Is Napa Valley what you naturally think of when you want a bottle of good wine? Maybe it’s where you’d like to go to soak up the last bit of summer. September is the perfect month to visit Napa and Sonoma to experience for yourself harvest season! There’s a rush of excitement in the air and winemakers all over are saying “It’s finally time!” September is usually when the grapes are harvested and sometimes even through October. Grapes for sparkling wines are picked first and crushed then comes the white varieties, and lastly the reds. You can join the wine stomping party or if that’s too messy for you, join a guided tour to learn more about the stages of your favorite (maybe soon to be favorite) wines.
Which Wineries to Visit?
Now that we’ve cleared up when my favorite time to visit Napa is, I can finally talk about my favorite places! There’s literally hundreds of wineries and vineyards in Napa and more if you include Sonoma and they are all oh-so different. One thing I did before I visited was to have an idea of which kind of wines I liked and looked up wineries that are known for those types. For example, I love Cabernet Sauvignons so I looked up many of wineries and old vintages that were known in the recent years for making this particular red. We had a budget so that also played a big role in which wineries to choose. I didn’t want to fall in love with a wine that I wouldn’t be able to afford to purchase! Makes sense right? If you are just starting out or don’t have the slightest idea, or just want to branch out, having a couple of different wineries in mind that are known to produce the best of different varieties is the best option for you. Don’t be too strict on the whole Napa vs. Sonoma ordeal. Many vineyards actually lie in both regions! For our trip, we chose a couple of wineries within Napa mostly with different things to offer.
A Couple of the Wineries I Visited:
Pride Mountain Vineyards: has one of the most picturesque vineyards I’ve seen and the best red wines
V.Sattui Winery: a great place for a picnic
Domaine Carneros: a great choice for Sparkling lovers
Frog’s Leap Winery: an awesome “green” winery and garden producing organic wines & produce
Castello Di Amorosa: a beautiful 13th century inspired Tuscan castle surrounded by vineyards
Other Popular Wineries in Napa & Sonoma:
Ledson Winery & Vineyards
And so much more!!
Wine Tastings vs. Wine Tours
I had no idea what the difference was before I went so I had to do some research as some wineries offered both at different prices and some you’ll have to reserve. Basically, wine tastings is exactly what it sounds like. It’s just an opportunity to sample a range of wines. You can order 1 order of wine tasting and share between 2 people if you wish, which is especially helpful when someone has to drive right? The tasting we ordered at Domaine Carneros in my opinion would’ve been too much for 1 person. It was 4 full glasses of wine! Now that’s a lot if you’ve been frequenting a few wineries already. There is no shame in doing so and I would hate it more to waste good wine.
Wine tours are usually more pricey as you get a complete tour of the winery, the whole process of wine making and tastings of each wine along the way. I like to think of it as a tasting and tour in one! This is personally my favorite way of seeing Napa and the wineries. Each place has its unique method of producing the wine and you can learn how these little differences can play a huge role in the end product.
Just Some of My Favorite Tips For Visiting Napa/Sonoma
- Don’t go on an empty stomach. You’ll be drinking a little if not a lot so bring some snacks with you. That way you can enjoy your favorite wines for longer.
- If you don’t want to pack along some food, V.Sattui makes for a perfect mid stop because they have an amazing shop there that sells amazing food, drinks and snacks. Take the food you bought outside to enjoy a nice shaded picnic and wait for train to come by.
- Book your reservations for wine tours and tastings ahead of time. A lot of these wineries do book up fast during harvest season. The best way to secure your spot is to call/email them to reserve.
- Have an itinerary, plan your day out with ample time in between tasting and tour reservations so you’re able to get there on time.
- Have a designated driver, or someone reliable to safely drive back home. Remember that you can always just share a tasting. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, your friends or whoever, you can always hire a driver so everyone can have fun! Here is a link and here also another.
- Some wineries will waive the cost of your tour if you buy a bottle of their wine. It’s a win-win situation! Why not buy a bottle if the tour already costs ~$50?
Since you’re already in California, take a trip to the neighboring states. Arizona is one of my favorites! For ideas of places to go for nearby road trip check out this guide: