NAPA, CALIFORNIA

I traveled to Napa with my mom for my 28th birthday. We are very much the “winos” of the family so we tried to hit up as many wineries as we could. On the first day, we took a town car service to 3 lesser known wineries. On the second day, we visited more of the well known wineries.

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FAVORITE WINERIES:

FONTANELLA FAMILY WINERY (1721 Partrick Rd, Napa, CA 94558) – this was our favorite winery of day 1. Their white wine was great, my mom even joined their wine club, and the owner/winemaker did our tastings. They also gave us a free tour of the wine cellar where all the wine barrels are kept and walked us through the wine-making process. The tasting room is very small and intimate. I would definitely recommend this if you are looking for good quality wine without all of the crowds. We took home a few bottles of their various white wines. Fontanella

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Photo Credit: Fontanella Winery

MONDAVI (7801 St Helena Hwy, St Helena, CA 94574) –Based on a recommendation from a friend, we did the “Signature Tour”. This 90 minute tour includes a tour through the vineyards and the wine cellar.  At the end, there is a “guided tasting” where you sit around a large dining table with the rest of your group and sample wine (with food pairings). The tour guide will also teach you the “technique” of tasting wine. This would be a great place to start your trip to Napa, especially if you are a wine newbie. I love drinking wine but had no idea that there is a specific way you are supposed to taste wine. The tour also included a lot of information about the history of Napa and the wine making process in general. This is one of the larger wineries in the area so it is very popular and slightly touristy. Tip: The parking lot is huge so you will have no trouble finding a spot. They offer the option of doing tastings by the glass. Robert Mondavi

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MUMM NAPA (8445 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558) – If you need a break from wine, visit Mumm Napa and do a champagne tasting outside. They have a gorgeous outdoor seating area with beautiful views. Mumm has a very relaxing atmosphere – you have a server like you would at a restaurant so it’s a great place to sit back, relax, and stay awhile. Although it is a little less intimate than some of tastings provided by other wineries. Mumm

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PEJU PROVINCE WINERY (8466 St Helena Hwy, Rutherford, CA 94573)  – The service here was incredibly friendly – much more friendly and down to earth than some of the other wineries. This is probably why we ended up buying so much wine from here. The price is $25/person for 4 tastings. Customer service was great. Our favorite wine was the Provence, a red and white blend that tastes great served chilled.  Peju

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SILVER OAK – (915 Oakville Cross Rd, Oakville, CA 94562) –The tasting area is large but it gets very very crowded. It was a little overwhelming and we didn’t end up staying very long.The tasting was super expensive $25/person for 3 tastings – (although there wines are generally more expensive, so I guess you get your moneys worth). Silver Oak only makes Cabs – so needless to say, their Cabs are delicious. However, if Cabs aren’t your favorite – you could definitely skip this place. Silver Oak

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V SATTUI WINERY (1111 White Ln, St Helena, CA 94574) – This winery had some of my favorite wines. Make sure you try the Gamay Rouge (very fruity and refreshing). This would make a great lunch spot – they have a deli and a lot of picnic areas outside. The inside area can get very crowded so make sure you go outside and enjoy the beautiful grounds. V Sattui

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TREFETHEN VINEYARDS & WINERY(1160 Oak Knoll Avenue, Napa, CA 94558) – This was our last winery of the trip so the details are a little fuzzy. The white wines here were delicious. My favorite wine was the Quandry. Tip: According to TripAdvisor, the tastings are by appointment only now. According to the Trefethen winery, their winery was destroyed during an earthquake and their tastings are temporarily being held in a tent.  Trefethen

RUSSIAN RIVER BREWERY (725 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404) (40 miles/50 minutes from Napa) – We made the trek to Russian River Brewery based on a recommendation from my brother-in-law, who is a beer connoisseur. (His favorite: Pliney the Elder). I would recommend splitting the sampler – $16 to taste all 18 beers on tap. Like I said earlier, my mom and I prefer wines so a lot of the beers were too hoppy/bitter for us.  Tip: This brewery is located  in the middle of a shopping center so parking was a little tough. Russian River

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Tip: make sure you map out the wineries you want to go to beforehand, otherwise you will spend half the day driving all over the place as some of the wineries are very far apart. Also, I would recommend making appointments at the wineries if you can.

WHERE TO STAY: ANDAZ NAPA – we stayed at the Andaz Napa located near downtown Napa. Although it is owned by the Hyatt, this is a beautiful boutique hotel that is very centrally located. My favorite part was the map of the Napa area  on the wall of the lobby.  We were able to walk from our hotel and explore downtown Napa. The wineries in the Napa/Rutherford/St. Helena area are very spread out – but we found this to be a convenient home base. Andaz

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Photo Credits: Andaz

WHERE TO EAT: 

TRA VIGNE (Italian, $$$) (1050 Charter Oak Ave, St Helena, CA 94574) – Great place for dinner. Sit outside under the trees and twinkle lights and relax after a long day of winery-hopping. Tip: For an appetizer, get the freshly made mozzarella on sourdough bread. Tra Vigne

MUSTARDS GRILL (7399 St Helena Hwy, Napa, CA 94558) (American, $$$)  Tip: They are famous for their Mongolian Pork Chop! Mustards

THE GIRL AND THE FIG (Sonoma Hotel, 110 W Spain St, Sonoma, CA 95476) (American, $$) Tip: They accept reservations.  The Girl and The Fig

Want to check out a smaller, lesser-known wine region in California? Check out my blog post on PASO ROBLES

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