Leave your DD at home and explore the best wine Napa Valley has to offer—on foot. These six wine districts promise plenty of tastings, DUIs excluded.
The Oxbow District
(Courtesy of Napa Wine Project)
Just over the First Street Bridge in downtown Napa, a new wine-and-food hub has blossomed up around the popular one-stop-shop, the Oxbow Public Market.
Designed to look and feel like your living room, Cru @ the Annex (1046 McKinstry St., Napa) has all the ingredients for a cozy night in: couches, an outdoor fire pit, blankets, a giant video wall displaying local art—no Netflix, sorry—and popcorn. The Essentials Tasting Flight ($29) pairs three Cru wines with elevated popcorn flavors such as Meyer lemon thyme, truffle parmesan, and mocha caramel.
Krupp Brothers (714 First St., Napa) is the product of two siblings famous for developing Napa's largest vineyards, Stagecoach. The space may be simple, but we promise the wines are anything but.
Dressed to party, an aptly named "Castro Ken" Barbie doll greets you next door to Krupp at the super chill, no frills Mark Herold Wines (701 First St., Napa) tasting bar. Order the "Day Drinkers" flight for a taste of something different in Napa,—a collection of Spanish and Rhone varietals.
Wine Thief (708 First St., Napa), next to Mark Herold, showcases the hard work of eight passionate, boutique vintners that you've likely never heard of—but don't let that stop you from sampling these stellar wines. With dozens to choose from, order up one of their standard flights, or curate your own.
Live music, open mic nights, blending sessions, and barrel tastings—which you won't find elsewhere in downtown Napa—are on tap at Uncorked at Oxbow (605 First St., Napa). Sample wines from two brands, both crafted by consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs: Ahnfeldt and Italian-style Carducci Wines.
Downtown Napa is in the middle of an exciting renaissance, with new tasting rooms popping up every week. Here are five of our favorites.
The super luxe Acumen (1315 First St., Napa) tasting salon features a rotating art gallery, barrel samples on tap, and recycled furniture pieces. Our faves: a bar repurposed from a fallen vineyard oak tree, and chandeliers crafted from steel tank heads. The wines are just as refined, sourced from one of Napa Valley's most prized and under-the-radar mountainous regions, Atlas Peak.
Two-time BottleRock Napa sponsor Jam Cellars (1460 1st St., Napa) makes easy-drinking, festival-friendly wines cleverly named Butter (chardonnay), Jam (cabernet), and Toast (sparkling), all priced under $25. The tasting room's extensive vinyl collection and floor-to-ceiling walls plastered with vintage Rolling Stone pages serve as the perfect backdrop for weekly Thursday and Friday night jam sessions with local artists.
Due to its off-the-beaten-path location, Brown Estate's killer zinfandels were out of reach for most visitors, until now. Snagging a prime spot in downtown Napa, Brown (1005 Coombs St., Napa) just opened a new tasting room on the second floor of a historic building built in 1905. Despite significant damage in the 2014 Napa earthquake, they managed to preserve much of its original brick, which contributes to this loft's cool, members-only vibe.
A complete 180 from their super casual, first tasting room near the Oxbow Public Market, Mark Herold Wine's Reserve Room (926 Franklin St., Napa) properly reflects the premium cabernet they pour: clean, elegant, and elevated. Walk-ins are welcome, but you may want to reserve ahead the Chef's Tasting ($75), a wine-and-food pairing with bites made by local chef of Miminashi, Curtis Di Fede.
The brand new Amuse Bouche (1130 Main St., Napa) tasting room has all the goods—pricey, limited-edition juice from some of Napa Valley's top winemakers, such as Heidi Barrett. This is your chance to sample exceptional wine from four brands that are almost impossible to get your hands on—by appointment only, of course.
(Scott Chebegia photo)
Every tasting room in downtown Yountville is required to dedicate a percentage of space to retail, which means you can shop for art, decor, furniture, and more while you sip. Then stick around for dinner at one of Napa Valley's finest establishments, like the French Laundry, Bouchon or Bottega.
Shamelessly dripping in gold and crystal, the JCB Tasting Salon (6505 Washington St., Yountville) offers sensory overload. Choose from three tasting flights and hide your wallet as you admire their luxe collection of JCB jewelry, perfumes, and candles, eclectic coffee table books, and Baccarat fine crystal. Then snack on fine caviar, meats, cheeses, and other delights right next door at Atelier, JCB Collection's new epicurean boutique.
If the impeccably designed and furnished home that houses boutique Silver Trident Winery (6495 Washington St., Yountville) looks straight out of a Ralph Lauren catalogue, it's because it is. Everything from the candles to the furniture is from the Ralph Lauren Home collection and for sale. However, simply window shopping is just fine as you leisurely sip through four wines paired with mini curated bites.
With selections from roughly 20 local vintners on the menu at Ma(i)sonry (6711 Washington St., Yountville), a wine consultant will help you curate a customized tasting lineup based off your preferences. Acting as both tasting room and art gallery, sip inside or out, while browsing sculptures, paintings, and more from 100 different artists.
