When there’s a wine, there’s a way. Have you been to Napa Valley, one of the world’s top wine tasting destinations? Whether you are a seasoned wine connoisseur or newbie, keep on reading on for the best Napa trip ideas. For our milestone 40th birthday, we skipped a traditional birthday party and instead celebrated with a birthday Napa trip. We are excited to share the best Napa trip ideas with you.
Best Napa Trip: How to Plan Your Itinerary?
Once up a time in Napa…. Napa Valley is located about an hour north of San Francisco. It’s conveniently located and just a short Uber ride. You can also take the BART from the airport and then Uber or bus to your hotel. There are 16 appellations (American Viticultural Area or AVAs) in Napa Valley including
- Atlas Peak
- Chiles Valley
- Diamond Mountain District
- Howell Mountain
- Los Carneros
- Mt. Veeder
- Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley
- St. Helena
- Spring Mountain District
- Stags Leap District
- Wild Horse Valley
*Bold are appellations included on this Napa trip.
Each appellation represents a distinct microclimate and terrain that affects the characteristics of the wine grapes grown there. Within these 16 AVA’s, there are approximately 400 wineries and 100 urban tasting rooms. When planning your Napa trip, you’ll want to visit vineyards that are in the same appellation to save you time and money on Ubers.
One for wine, and wine for all. In Napa Valley, you can enjoy intimate tastings with winemakers, behind-the-scenes tours, stunning outdoor gardens and caves. Be ready to sip on everything from full-bodied Cabernets, spicy Merlots to buttery Chardonnays to fruity Pinot Noirs. Below are our tips for the best Napa trip from where to stay and what wineries to visit.
Best Napa Trip: Where to Stay?
We stayed at Archer Napa in downtown Napa. This boutique hotel on First Street Napa is just a few steps from the Napa Riverfront, dozens of walkable tasting rooms, world-class restaurants and live entertainment. The hotel’s gorgeous Sky & Vine rooftop bar is a fantastic spot for drinks and taking in the beautiful panoramic views of the city.
Best Napa Trip Day 1: Gloria Ferrer
Let’s get fizzical. The best Napa trip begins with a wine tasting at Gloria Ferrer in Carneros. We served Gloria Ferrer at our Rosé et Blanc Birthday Party and our Pop the Bubbly End of Summer Party. Gloria Ferrer opened in 1986 as the first sparkling vineyard in Sonoma Carneros. The estate spans 335 acres and produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. The Ferrer family has been in the winemaking business since the 16th century in Spain.
Pop. Fizz. Clink. We recommend the Sparkling Wine Flight in the Classic Carneros Tasting Experience for a few reasons. Gloria Ferrer is known for their sparkling. Our tasting started at 11:00AM, so it’s like a mimosa without the OJ. Shh. we wont’ tell anyone. We enjoyed a cheese and charcuterie platter with our sparkling wines. We sampled:
- NV Vista Brut: Mostly Pinot Noir with some Chardonnay, aromas of cranberry compote and ripe white nectarine, complexity of flavors and aged for over three years
- 2017 Brut Rosé: Beautiful color, mostly Pinot Noir with some Chardonnay, unique fruit character and great versatility in pairing with food
- 2015 Extra Brut: Dry sparkling with a mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, opens with aromas of green apple with lemon and a hint of orange zest, creamy texture and a long, crisp finish
- 2010 Carneros Cuvée: Approximately half Pinot Noir and half Chardonnay, represents the best fruit from the estate vineyards; six months+ on the cork, subtle floral notes with hints of honey and golden apple
Don’t forget to enjoy the gorgeous view of Carneros while sipping Gloria Ferrer on the terrace. During our tasting, we explored the grounds and sipped wines overlooking the vineyards. The Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé was our favorite and we bought a bottle home with us.
Tastings start at $45/person for 60 minutes and require reservations.
Best Napa Trip Day 1: Nickel & Nickel
Nickel for your thoughts? Next we headed up north to Nickel & Nickel in Oakville. This estate was originally a farm in the 1880s. We saw the vineyard’s original Queen Anne style home and classic barns. Nickel & Nickel is a single-vineyard, 100% varietal wine and known for their nuanced Cabernets.
During our Nickel & Nickel tour and wine tasting, we toured the estate, walked in the wine cellar and tasted a Merlot and a variety of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines with paired with cheese and accouterments. We sampled
- 2017 Harris Vineyard Merlot: Plush, structured, and filled with juicy plum and spice flavors that coat the palate
- 2017 Kenefick Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon: Calistoga: Full-bodied wine with concentrated fruit and rich tannins, blackberry and floral perfume, dark fruit flavors and savory undertones and notes of tobacco, cocoa and spice unfold on the midpalate and continue into a finish layered with dark, sappy-silky fruit
- 2017 Quick Silver Napa Valley Cabernet: Aromas of mixed red berry, violet and green tea, lush raspberry flavors, vibrant acidity and supple tannins
- 2017 Vaca Vista Oak Knoll District Cabernet Sauvignon: Red currant and floral aromas and pure red fruit flavors, soft and silky throughout the palate, polished tannins and a smooth, sleek finish
If you like cabs, you must visit Nickel & Nickel for the best Napa trip. Tastings start at $80/person for 90 minutes and require reservations.
