If you love wine, great food and nice people then you have to make it out to the Napa Valley. We made it out last year for the first time and you can read about how to plan a trip, all the great places we ate and what wineries we visited in 2022. We enjoyed our time so much we returned in 2023 to tackle some new adventures as well as revisit and stay at some of our favorites.
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Before we get started one thing worth considering before heading to Napa is purchasing a wine suitcase to bring home some of the single bottles you purchase along the way to avoid shipping. We really like ours and everything gets home in one piece. Its also great if taking wine with you on a vacation or to give as a gift. You can fit 12bottles but many expensive wines come in heavy bottles so you may only get 11 bottles in under the weight limit.
For this trip we stayed at the Carneros Resort in the Carneros region and Lavender in Yountville to allow us to explore some of the more southern areas of the Napa Valley. We loved our time at the Carneros resort when we last visited so we felt the need to get back. Also, they were running a great mid-week special that made it much more affordable. Now many may ask why February and not for harvest. Some is timing for us, but more importantly it’s the fact that you have the valley to yourself. Sure, it’s colder and the buds haven’t really started to break yet, but the price is far more affordable, and the tastings are almost completely private. We love wine and getting that extra library taste or two is great, but the best part is the stories and personal attention we get. This makes the trip much more enjoyable and for a couple that is strongly considering starting a winery, very educational.
We flew into San Francisco Airport and grabbed our bags (which by the way were already on the belt when we got there). San Fran is such an efficient and beautiful airport. We hopped the shuttle over to Budget and grabbed our car. We had rented a Tesla but they didn’t have any ready at that moment, so we opted for a red Mustang and hit the road. Not one for worrying about the type of rental car I have, I will say, the roar of the engine cruising down through wine country was quite the treat.
On our way to Carneros we found ourselves hungry and stuck in some construction traffic from a downed electrical pole right in front of Viansa winery. The website said they had a market with Italian sandwiches and as divine providence had it in the cards, who were we not to stop?
Who is this winery for? This would be for those who want Italian style wine made with care and thought. The winery is also a great place to grab a bite.
Viansa was founded in 1990 to create a blend of both the rich culture of Italy and the bounty of the Sonoma Valley. This was a place the founders wanted to make everyone feel welcome with the motto amici di famiglia, or “friends of the family.”
The villa on the top of the hillside is often referred to as the “Summit of Sonoma” for its unmatched panoramic view of the entire Sonoma Valley. You enter the estate down a road winding through olive tree-lined vineyards and a 97-acre wetland preserve and are immediately struck by the beauty of the villa and the vista. Viansa is now being run by the fourth generation of the Sebastiani family in Sonoma continuing the family affair this vineyard has always been.
Upon arriving, we climbed the last few stairs to the villa and were immediately struck by the beautiful views. It truly is reminiscent of Italian villas overlooking ancient vineyard. The market is open and airy with excellent food. We had an Italian sandwich and some roasted red pepper orzo salad. The sandwich was masterfully put together with the best ingredients and paired perfectly with our tastings. We left with a bottle of the Terra Cabernet which at 35 dollars was a great steal and a bottle of their Estate pinot noir. It is not your average pinot, with bold flavors but maintaining the silky approachability of pinot. They blend 3 clones to perfection to create this special addition to my pinot repertoire. We are not big pinot drinkers, but this was a must buy, and at 50 dollars was another relative bargain in the Napa area.
Full from lunch and great conversation with the tasting staff we headed the last 10 miles to Carneros Resort.
The Carneros Resort is a full-service resort with a spa that offers many treatments and experiences in the serene setting of the Napa countryside. It was voted Best Spa in Napa by Organic Spa. It also has a fabulous country store with lots of wine, beverages, and bites, so guests can stock up for a picnic, purchase snacks for their room, or grab a quick meal before you head out for a day of sightseeing. If you want to know more about this resort see our earlier post.
After a little rest in the room it was off to our first planned tasting at Etude winery.
Who is this winery for? This would be for those who are interested in a small lot, small production winery that makes pinots like no other, with numerous clones and a vast breadth of wine making experience.
Etude is right down the street from the Carneros resort and was established in 1982 by Tony Soter who set his sights on making world renowned Pinot Noir in the cooler climate found in the Carneros region.
