Napa Valley was absolutely perfect. We loved everything about it, from the quaint Old World Inn where we stayed, to the fact that we just so happened to be amongst the vineyards on our one-month anniversary. Better yet, still being on our honeymoon, we received numerous freebies that included extra glasses of reserve sparkling wine and all around free wine tastings. We could have easily stayed for a whole week, bouncing from one vineyard to the next without a care in the world. And we definitely left with a newfound appreciation for how complex the wine making process actually is; the way the winemakers make a grape taste like raspberry, blackcurrant and oak absolutely baffles us. As much as I appreciate Trader Joe’s $3 buck chuck (or $2 buck chuck if you live anywhere other than North Carolina), it was a treat to drink the same sparkling wine that the White House always serves to the Israeli Prime Minister during his visits to D.C.
Here are the vineyards we visited coupled with our personal opinions about them.
St. Clement Vineyard: This was our first stop, and definitely a beautiful place to start our wine tasting experience. The winery is located in a picturesque Victorian house on a garden-covered hilltop. You can choose to sample their wines outside with a great view of the surrounding vineyards.
Beringer: This is the oldest, continually operating winery in Napa Valley, and it is definitely one of the most well known today. For starters, Beringer is huge, and quite a bit more touristy than the family owned vineyards nearby. But the place is definitely well manicured and offers the perfect grounds for a picnic. For those interested in learning while on vacation, you can take a tour of the winery and vineyard or read the displays for a brief history of how Napa Valley took off.
Whitehall Lane: This was one of our favorite stops, probably because of the awesome staff member that treated us like royalty because we were newlyweds. We received quite the extensive sampling, for free, while also obtaining a surplus of advice for our married lives. We noticed the staff treating everyone in the winery with the same hospitality, and they had some of our favorite wines.
Goosecross: There are two main roads that run through Napa: Silverado Trail and Highway 29. The latter road is where you’ll find the big name wines available in any grocery store, such as Beringer. In contrast, Silverado Trail is full of small, family oriented vineyards, and often their wine is only available on site in Napa. Goosecross is the quintessential Mom-and-Pop vineyard, with an awesome staff and great service (and wines). They also have a pretty awesome periodic table of wines, organizing all sorts of grape varieties by acidity and color.
Hagafen: This is where we sampled the “presidential wine.” The tasting was free with our stay at the Old World Inn but all of the wines were very reasonably priced. A flight of 5 wines was $5 here compared to an average of about $20 elsewhere. When the staff realized we were here on our honeymoon, they not only treated us but everyone in the winery to a glass of sparkling wine to celebrate.
Mumms: We love sparkling wine, and since that is exactly what Mumms specializes in, there was no way to avoid this winery. All three samples were absolutely delectable, and we thoroughly enjoyed sipping the bubbles from an air-conditioned tasting room. Even better? The ceiling to floor glass windows that provide stunning views of additional vineyards.
Kenan: This vineyard is down a long, winding, country road, giving it a nice secluded feeling from the rest of the Napa vineyards. There isn’t anywhere to sit outside though, and we couldn’t help but think the staff was a little bit awkward.
Pride: Apparently this vineyard is all the rage. A woman at breakfast repeatedly told the couples around her that Pride has a picnic table in which from one side you can see Sonoma, and the other side all of Napa. After hearing this about six times, we figured it must be worth checking out, especially as it is right down the road from Kenan. Unfortunately Pride closed before we could make it there, so it will have to wait until our next visit to wine country.