Best Napa Trip Day 1: Far Niente
After Nickel and Nickel, we headed to their sister winery, Far Niente, which is also located in Oakville. Far Niente means “without a care” in Italian. This winery was originally established in 1885 by John Benson and fell into disarray during the Prohibition. In 1979, Gil Nickel purchased the winery and adjacent vineyard. Far Niente produces superb Chardonnays and Cabernets.
This year marked the 40th anniversary of Far Niente’s Chardonnay. Happy 40th to us and Far Niente’s Chardonnay. We first tried this Chardonnay at Novita in NYC. Look at how stunning their wine label is. These wines are luxury in a bottle.
Our tour with Jess Black began with a quick peak of Gil Nickel’s extensive car collection. Then we learned about the history for Far Niente while we walked through the picturesque garden and magical caves. Our private wine tasting was in the private wine cellar.
- 2019 Far Niente Estate Bottled Chardonnay, Napa Valley: Aromas of honeysuckle, white peach blossom and citrus zest and soft accents of vanilla as well as silky stone fruit, lemon curd and honeydew flavors
- 2018 EnRoute Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, “Les Pommiers”: Dark berry flavors with lingering accents of clove and forest floor make this opulent Russian River Valley Pinot Noir lush and silky from start to end
- 2017 Far Niente Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville: Complex limited-production wine; aromas of mixed berry, chocolate, light earth and licorice with mixed berry flavors
- 2014 Far Niente Cave Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville: Limited-release Cave Collection vintage with beautifully lifted spice and black fruit aromatics with black and red fruit flavors and age-worthy tannins
- 2013 Dolce, Napa Valley: Dessert wine with orange blossom aromas and stone fruit flavors with caramel undertones; available in a variety of sizes
Tastings start at $90/person for 90 minutes and require reservations. We highly recommend the Cave Collection Library Wine Tasting for $200/person.
Best Napa Trip Day 2: Clos du Val
Hit me baby one more wine. We grabbed breakfast sandwiches from The Model Bakery and then headed to Clos du Val in Stags Leap. This winery was founded by John and Henrietta Goelet in 1972. Clos du Val’s large tasting room is gorgeous with an outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards. We toured the winery and vineyards and learned about their wine making process.
During our tasting we sampled:
- 2019 Chardonnay: Tropical passion fruit and pineapple aromas with notes of quince paste, vanilla, clotted cream, allspice, and lilac
- 2018 Estate Malbec: Beautiful ruby-purple color and fresh flavors of blackberry, plum, and a hint of holiday spice. Velvety tannins lead to a smooth and savory finish
- 2018 Cabernet Franc, Hirondelle Vineyard, Stags Leap District: Aromas of black currant, cocoa, spice, and dried herbs with earthy tones and silky tannins and a savory finish
- 2018 Petite Verdot
- 2017 Hirondelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with deep black currant aromas and a hint of clove and flavors of blueberry, toast, espresso and fresh cream
- 2016 Three Graces: full-bodied flagship red blend opens with powerful aromas of black raspberry, violet, and dusty cedar wood; we felt so special drinking this wine as it had a Coravin
Tastings are $50/person for 60 minutes and require reservations. You’ll enjoy flight of their current release wines and winery only wines.
Best Napa Trip Day 2: Cliff Lede
For equal parts wine and rock and roll, head over to Cliff Lede in Yountville. This vineyard was established in 2002 by Cliff Lede. We never tried their wines before, but our friend Rachel was raving about them. Lede named each vineyard block after his favorite rock songs and albums. Cliff’s son Jason Lede gave us a tour of the vineyard and the estate, including the Backstage Tasting Lounge. This lounge features rotating art exhibits.
We sat on the gorgeous outdoor patio for our wine tasting. We sampled:
- 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District: Deep purple cab with blackberry, warm blueberries, cool slate, and dark chocolate aromas and ancho chile, cumin, braised meat juices, and new leather notes
- 2019 FEL Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley: 100% Pinot Noir with fruit aromas of black cherry, raspberry, and plum. and notes of cedar, cigar box, and cinnamon
- 2018 High Fidelity: Dark ruby colored Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend with a fragrance of sage, steeped Oolong black tea, rhubarb, and melted black licorice notes with flavors of red currants, fruitcake, cinnamon candies, and black truffle
- 2017 Dancing Heart Cabernet Sauvignon, Rock Block Series: Aromas of warm black cherries scented with lavender and violets and flavors of luscious cassis and raspberry
Meet me at the vineyard. Cliff Lede offers a unique Napa Valley lifestyle experience with a classic rock edge. Come here for a one of a kind experience in wine, music, art, architecture, and nature. Tastings start at $60 per person.