As a winemaker, Tony felt “Pinot Noir is the most appropriate vehicle with which to study wine growing, precisely because of its demanding nature but also because of its delicacy and transparency. Make no mistake it is a humbling pursuit, but when it’s right, Pinot Noir is a glorious and moving thing. It is in the pursuit of that experience that we all work.” In this endeavor Tony was successful. He sold the winery name and land to Berringer Blass in 2001 but remained part of the team for several years after. He still owns a vineyard in Oregon. Though they source grapes from many regions, one of the keys to their pinot noirs is the development of nearby Grace Benoist Ranch in 2000. On the ranch are seven Chardonnay clones, nine Heirloom Pinot Noir clones, and eight additional Pinot clones, all divided into 24 individual vineyard blocks, each with its own soil type, rootstock, grape variety and clonal type.
Etude is also focused on sustainability and is committed to a holistic winegrowing approach respecting the native ecosystems and to reduce their environmental impact. This shows through in their approach to wine making, tasting, and land management. Our tasting at Etude was extremely enjoyable and another opportunity to explore pinot noir, a grape we didn’t have as much appreciation for. If the first day is any representation of the days to come, we will grow to appreciate this grape much more. We were lucky to be able to taste in the Heirloom room. We had several pinot noirs from different years, clones, and microclimates on Grace Benoist Ranch and also some cabernets from different years to compare and contrast the flavors and wines over the years. The tasting was also accompanied by a cheese and meat selection that certainly complemented the tasting. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable. That is one thing that we have learned over the years — few people work in the wine industry without significant investment in wine and often loyalty to the winery they work for. It was enough for us to add Etude to our growing list of wine club memberships.
After the tasting we headed back to the resort stopping on the patio outside Farm for some truffle fries, a few glasses of water and a pepperoni flatbread as we watched the sun set over the vineyards. Full, and a bit tired, it was back to the room for a shower and off to bed early after a long day of travel, great food and tasting.
We awoke the next day bright and early for our hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley. We used Balloons Above the Valley and will write about the experience in another post. It was amazing and something on the wife’s bucket list so I am glad this time we didn’t get cancelled. Side note: This is the 4th time we have tried to hot air balloon (back home in PA, Colorado, twice in Napa) and the first time we were successful. It has thus forth been too hot, too cold, too windy, too calm but the 4th time was a charm and what a great experience it was. The Balloons Above the Valley company has a ton of experience, and our pilot Carl (Commander Hard Lander) was not only a great pilot but also so knowledgeable.
After the hot air balloon flight we headed up to Palmaz winery for an amazing experience and to learn about a different balloon procedure near and dear to the founder of Palmaz.
Who is this winery for? This would be anyone who loves great wine made in a thoughtful way.
The Palmaz winery is unique and cutting-edge, but that’s no surprise when you learn how it was started. The winery was the vision of Julio Palmaz who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His wife’s father passed away during an attempted quadruple bypass procedure when he was a medical student. Seeing how invasive this procedure was, Julio endeavored to find a “better” way to deal with vessel narrowing and obstruction in the arteries of the heart. Julio invented the Palmaz Coronary Stent, the first balloon inflatable heart stent and as most people know, this went on to change the care of heart attack and angina patients across the globe.
Julio completed his residency at UC Davis and this is where his, along with his wife’s love of wine began as they drove through Napa visiting wineries and dreaming of owning their own one day. As an innovator, Julio decided to embark on a cutting-edge winery but one that respected old world techniques. This resulted in an 18-story cavern in the flank of Mount George, providing it with plenty of gravity power to make the wine without pumps and the temperature control of a wine cave environment.
The control center, or heart of the winery, is a fermentation dome area with 24 fermentation tanks on a track and amongst the most sophisticated monitoring systems of any winery I have ever seen allowing such precise control of temperature, fermentation, and pump overs all displayed on the roof of the dome for the wine makers to see. You have to see it to believe it.
Harkening back to their Argentinian roots the Palmaz family, who almost all live on the vineyard property, also own a cattle ranch where they raise entirely grass-fed wagyu beef. As a Brasas Ranch member you will receive extraordinary 100% grass-fed prime wagyu from the historic Genesee Valley Ranch. Florencia Palmaz and a team of master butchers work together to portion their extraordinary beef using inspiration from the great American steakhouses, Latin American asados, European fine dining, and traditional Japanese cuisine.
