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Best Napa Valley Wine Tasting For First Timers

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March 22, 2017
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March 22, 2017

First Time Visitors

If you’re planning a trip to wine country you’re probably wondering which Napa Valley wineries you should visit, not only that you’re searching for the best wineries in Napa. Because, let’s face it, with over 400 wineries located in one of California’s premier grape-growing regions, there is no way you can do them all. You are going to need to be selective in the wineries you visit. If you’re a first time visitor to Napa Valley, these winery destinations offer one or more of the following: gorgeous views, one-of-a-kind experiences, food pairings, tours and, of course, delicious wine. These Napa Valley wineries offer a little bit of everything.


Click below to visit each wineries website for complete details on all their offerings and to make a reservation. Reservations ensure you will always be able to taste.


If a spectacular view is what you’re aiming for then a visit to Sterling Vineyards is a requirement. With an aerial tram that takes visitors 300 feet above the town of Calistoga, you’re treated to panoramic views of the wine country. You should opt for the self-guided wine-tasting tour, taking your time as you tour the grounds, see part of the winery’s operations, and finally end up on Sterling View Terrace, which is “the” place to take pictures. Once you make it to the top you can sit and relax if you so desire or move on to the next winery, Castello di Amorosa, which you’re able to see from Sterling View Terrace. No reservation required. Tasting Fees range from $29 to $39 per person. Address: 1111 Dunaweal Lane Calistoga, CA 94515 (800) 726-6136 Visit Website


This castle winery is unlike any other you will visit in the Napa Valley. Just like Sterling Vineyards, you visit here for more than just a taste of their wine. When stepping foot on the 170-acre property you’re walking into an authentically styled, 13th century Tuscan castle. It’s the only one of its kind in the valley and has its own drawbridge, as well as traditional defensive towers, interior courtyard, torture chamber, chapel, knights’ chamber, and a great hall. If you so wish you can pay for a guided tour of the castle or explore it on your own. The tastings take place in a cave-like setting with a dark and moody ambience. No reservation required. Tasting Fees range from $25 to $80 per person. Tours & Food Pairings Available. Address: 4045 Saint Helena Highway Calistoga, CA 94515 Visit Website


Robert Mondavi winery is the perfect place to sit down and relax. If you’re planning on selecting a place toward the end of your day to unwind, this would be a great winery to do so. With gorgeous outdoor seating and the option to buy wine by the glass, it’s a beautiful place to take in the Napa Valley Beauty! No reservation required. Tasting Fees range from $5 to $30 per person. Tours & Food Pairings Available. Address: 7801 ST. Helena Highway Oakville, CA, 94562 Visit Website


Beringer is an icon in Napa Valley because it’s one of the oldest operating wineries, founded in 1875 in St. Helena. It is listed in the National Register of Historical Places and as a California Historical Landmark. These large grounds give you plenty to see and tour. If possible, opt for the Reserve Tasting Bar at the Rhine House and take a seat outside to enjoy the gorgeous weather and relax. They also offer a huge platter of cheese and nuts to enjoy with your tastings, which of course we had to partake. No reservation required. Tasting Fees range from $25 to $125 per person. Tours & Food Pairings Available. Address: 2000 Main Street St. Helena, CA 94574 Visit Website


This Napa winery lures you in with its beauty! Driving by you can’t help but make a U-turn and stop at this 18th-century inspired château. The château resembles that of the one where Champagne Taittinger winery resides in Champagne, France, who also own this property. Domaine Carneros is a tableside service winery with sparkling wine as its specialty. (No surprise there!) Reservations are a must because it is always very busy. Reserve a seat on the terrace to enjoy the vineyard-covered hills of the valley. Reservations are required. Tasting Fees range from $30 to $95 per person. Tours & Food Pairings Available. Address: 1240 Duhig Rd., Napa, CA 94559 Visit Website


V. Sattui is a very active winery with a deli and cheese shop, weekend barbecues, and picnic area, located at the southern end of St. Helena. Have a tasting, buy your favorite wine, pair it with a cheese from the cheese shop, and take it outdoor to enjoy. This is a gorgeous place to end your day. If you scheduled some extra time to enjoy yourself at one location V. Sattui is a great choice. No reservation required. Tasting Fees range from $15 to $25 per person. Tours & Food Pairings Available. Reservation required for food pairings and gold room tasting. Address: 1111 White Lane St. Helena, CA 94574 Visit Website