Best Napa Trip Day 2: Robert Sinskey
Next we headed to Robert Sinskey Vineyards, which is across the street from Cliff Lede. We actually visited this vineyard during our first trip to Napa in 2010. This second generation family owned winery was founded by Robert Sinskey in 1986. We have been buying their Abraxus, Pinot Noir and Rosé for years. Our tour began with a walk through the vineyards and then to the barrel room. We learned about their wine making process. Next we went to their outdoor tasting room, which overlooked their spectacular vineyards.
Our tasting included:
- 2018 Libration Los Carneros: Perfume-like aromas and notes of guava, lemon verbena and spice with a balancing hint of flint (welcome wine)
- 2018 Blanc Los Carneros: Pinot Blanc with aromas and flavors of magnolia, vanilla flower, pear, lemon verbena and pineapple guava
- 2017 Abraxas, Scintilla Sonoma Vineyard: Chamomile, buttercup, honeysuckle and soft herbs lead a floral bouquet with juicy flavors of tropical fruit like passionfruit and white pineapple, fresh summer peach, green apple and a twist of Meyer lemon
- 2016 Pinot Noir Los Carneros: Bright red fruit characteristics of pomegranate, bing cherry, cranberry and raspberry with floral tones of violet and rose, balanced with subtle earthy notes of forest herbs, cinnamon and cardamom
- 2015 Pinot Noir Three Amigos Vineyard: Ripe black cherry, strawberry, red plum and raspberry highlight an array of delicious red fruits while violet and rose lend a floral character backed by earthy notes, fennel, pencil lead, sandalwood and cinnamon
- 2015 POV Los Carneros: Deep blackberry and blueberry fruit notes with fresh picked herbs, bramble and forest; balances juicy red and black fruit like Santa Rosa plum, black cherry, black/blueberry, cassis and strawberry jam
Wine flies when you’re having fun. Tastings start at $50/person. Reservations are required.
Best Napa Trip Day 3: Matthiasson
Today’s forecast: 99% chance of wine. We visited three wineries on our first two days in Napa and then two on days 3 and 4. We kicked off day 3 at Matthiasson. Steve and Jill Matthiasson founded Matthiasson in 2003. Their wines are made from grape varietials that are common, such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, and rare, like Ribolla gialla and Refosco. We served Matthiasson Chardonnay at our Banana Brunch and Matthiasson Rosé at our Smile You Have Rosé party.
You had me at Merlot. Our wine tasting included:
- 2020 Chardonnay Linda Vista Vineyard: Golden Delicious apples, yellow peaches, musk melon, and honey on the nose and palate with medium acidity and a hint of minerality
- 2019 White Wine: Blend of 50 % Sauvignon Blanc, 25 % Ribolla Gialla, 20 % Semillon, and 5 % Tocai friulano with clean fresh citrusy acidity, some tropical character, seashell minerality, nuttiness, viscosity, waxiness and spicy aromatic notes
- 2019 Schioppettino: 100% Schioppettino, which means “gunshot, distantly related to Syrah and Pinot noir, flavors of cedar, white and black pepper, violets, and raspberry with lots of acid and stony minerality. It has naturally low alcohol
- 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon: Blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 1 % Petit Verdot, nose shows abundant red fruits, lots of bright cherry along with blackberry, cranberry, mulberry, and hints of minerality, medium tannin and beautiful acidity. Decanting is highly recommended
- 2018 Merlot Red Hen Vineyard: Intense cherry and fresh bay aromas, notes of chocolate, tea and earth, complex fruitiness and savory herbal qualities
I need a glass of wine…or a bottle…or a vineyard in Napa. Tastings are $50/person for 60 to 75 minutes and require reservations.
Best Napa Trip Day 3: Trefethen
It’s a beautiful day for a glass of Chardonnay. We ended Day 3 of the best Napa Trip with a private tasting at Trefethen. Trefethen is a family owned winery founded by Janet & John Trefethen in 1986. The winery was originally built in 1886 by the Eshcol family. At first glance, we have to say this winery is huge, the largest we visited on this trip. It’s 440 vineyard acres and we had quite a drive from the entrance to the tasting room. We toured the barn, the Villa and learned about how they make their wines.