All I can say is this is a must do for anyone in the Napa area. About 10 minutes outside of Napa the views are amazing but the way the winery is built into the mountain and how all the stone removed for the cave was used to create the terraces and balconies and external structure is truly inspiring. The Palmaz family has spent an enormous amount of time and money creating what can only be described as a family affair. Almost every major executive position is led by a member of the family including the software coding for the wine control in the dome.
The tasting experience was so custom as we walked around the many levels of the winery, from the top level with an excellent Riesling to the balcony above the dome where all the crushing occurs, to the wine caves. I was in awe. They also collect all the water used, recycle it, and store it in a 3 city block long tank for use in watering the crops. They are a net zero water winery which is still hard to believe. They are the only one in the world to my knowledge. The most amazing part is that despite all the innovation, the winemaking is still done in a traditional, respectful, and thoughtful fashion.
After our tour we went into a private room for some wine tasting paired with some of the most amazing small bites. All tastings are private and ours was led by a very knowledgeable staff member. The vineyard is also unique as the property is on the side of a mountain where some blocks are on the valley floor and others at 1400 feet of elevation. Each block is treated uniquely, and the wine from the mountaintop certainly has a different flavor profile from that on the valley floor. I’ll admit, as good as the wine was, we decided to get the beef package as it was such a unique opportunity. As our tasting wrapped up, we grabbed an Uber back to the hotel to get ready for our next adventure, The French Laundry.
We were lucky enough to get off the wait list for this culinary experience. I will write more about this in our “Non-vineyard things to do in Napa Valley” post, but let’s just say if you love food and can afford to do it, the experience is well worth it. Do, however, come with a big appetite as it’s a 12-course tasting menu and many portions are not that small.
Full from dinner and tired from another long day we hit the hay early to rest up for another day of exploring the Carneros region.
We awoke bright and early to watch the sunrise over the mountains and after a cup of tea in the room headed to the Boon Fly Café for some breakfast. I had a breakfast burrito the size of your head and the wife had some eggs, bacon, and toast — and of course the donuts. This is a great spot for breakfast or lunch if you are in the area even if not staying at Carneros Resort.
It was then off to our first tasting of the day right down the road at Cuvaison.
Who is this winery for? This would be for those who love pinot and chardonnay as well as those who value an interactive and pleasant hosting experience.
Cuvaison is one of the pioneering wineries that helped shape the modern era of Napa Valley winemaking. Founded in 1969 it was purchased by the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland in 1979. The story goes that the grandmother took some soil back from what is now a 400 acre plot of land in Carneros to get tested. She was on a bus trip and made them stop to collect soil in her handkerchief. Upon arriving in Switzerland the soil was shown to be excellent for growing grapes and what is now an amazing estate was born. They are now a fourth-generation wine family still operating as an independent, family-owned winery.
The growing region of Carneros is perfect for growing chardonnay and pinot noir and this is what they grow almost exclusively on the property. In 2012, Cuvaison was honored by Wine & Spirits as one of the “Top 100 Wineries on the World” and has had a top 100 wine in the world as well.
Our tasting experience here was perfect. The mustard was growing, and the sheep were eating. The views are amazing, but the staff set this apart. Let me take a moment to reveal what I think is the greatest asset a winery can have. That is an amazing, dedicated and knowledgeable tasting staff. This will come up again later in the day. Great wine is important to any tasting experience but who is leading you on the journey affects your experience more than the wine itself. Good wine with great people is amazing, but great wine with boring or snobby people isn’t great at all. Cuvaison has great wine and great people making it another must do for the wine drinker.
I know it will be a good tasting when the host starts by finding out about us and asking what we drink, why we are here, assessing our likes and planning the tasting. It also shows they want to educate you but don’t want to talk too basic or even worse over your head. Wine can be approachable for everyone but not all wineries get that, and some don’t want you too. We aren’t big pinot or chardonnay drinkers, but these wines are amazing and done very well. The staff who weren’t our hosts were also friendly and shared stories of their experience with the wines and also wine in general. It added what we needed to add another wine club to our lives. That’s number 2 on this trip and it’s only day 3.
After a wonderful tasting we headed out to Artesa to continue our journey around Carneros.