This is a good example of a smaller, family-owned winery that is also sustainably farmed. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not as good as its larger counterparts dotting the Napa Valley. This Rutherford winery is well known for its gardens, contemporary artwork, and some very, very good wines. I recommend going on one of their tasting experiences (tours which are led by wine ambassadors). One allows you to taste straight from the barrel, while another pairs local cheeses. You won’t be disappointed. No reservation required. Tasting Fees range from $35 to $65 per person. Tours & Food Pairings Available. Address: 8466 St. Helena Highway Rutherford, CA 94573 Visit Website


Located along the Silverado Trail in Napa, this 240-acre winery is hidden in a valley in the valley, making for unique terroir and some marvelous wine. The 19th-century stone winery lends to the overall appeal, although it can be hard to find, as there are no signs. Take their 90-minute tour (all visits by appointment only) and tasting and you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time, amongst the old stone cellars and musty wine bottles. Reservations are required. (We dropped in during the off season without a reservation.) Estate Tour & Tasting $65 per person. Address: 6150 Silverado Trail Napa, CA 94558 Visit Website


This unique winery is located on Mount Veeder in Napa, housed in a historic stone building constructed over a century ago. The gem of this winery, other than the wine itself, is the access that you have to contemporary art. The vineyard’s owner has opened his private art museum to the public. It is an absolute must-see venue. Hess offers several exclusive tastings experiences, which are worth the time and money. I’m fond of the Wine & Chocolate Experience, which provides a tour of the museum and a wine-and-chocolate pairing that will make you swoon. No reservation required. Tasting Fees range from $35 to $165 per person. Tours & Food Pairings Available. Exclusive Experiences Require Reservation. Address: 4411 Redwood Rd, Napa, CA 94558 Visit Website


This vineyard is known for its sparkling wines, which is not surprising as its parent company is Moet & Chandon, the well-known champagne house in France. Established in Yountville more than 40 years ago, their tours are very educational, and I found that it’s a wonderful place to wind down your day, sitting on their terrace, sipping bubbly. No reservation required. Reservations are required for parties of 10 or more. Sparkling Tour + Tasting $40 per person Tours Available. Address: 1 California Drive Yountville, CA 94599 Visit Website


Newton sits atop Spring Mountain in St. Helena and provides breathtaking views of the valley. They are well known for bottling their wines without filtration, something you will not find at many wineries along the Napa Valley, so for that alone this winery is worth the visit. While tours and tasting must be arranged in advance (no drop-ins), it is worth the trouble and drive to get here. You can walk amongst their formal English gardens, visit the pagoda, tour their cellars, and taste some extraordinary wines. No reservation required for tastings. Tours by appointment only. Tasting Fees range from $50 to $105 per person. Tours Available. Address: 2555 Madrona Avenue St. Helena, California 94574 Visit Website


This winery, located in Calistoga, is well-known for its sparkling wine, of which they have an impressive array. That array is primarily stored in caves that were dug out of volcanic rock in the late 1800s and now hold over 2.5 million bottles. The cellar is a sight to behold, and I marveled at how many bottles could be stacked in the arched cubbies throughout the cellar. I highly recommend a tour, but arrangements must be made in advance, as the traffic up the road to the winery is limited each day and drop-ins are not allowed. Reservations are required. Tasting Fee $120 per person Address: 1400 Schramsberg Rd, Calistoga, CA 94515 Visit Website

While this is by no means a complete list, it’s a good starting point for first-time visitors to Napa Valley. We recommend no more than 4 wineries in a day, with at least one full tour of operations. And make sure you check the wineries’ websites; many require booking appointments for both tastings and tours.

If you plan on staying in the Napa Valley, I highly recommend the Where It's At section of our site. There, you'll find gorgeous Napa Resorts that have tons of amenities and beautiful views of the vineyards. There are also numerous B&Bs, with owners who have a good knowledge of the best restaurants, secret tours, and out-of-the-way places. For larger groups or longer stays, you might consider Silverado Resort and Spa, which is located in and amongst two championship golf courses and offers a hotel as well as cottages and townhouses of varying sizes.