Sip me baby one more time. Our tasting was in the private garden. Think Secret Garden plus wine. It was gorgeous. During our tasting, we sampled:
- 2020 Dry Riesling: Dry, crisp and zesty with beautiful notes of lemon, lime, and spring flowers and fresh aromas of lemongrass, ginger, and white pepper. We think this wine would pair nicely with Indian food
- 2019 Katie’s Acre Chardonnay: Named after the grandmother, who wanted to preserve a giant old walnut tree when the vineyards were first planted in the late 1960s; complex and round with concentrated citrus and tropical fruit flavors, notes of almond, quince, and a distinct salinity
- 2020 S.I.N. Rosé: Summer in Rosé of Pinot Noir, delicate floral notes of cherry blossoms and white roses are layered with fresh red berries, pomegranate, and watermelon
- 2019 Pinot Noir Oak Knoll District: Bright, clean with expressive flavors of cranberry, cherry, and strawberry, delicate notes of rose petal and black tea
- 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon: Rich, deep red garnet color with aromas and flavors of black currant, ripe plum, and blackberry and notes of lavender, cocoa and leather
- 2018 Dragon’s Tooth: Blend of 49% Malbec, 27% Petit Verdot and 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, full bodied with aromas of cherry and blackberry accented with notes of fig, tobacco leaf, and sarsaparilla
- 2016 HāLo Cabernet Sauvignon: Age-worthy wine with aromas of cedar, tar, vanilla and blackberry and flavors of cassis, fresh plum, and a dusting of cocoa powder; we felt special drinking this wine as it had a Coravin
- 2018 Late Harvest Riesling: Rich fragrances of jasmine and ripe apricot with flavors of golden raisins, honey, and crème brûlée
From now on sweet dreams are made of wine tasting in Napa. Tastings start at $40/person and guests choose from four distinct flights—Essentials, Small Lots, All Reds, and our Seasonal Flight. Each flight includes a taste of five different wines.
Best Napa Trip Day 4: Cornerstone
On our last day of wine tasting, we decided to stay in downtown Napa and visit Tasting Rooms at Vista Collina. Eight wineries offer a taste of the Napa Valley. Our first wine tasting was at Cornerstone Cellars. We partnered with Cornerstone for an Ugly Sweater holiday party a few years ago. Their Cabs are fantastic and the first time we truly enjoyed Cabernet Sauvignon (we are mostly Pinot Noir drinkers).
Our tasting included:
- 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Farina Vineyard: California style with tropical fruit, crisp apple and Meyer lemon notes and bright acidity
- 2018 Corallina Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma: Rosé of Pinot Noir that is subtle in color, clean and refreshing, with crisp acidity and juicy watermelon and raspberry flavors
- 2018 Pinot Noir, Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills: Complex medley of ripe fruit aromas of Bing cherry, red currant and blackberry
- 2017 Red Wine, Oakville Station: Blend of 35% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, lively red fruit with a touch of herbs with weight, depth and lushness to the midpalate and a layer of juicy ripe summer fruit flavor
- 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville Station: Aromas of ripe black currant and the sweet characteristics of cherry and cranberry with notes of dried herbs and a hint of black tea
Tastings are $40/person. Reservations are required and availible at 11:00am, 1:00pm, 3:30pm and 5:30pm.
Best Napa Trip Day 5: Trinitas Cellars
We selected the Chocolate Bar flight, which paired Trinitas wine with Chocolate. We hosted a chocolate, cheese and wine pairing and it was delicious, so we were excited to sample the Chocolate Bar Flight. Our wine tasting included:
- 2020 Sauvignon Blanc with Lemon Peel: Bouquet of ripe tropical fruit; notes of guava, honeydew melon, and banana, flavors of ripe cantaloupe and banana, along with sea salt, vanilla, and clove
- 2018 Proprietors’ Reserve Chardonnay with Ginger: Bouquet of white flowers, orange blossom, macadamia nut, ripe lemon, and clove with flavors lemon, tangerine, clove, vanilla, butterscotch, and liquid flowers
- 2017 Zinfandel with Sour Cherry: Intense aromas of ripe strawberry and vanilla wafer with ﬂavors of baked ﬁg, strawberry pie, and Chinese ﬁve spice
- 2014 Pelkan Ranch Cabernet with Almond: Rich notes of cinnamon, anise, molasses, and blackberry jam and hints of clove and just a pinch of black pepper and soft, fine tannin structure
- 2015 Petit Verdot with Pink Peppercorn: Lively scents of blackberry, black cherry, olive tapenade, and juniper with great harmony by balancing acidity and ripe tannins
What a pairing! These chocolate were delicious bites of heaven and paired nicely with the Trinitas wines. Tastings are $40/person and the Chocolate Bar Flight is $65/person. Reservations are required.
We had a fantastic birthday trip and highly recommend this itinerary for you to plant the best Napa trip yourselves. Thanks to all the wineries and Elaine, Darlene and Rachael for celebrating our 40th birthday. We couldn’t ask for a better way to enter a new decade.
Vineyards are basically field trips for adults and your ID is your permission slip.Anonymous