Who is this winery for? This would be for those who are there for the views over the wine and those who appreciate mediocre Spanish style wine.
Artesa was founded over 25 years ago by one of Spain’s oldest winemaking families, Raventós Codorníu, with roots dating back to 1551. The initial mission was to make great sparkling wines but as it became more well known for still wines, the name was changed from Codorníu Napa to Artesa in 1998. The Artesa Estate Vineyard is set in the steep foothills that straddle the Los Carneros and Mount Veeder AVAs. The 150-acre vineyard is planted along five distinct ridges, with a variety of slopes and soils. Most of the vineyard is dedicated to pinot noir but they also have a fair bit planted to chardonnay. The Artesa Estate Vineyard is farmed sustainably and is truly beautiful.
We arrived a little early and were left standing for 10 minutes while the staff was preparing for what we learned was a private event later in the day. After finally being seated on the patio. we began to take in some views as we sipped on some sparkling. We started with one host while our actual host grabbed some lunch. The tasting was the absolute opposite of Cuvaison. Here we were underwhelmed by the wine and the service. It is ok but not up to the standard one would expect for the price or for Napa in general. The service in comparison to all the wineries I have visited was awful. We went long periods of time without wine (and water) and got very little education on the wines besides a short, canned speech about the family. As the tasting plodded along our original host came back and spent a little more time with us. I was hoping this would be a welcome change, as he promised to tailor our tasting a bit and give us some info on the wines. He, however, not only didn’t tailor the taste but skipped a pinot and brought a cab franc instead of the cabernet sauvignon. Not feeling the love and not liking the wine caused us to pay and leave to head home. This is the first winery in the 20 we have visited over the past 2 years that we didn’t at least leave with a bottle. Perhaps we just had a bad experience on a bad day, but I don’t think so. We mentioned it to many folks along the trip and no one acted surprised. I think this winery is riding their roots, the beauty of the area and making inferior wine compared to the surrounding wineries. They clearly prioritize private lucrative parties over the everyday wine drinker. That is their privilege but I cannot in good conscience recommend spending money at this winery when so many better places exist.
After Artesa we headed back to the resort where we spent some time at the pool enjoying the beautiful views as the sun set. After the sunset we headed to the patio to grab some potatoes tostones and short rib croquettes before heading back to the room for some much needed shut eye.
We awoke to another beautiful sunrise and grabbed our usual at the Boon Fly Café before heading out to our first tasting at one of our favorites, Clos Du Val.
Clos Du Val
Who is this winery for? This winery will be enjoyed by those who appreciate cabernet and want more about the history of wine in the Napa Valley region.
Clos du Val was started in the early 1970’s as a collaboration between John and Henrietta Goelet, along with winemaker Bernard Portet. Bernard was asked to find the Goelets the best place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon in the world. He settled on an area in the heart of the Stag’s Leap district which was a bold choice for the French family at the time as this was prior to the Paris Judgment. Clos du Val has seen three generations of Goelet family ownership and is now held by John and Henrietta’s six grandchildren. Clos du Val currently farms over 225 acres of estate vineyards located in the Stag’s Leap District and Yountville AVAs within the Napa Valley. Clos du Val is also the winery that won the second Paris Judgment in 1986. Portet was made a genius by history and great choices putting the winery and many in the Stag’s Leap area firmly at the center of the wine universe.
Our return trip to this winery was greeted by a familiar sparkling (the 50th anniversary) which we, as part of the wine club, had drank to ring in the new year. Our host Nikko noted that as club members we likely had drank everything in the new release and so he created a customized tasting allowing us to compare and contrast some library wines as well as older vintages to see how the wines change over a 5 year period. We also had a taste of the 1983 Cabernet Sauvignon which was excellent. Nikko sat and discussed his journey in wine, our likes and dislikes and learned about our interests in wine. This made for a personal and intimate experience that was also very educational for people interested in being part of the wine industry someday. We love Clos Du Val wine and would recommend this for anyone interested in great wine without any pretense or haughtiness. This is a wine experience for the beginner and seasoned wine drinker.
After our wine tasting concluded we drove back to check in at our B&B, Lavender, and grab a quick bite in town. Wanting something quick and not being overly hungry we stopped at the market for a slice of pizza. We love the quaint and approachable feel of Yountville and feel it’s a perfect place to stage a wine visit if one is only staying one place. Home to great food, great lodging and small enough to walk the whole thing in 15 minutes, it’s perfect.
