St Helena and book its signature Hallmark tour, which takes guests on a head-spinning whirl around the winery’s grounds, vines, wines and eye-popping modern art. The vineyard is known for its merlot, sauvignon blanc and age-worthy cabernet sauvignon, which is so highly regarded that the property even offers visitors its “ultimate cabernet” experience, allowing guests to sip a selection of some of Hall’s most sought-after cabernets.
Where to stay Meadowood* is close — see 8, above.
13. Shafer Vineyard, Yountville
Showered with accolades — including being hailed as “one of the world’s greatest wineries” by wine critic Robert M Parker Jr — family-run Shafer Vineyard produced its first wine in 1978. It specialises in high-end, premium wines, and its 1994 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay was included among the top ten wines of 1996 by Wine Spectator; in 2012 the vineyard went one better when its 2008 Relentless was named wine of the year by the magazine. John and Doug Shafer were also named Wine and Spirits Professionals of the Year by the James Beard Foundation in 2010. Tastings are limited to two sessions a day, each with groups of no more than ten guests. Book well in advance.
Where to stay Be a stroll away from Michelin-starred restaurants and wine tasting rooms at North Block Hotel*. Make time for mornings relaxing in the cosy courtyard and heated pool.
The dining room at Castello di Amorosa (Alamy)
14. Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga
Blending new world wines with old world ambience, Castelo di Amorosa — true to its name — was built in the style of a medieval Tuscan castle, featuring five crenellated turrets, a drawbridge, more than 100 rooms connected by secret passages and even its own church. Despite its outward appearance, 95 per cent of this property is devoted to winemaking and guests can visit, by appointment only, to sample six of its eclectic range of wines and take themselves off on a self-guided tour of the castle.
Where to stay The Inn on Pine* is just a ten-minute drive from Calistoga Hot Springs. There’s a hot tub and in-room for conveniences including fridges and microwaves when you’re happy to stay put, too.
The Rhine House at Beringer (Alamy)
15. Beringer, St Helena
Managing to remain in operation throughout the USA’s prohibition era, Beringer is Napa Valley’s oldest continuously operating winery, one of the region’s largest producers, and a pioneer of wine tourism. Dating back to 1875 — when the Beringer brothers, German immigrant winemakers, planted the estate’s first vines — Beringer survived prohibition by slyly selling its dried grapes as “raisin cakes”, supplied with crafty warning labels advising its customers not to let the reconstituted grape juice sit in a corked bottle for 21 days, lest it accidentally ferment into wine.
After prohibition ended, Beringer invited Hollywood stars and attendees of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco to visit the estate, printing promotional maps emblazoned with the words “All roads lead to Beringer”, kick-starting Napa Valley’s enduring oenotourism scene. Beringer is now one of the largest wine producers in the Napa Valley and visitors are welcome to come and picnic in the grounds, explore the winery’s 19th-century mansion and mooch around the property’s hand-dug wine caves.
Where to stay Get cosy in a Victorian home built in 1872 at the four-star Inn St Helena*, a colourful pad just half a mile from Beringer Vineyards.
16. Raymond Vineyards, St Helena
This 100 per cent solar-powered winery, certified organic and biodynamic, does things a little differently. Raymond is a lavish affair and was founded in 1974. The Red Room lounge, in particular, is decked out like a belle époque bordello in sumptuous velvet, lit by crystal chandeliers and can be visited by appointment only. The wine cellar has even hosted burlesque nights. Sample its sparkling rosé and cabernet sauvignons as you make yourself at home with a game of cards or a book from the offbeat library.
Where to stay There’s lots to toast to at the Vintage House*, but start with the daily champagne buffet breakfast that’s included in the rate. It sits on a 23-acre space and there are lots of landscaped gardens and waterways to explore, while inside you’ll find rustic rooms with huge bathtubs and a great spa.
Domaine Carneros (Alamy)
17. Domaine Carneros, Napa
Easily one of the most regal properties in the Napa Valley, Domaine Carneros attracts visitors not just for its fantastic pinot noir and its excellent chardonnay, but also because of its picture-perfect château. Built in the 1980s, but architecturally based on the Taittinger-owned Château de la Marquetterie in Champagne, France, it’s a popular spot locally for a romantic Valentine’s getaway or a classy New Year’s Eve. Enjoy Domaine Carneros’ versatile sparkling wines, served with caviar and charcuterie, in its Louis XV-styled salon or on the terrace, overlooking 36,900 acres of certified-organic vineyards.
Where to stay Carneros Resort* is close — see 11, above.
18. Pine Ridge Vineyards, Napa
Set amid the Stag’s Leap District, against a backdrop of undulating hills, rugged peaks and valley floor vineyards, Pine Ridge, founded in 1978, is one of California’s better known, most consistent wineries — and one of its most ethical. Producing nationally distributed wines from its many vineyards throughout the Napa Valley region, Pine Ridge is a Napa Green-certified winery owing to its commitment to sustainable practices. Tastings are by appointment only and you should try its unusual chenin blanc and viognier blend, plus its flagship wine, the Fortis cabernet sauvignon.
Where to stay Get the five-star treatment with a stay at Bardessono Hotel and Spa* and you’ll be within walking walking distance of Girard Winery.
Del Dotto Estate (Alamy)
19. Del Dotto Estate, St Helena
Paying homage to the Del Dotto family’s Italian ancestry, dating back to 1150, this Venetian-inspired estate was added to the Dottos’ Napa empire of three wineries in 2007. It’s all about opulence — even its hand-excavated wine caves have crystal chandeliers and are clad with Italian marble.
Focusing on small production premium wines, the family has spent 25 years acquiring vineyards and Del Dotto specifically produces cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, sangiovese and sauvignon blanc from its many, organically farmed, Napa Valley properties. Visit for a tasting paired with the chef’s Italian cuisine.
Where to stay Head to the Harvest Inn* for your pick of two pools and — if you haven’t had enough bubbles yet — two giant hot tubs.
Chimney Rock Winery (Alamy)
20. Chimney Rock, Napa
Chimney Rock stands out from its Napa neighbours in the Stags Leap district, with its Cape Dutch architectural style that you’d usually expect to see around South Africa’s Constantia wine region. Oenophiles come for its bold and structured cabernet sauvignon; the grape variety that makes up the vast majority of its vineyards.
Visitors can take a ride around the winery and its various vineyards in Chimney Rock’s specially designed touring carts: enjoying exclusive, guided wine tastings between the vines and taking lunch against the backdrop of sweeping valley views from the Stags Leap Palisades.
Where to stay Hunker down in cottage at The Chimney Rock Inn & Cottages* and you’ll find lots to do nearby including hiking and fishing. As for dinner? Each cottage comes with a barbecue.
Clos Pegase Winery (Getty Images)
21. Clos Pegase Winery, Calistoga
Instantly recognisable by its striking postmodern architecture, designed by Michael Graves, Clos Pegase has an extensive art collection, 20,000 sq ft of wine caves and stirring views across mountains and vineyards. Visitors can try wine flights, guided tours, wine tastings for the connoisseur in the property’s Cave Theatre, and sommelier wine-paired picnics. Its signature experience, however, is roasting s’mores around a fire pit. Munching campfire treats (fire-toasted marshmallows and melted chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers), while drinking a selection of the winemaker’s favourite wines makes for a wonderfully intimate way to end your trip around the Napa Valley.
Where to stay Dial up the romance with a stay at the boutique Bergson*. You’ll be in easy strolling distance of restaurants, spas and quirky museums.
Take me there
Inspired to visit Napa Valley but yet to book your trip? Here are the best hotels from Mr & Mrs Smith* and Virgin Holidays*.