Tall, vaulted ceilings, a horseshoe bar, and settle benches in the Stewart Cellars Tasting Hall (6752 Washington St., Yountville) pay homage to the family's Scottish heritage. But if you schedule a reserve tasting in the cozy Nomad Heritage Library, you'll taste their finest wines while thumbing through the family's collection of books (available for purchase) and worldly treasures, such as a taxidermy alligator and a saber tooth tiger skull.
From a painting made by former 49ers tight end Vernon Davis to a lifesize replica of a judge's chair on The Voice, everything at Hill Family Estates (6512 Washington St., Yountville) has a great story behind it. As for the wine, it's one of the few places you'll find such an extensive selection of whites, including three different bottlings of sauvignon blanc. Don't worry, they have plenty for red lovers too.
Downtown St. Helena
(Courtesy of Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch)
Forming a square, this quad of diverse wineries on St. Helena's Main Street can easily be explored on foot, all in a day's work.
Recently-retired NBA superstar Yao Ming left Houston for his second calling in Napa Valley. Stop in at the stunning Yao Family Wines (929 Main St., St. Helena), and grab a seat at the massive, oval-shaped quartz tasting bar. Our favorite part: the Insta-worthy chandelier of 200 red glass wine bottles that hangs above it.
The dress code at the cozy, cycling-themed Velo Vino tasting room of Clif Family Winery (709 Main St., St. Helena) may appear be spandex, but a pair of wheels is not required to taste their wines. If you're hungry, nosh on a seasonal bruschette from the on-site Bruschetteria food truck, with ingredients sourced from the family farm.
If you want a proper lunch in a restaurant setting, reserve a table at Farmstead, and arrive early for a wine flight next door at the Long Meadow Ranch general store (738 Main St., St. Helena). They also offer an olive oil and small-batch whiskey flight, and sell jars of locally made artisan provisions. We always end up taking a few of those home.
One of the most historic wineries in Napa Valley, Merryvale (1000 Main St., St. Helena) was the first production facility built after the repeal of prohibition. Make sure you take a peek inside the gorgeous cask room, where colossal, century-old casks line the historic stone walls.
(Napa Wine Project photo)
Home to the Old Faithful Geyser, mud baths, and rejuvenating hot springs, downtown Calistoga's tasting rooms don't take themselves too seriously.
Start your tour at the entrance to Calistoga with a visit to Tank Garage Winery (1020 Foothill Blvd., Calistoga), a hip, 1930s gas station-turned tasting room, where the antique pumps still remain out front. Play vintage arcade games, jam on one of their gas-can guitars, and taste through a rotating collection of one-and-done wines with names such as Lipstick and Gunpowder. Once they're gone, they're gone.
Vermeil Wines (1255 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga) is owned by hometown football hero, Dick Vermeil, known for coaching the Rams to their first and only Super Bowl. Now retired, he's gone back to his roots, producing wines that have won a few honors of their own.
If a ride on the wine train is out of your budget, you can still sip in an antique rail car at the Calistoga Depot. Heibel Ranch Vineyards (1458 Lincoln Ave., Railcar 12, Calistoga) just opened their refurbished "Tasting Car" for casual experiences where guests can sample great wines, learn about the family's deep Napa Valley history, and pet the resident golden retriever, Chachi.
The tasting room at Romeo Vineyards (1224 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga) is housed in an adorable 1800's carriage house, but outside, you can relax under the canopy of century-old redwood trees in their private gardens. Every weekend throughout the summer you can also order a brick-oven pizza for $18. Good luck choosing between the Ultimate Wine Pizza (cabernet tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, and caramelized wine-soaked onion) and creamy lemon ricotta topped with prosciutto and wild arugula.
It's a two-for-one deal at von Strasser and Lava Vine Winery (965 Silverado Trail, Calistoga). Taste top-tier mountain cabernet from von Strasser, and then explore wines you may have never heard of from Lava Vine, such as grüner veltliner and verdelho.
The Crusher Wine District
(Courtesy of Spelletich Family Wine Co.)
Diverging from Napa Valley's extravagance and flair, the urban Crusher Wine District in South Napa isn't much to look at from the outside. But this seemingly ordinary office park around the corner from the Meritage Resort actually plays host to a tight knit collection of boutique, family-run wineries, quietly crafting killer vino. Make an appointment before you go.
The young husband-and-wife team from New York that started Crosby Roamann (45 Enterprise Ct. #6, Napa) managed to transform a plain industrial space into a chic, minimalist tasting room, with modern furnishings, art, and a working record player. Their fantastic wines (we love their barrel-aged sauvignon blanc) are paired with a cheese plate.
Intimate and educational tastings at Spelletich Family Wine Company (2545 Napa Valley Corporate Dr., Suite C, Napa) are hosted by one of the owners, Barb or Tim Spelletich. After sipping through their lineup of four different labels, they'll take you back to their "live" crush pad to sample from the barrels. We suggest going during harvest (September and October) to witness the most action.
With more than 17 different wine varieties to try, Trinitas Wine Cellars has an experience for everyone, including customizable flight options and a wine-and-food pairing—they had us at chardonnay with chili-lime-tequila-tortilla brittle. The Trinitas Library (851 Napa Valley Corporate Way, Suite A, Napa) offers a private, appointment-only experience, while walk-ins are cool at the more casual Trinitas Estate Cave at the Meritage (875 Bordeaux Way, Napa).