We then hopped in our Uber for the ride up to Shafer Vineyards on a beautiful sunny day.
Who is this winery for? This winery will be enjoyed by those who appreciate high end Cabernet and want to experience what few do in life — a private tasting in a historic wine region surrounded by absolute beauty.
Shafer is on land that has been the site of grape growing and winemaking since 1880. John Shafer purchased the site in 1972 and spent the first 3-4 years planting the estate to Cabernet Sauvignon before transitioning in 1978 to full-scale winemaking the year of the winery’s first Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1984, Elias Fernandez joined the winery, initially as assistant winemaker and eventually becoming the head winemaker in 1994. In 2002, Elias was named Food & Wine’s “Winemaker of the Year” and in 2003 was fêted at the White House as a leader in the Latino community. Elias Fernandez is on his 40th harvest at the property and this time and dedication shows through in the wines he makes. Shafer Vineyards is known as one of Napa Valley’s most celebrated historic wineries, year after year producing wines that create delicious, memorable moments wherever they are poured around the world.
Our visit to Shafer started with some amazing views and a walk around the vineyard while holding a wonderfully balanced Chardonnay. The property is beyond explanation as without any extra effort as the estate pulls you in. Its location above the valley with two different valley views makes you feel like you are in paradise. After taking in the views and some sunshine we headed inside to taste some reds. We started with the T9 named after the tractor John Shafer rebuilt to plant the original fields. It was very good but just a prelude for what was to follow. We sat and munched on some sides and compared the wines while Ilse, our amazing host, explained the history of what we were drinking and shared her own path in life that brought her to wine and finally to the Shafer Vineyard. Ethan, another host from our area, came out and spent time speaking with us about his journey as well. Finally. near the end of the tasting, we got to meet Elias who talked with us for a few minutes about his journey and took a photo with us. We left with a bottle of the T9, Relentless, and a bottle of the Hillside Select.
After finishing our tasting at Shafer we headed down the hill to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Who is this winery for? This winery will be enjoyed by those who want to visit the winery that changed the wine scene forever with the Judgment of Paris win in 1976 and experience some amazing wine but don’t mind the commercialization and smooth sales job the hosts employ.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is most notably known for being the winery that won the Cabernet Sauvignon competition in the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris. It was founded in 1970 by Nathan Fay, with the first planting of Cabernet Sauvignon in what later became the Stag’s Leap District. The property now owns two vineyards next to each other (the Fay Vineyard and The Stag’s Leap Vineyard) They have two completely different soil types that impact the taste of the cabernet. The Fay Vineyard has eluvial soil that traps and holds water leading to more smooth notes and the SLV has a volcanic rock-based soil that allows better drainage and stresses the grapes more creating bigger bolder notes in the final wine. The winery now makes a blend of the best barrels from the SLV and Fay vineyards to create Cask 23 their premium vintage along the lines of Opus One, Hirondelle Vineyard from Clos Du Val and Hillside Select from Shafer.
Our tasting at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar was interesting from the aspect of history and the wine was very good. It was, however, the most commercial and rushed tasting so far this trip. The wine host was nice and imparted some knowledge about the wine and the history of the vineyard, but he had several other tables, and the tasting was cookie cutter, unlike many other high-end wineries we have visited. This may be what it’s like many places during harvest time, but this is why we go out in February. This winery is worth a visit but be prepared to be herded through like cattle and treated as though you are lucky to be there. Sure, they won the first Paris decision, but Clos Du Val won the second, and the customer experience at the two spots that are located a mere mile away from each other, couldn’t have been different. We bought a bottle of the Fay and 60 minutes after it started were on our way out the door.
We then checked into Lavender for a good night’s rest before our last day in Napa. Lavender has a wine + cheese hour each afternoon that was a perfect way to unwind at the end of the day. They also have freshly baked cookies out all day and a full breakfast for two, every morning. At 300-400 dollars a night in midweek off season and up to 900 dollars on weekend nights in harvest, it’s a great deal for Napa.
Who is this winery for? This winery will be enjoyed by those who want to visit a winery known for spectacular wines that sits far above it all and that is built with the natural landscape and sustainability in mind.
