Touring Napa Valley's Wineries
With so many choices where do you start?
By Daniel Sogg, Wine Spectator magazine http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Free/Newsletter_Tip_Main/1,3963,19_1,00.html
How to choose? That's the dilemma. Napa Valley contains well over 200 wineries, and most welcome guests with tours and tasting rooms. While enticing, the wealth of options can be overwhelming for all but the savviest of insiders.
Wine Spectator has eliminated the guesswork. We've focused on producers that offer something distinctive, such as a noteworthy history or spectacular vistas, in addition to the most important element, an entertaining, informative experience. This list just scratches the surface. Napa has dozens of other properties worth visiting, such as Clos Pegase and Hess, which have superior art collections, and Pride, with views from the top of Spring Mountain. But the following 10 estates are some of our favorites and represent an excellent reference point.
As a general rule, larger wineries, such as Mondavi, Niebaum-Coppola and Beringer, have longer hours, with regularly scheduled tours and more tasting and educational facilities. Smaller estates often receive guests by appointment only, because there's a good chance the tour guide is also an owner with work to do around the cellar. Certainly, both small and large estates can present a memorable experience. Always be sure to call ahead (and visit winery Web sites) to determine what's available and when, because hours and options change seasonally and even from day to day. And because county zoning restrictions forbid picnicking at all but a few Napa estates, it's wise to confirm before packing a basket.
At each of these properties expect affable staffs that are passionate about wine and know their stuff. Most vintners charge a fee for the tour or tasting. But given the depth of information conveyed and the quality and variety of wines poured, visits to these properties are among wine country's great bargains. ( Collapse )
[Visit Winespectator.com/travel for more on accommodations, restaurants and wineries in Napa Valley.]