Choosing just three out of the over 200 vineyards that occupy Napa Valley can very difficult. Where is the best tasting experience? The best restaurant? The best tour? Because the overall quality of wines among the vineyards located in Napa Valley is outstanding, there are few bad choices. That being said, the following is a personal list of favorites that you might consider during your next tour of California’s most famous wine country.
Domaine Chandon is known for just one very important wine product: sparkling wine! Begin your tour of Napa with a taste of the bubbly at this world famous vineyard. Many years ago, in 1690, Benedictine monk Dom Perignon sought to perfect the method to prepare traditional champagne. The abbey where Dom Perignon worked was ultimately purchased by Moet and Chandon and their prestige cuvee was later named after the monk. Claude Moet later founded the House of Moet in Champagne, France in 1743. The brand sought to expand production to California in 1973 by purchasing farmland in the Napa Valley, where Domaine Chandon now finds its home. The very first French sparkling wine producer in the Napa Valley, Domaine Chandon owns vineyards situated in a number of Napa Valley appellations such as Yountville AVA, Mt. Veeder AVA and Los Carneros AVA and now sells wines made from Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. The Domaine Chandon operates a prestigious restaurant at the winery called “Etoile” which is routinely ranked as a top area restaurant. Wine prices range from the low-twenties per bottle and up.
Cakebread was founded almost 40 years ago by Jack Cakebread, who like many of us, had a distant wish to someday own a vineyard. After Cakebread had visited Napa Valley in the early 1970s to take photographs for a book, events transpired, including family and friend support for the idea, that enabled him and his wife Delores to pursue their dream. Cakebread is now comprised of 982 acres, of which 480 are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Cakebread is known as a family-run, more intimate winery, where you can get a personal tour and learn a lot about the wine making business. Stop by, take a personalized tour of the winery and follow that up with a traditional wine tasting. Particularly well known for their high quality Chardonnays, Cakebread is one of the finest wineries in the Napa Valley, offering an astonishing array of excellent wines and effusive hospitality. Aside from their wines, the Cakebreads are also known for their strong interest in and advocacy for healthy eating, hosting many dinners and seminars on the subject. To visit Cakebread Cellars for a tasting and/or tour, make an appointment. Cakebread is located at 8300 St. Helena Hwy, Route 29, between Oakville and Rutherford on the east side of the highway. Watch for the big black mailbox with the Cakebread name. Wine prices range from mid-twenties per bottle and up.
Established by Bordeaux native Georges de Latour and his wife Fernande in 1900, it is said that Fernande exclaimed “Quel beau lieu!” (translated means “what a beautiful place!”) when she first viewed the vista of land that formed the beginnings of the winery. As a survivor of the period of Prohibition by producing sacramental wine for churches, Beaulieu Vineyard is the third-oldest continuously operating Napa Valley vineyard and is now famous for its Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon but also produces many varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Syrah, Viognier, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Beaulieu’s award-winning wines have maintained a constant presence at White House functions since the days of Franklin Roosevelt. Despite the fact that Beaulieu wines have a world-class reputation, the tasting room at the vineyard is surprisingly modest. When you arrive (no appointment necessary), you will be offered several options for your tasting. Wine prices range from mid-twenties per bottle and up.