Chappellet Winery was founded by Molly and Donn Chappellet in 1967. Donn Chappellet felt Pritchard Hill was the perfect place to make a red wine rivaling those coming from France at the time. Chappellett established the second new winery in Pritchard Hill after the repeal of Prohibition and became the 18th registered member of the Napa Valley Vintners.
Built in 1968, the Chappellet winery takes on the form of an ancient pyramid. It was designed by artist Ed Moses and is meant to blend with the surroundings on Pritchard Hill complete with allowing the metal roof to rust to further mimic the color of the surrounding rock and soil. In 2012 they create a new state-of-the-art barrel chai to further allow for superior aging and wine production resulting in several 100-point wines since its creation.
As Chappellet’s winemaker for over three decades, Phillip Corallo-Titus (starting in 1981 as an assistant and returning in 1990 as the full-time winemaker) has guided the winery and the creation of amazing award-winning wines with the Pritchard Hill release being the pinnacle each year. Phillip studied agronomy, viticulture and enology at the University of California Davis as well as the great wines of the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions. Combining the long tenures of Philip and Pirio, the vineyard manager for over 40 years, Chappellet has the stability to be amongst the finest producers of wine in the area.
Our visit to Chappellet started with a long drive past the lake and up into the hills on a winding road. The view as you exit the car is that of the natural surroundings with just a hint that a winery lays in the hills. It is masterfully done and makes you feel as though you are entering a hidden estate. The building where the tastings is done is the original barrel storage area that is still used and where most of the fermentation still occurs today. There are many alcoves with rugs and couches where private tastings are done throughout the building. Our tasting started with an interesting chardonnay, as many tastings do, before a trip out to walk around the vineyards. The host was knowledgeable and interactive explaining why they still grow chenin blanc (it’s Molly Capellett’s favorite and she vetoed Donn tearing it all out in favor of the more lucrative Cabernet Sauvignon) and what makes Pritchard Hill so fabulous for growing grapes (the soil of course, as well as the higher altitudes and steep slope allowing slower ripening, a longer growing season and a later harvest, which creates a dime sized concentrated grape as opposed to the more normal quarter sized grape). After the tour around the vineyard (which is becoming rare on tastings these days) we sat down inside to dig into some more wines. Here, Honig and Shafer were the only times we got to explore the actual vineyards and it really enhances the experience. We had several cabernets including the Pritchard Hill as well as a very tasty Pinot Noir. All in all, a beautiful winery with beautiful views and wines that were very approachable by both the measure of price and taste.
We then headed back down the hill and into Yountville enjoying the views along the way. We headed into town for a bite to eat at La Calendra which has some of the best tacos I have ever had. Filled back up on some amazing food we headed out to Nickel and Nickel for our next tasting.
Nickel and Nickel
Who is this winery for? Nickel and Nickel is for those who love Cabernet and have extremely sensitive palates that are up for the challenge of distinguishing the very subtle note of cinnamon versus nutmeg caused by subtle differences in sunshine and water drainage of one block versus another. Also, for one who wants an excellent wine in the Oakville area but doesn’t want to spend the extra money for Far Niente or Opus One.
Nickel & Nickel winery is located in Oakville, Napa Valley and produces 100 percent varietal, single-vineyard wines. All told they had 17 cabernets on the menu. It was established by the partners of Far Niente in 1997 to focus on making unique single vineyard wines. Besides the Cabernet Sauvignon they also make Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah. They source their fruit from many different areas of the Valley. It has several old buildings that have been painstakingly remodeled which they use for tasting as well as production. They also have several horses who they have rescued over the years.
Our tasting was in the barn out back and consisted of several cabernets and ended with the Dolce produced by another partner winery. All the wines were very good and the host was knowledgeable. The tasting was, however, short and included no tour or other inspection of the vineyard or winery. It was a bit impersonal and mostly not memorable. The pours were small and though that was just perfect for us with another tasting still to do, it’s something to make note of for those looking for a longer, fuller experience. The wines, though subtly different with some different notes and complexities, were not different enough in my opinion to warrant 17 different wines. They were, however, quite good and the price point was appropriate for the quality especially compared to the cost of Far Niente and Opus One in the area.
We left with a few bottles of Air Show and Quicksilver and headed back to the hotel to grab an Uber to our last tasting of the vacation at Honig. On our way we stopped at the Welcome to Napa sign for a quick pic.
Who is this winery for? Honig vineyard is for those who love well-balanced, affordably priced wines in a classic setting without pretention. This is one of our favorites as there is a little something for almost everyone here.
Honig is one of our favorite wines and we were excited to return. Honig is the German word for honey and between having bees on the vineyard and in the middle of the H in the logo, the theme of sustainability and reverence for the founder Louis is evident.
Louis Honig purchased the Rutherford Vineyard (where we tasted) in 1964 as a retirement plan, but the winery didn’t start producing wine there until 1980 after his unfortunate death, so he was never able to see his dream realized. Up until then they sold exceptional fruit to other wineries. After those wineries turned out many award-winning wines, they decided to produce some wine of their own. As one would expect, their wine was also award winning in the first vintages. In 1984, his grandson, Michael, took over management of the vineyard and winery, and along with several family members and a small staff turned it into a successful and socially responsible business.
Our visit started with some discussion of the current vintages we had received in the wine club and from there our host designed a tasting to highlight wines we may have storing at home so we could decide if we wanted to open them soon as well. We also tasted older and more rare vintages so we could get a feel for the breadth and scope of different vineyards in different years. After tasting a few wines, we took a walk out into the vineyard where we spoke about our host’s experience in the wine industry, the new happenings at the winery and finally ended on a porch overlooking the vineyards as the sun was dipping lower. What a wonderful way to end our tasting and our vacation standing watching the sunset and enjoying a wine that we really enjoy.
That last moment epitomized why we love wine and why we have fallen in love with the Napa Valley. Those special moments spent in nature with ones we love enjoying a shared experience. Napa may be full of farmers with Rolexes but at the end of the day it’s about the grapes, the land, and this unique valley.
Where did we personally like the most from this stay you may ask? I’ll answer this a few ways:Our Favorite Vineyard (vista, story, etc.)- CuvaisonOur Favorite Wine (simply the taste)- ShaferBest Bang for the Buck (best wine taking cost into consideration)- Honig
Where would we maybe not visit again?
- Artesa- as we wrote above we were underwhelmed by the wine and dissapointed with the service
- Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars- Been there, done that. It was nice to see the winery that started the revolution in Napa but it felt commercial and impersonal so no need to visit again. Also though the wine was great it wasnt great enough to make us want to return for a tasting.
Where would we go again we visit?
- Clos du Val
Will we go to Napa again? Absolutely! In fact we are already starting to think about when we can get back and it might be this year.
Please read our other posts on how to plan a trip to Napa and the other wineries and places we have stayed and let us know what you think by leaving a comment, liking the post or following the blog.
7 thoughts on “Napa Valley Wine Tasting 2023”
I enjoyed reading about your previous visits to the Napa Valley and this one was no exception. So much variety on offer. Love the idea of going off-season, how great to stand a good chance of having private tastings. We managed to grow grapes and make a half-decent rosé this year in our little suburban garden so are fascinated by the educational aspects of the trip as well. It’s great to learn about the passion of the winemakers in each vineyard. Etude looked particularly interesting. And a hot air balloon ride as well!
Making your own wine from your own grapes. That’s awesome. It’s a great time for sure and I feel like everyone is just so happy and passionate there.
You had me at wine! I love your Napa coverage and this was no different. I always get great tips (especially in lodging!) I appreciate the honest reviews – Napa is spendy and who wants to invest in a stop that is not up to par. Super jealous of French Laundry AND the hot air balloon ride. Similarly, I have been canceled on 3 times and have yet to go up in one. Napa would be spectacular, I’m looking forward to reading those posts.
Napa sets such high standards that when you find one that doesn’t measure up it stands out. The balloon ride was amazing and the photos just don’t do it justice. Hope you get up in a hot air balloon soon.
How cool you guys returned to Napa Valley, what an endorsement. I remember reading about your first visit. I also like the idea of a wine suitcase. Chappellet sounds like a very interesting vineyard to visit.
I think it’s such an interesting place as it hasn’t change much besides the price of land and quality of wine since the 1960s. Not many places in the us left like that especially along the coast.
Yes, indeed. I like me a bit of history. Almost feels like time travel.