You can't go wrong with the trusted wineries of Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail, but if you’ve never discovered a dazzling new winery for yourself, it’s time to take a chance. In order to mitigate some of the risk of a day filled with the wrong wineries, we’ve unearthed some of the hottest hidden treasures for you (all appointment only):
Black Cordon Vineyards was born in 1978 when Karen and David Dunphy fell in love with the Napa Valley and its striking black cordons (the branches of a vine are called cordons and they often appear black in the wet season). Despite fantastic scores on their wines, they remain under the radar and will likely be the ones pouring their earthy, velvety, rich, dark-purple (almost black) cab for you when you visit.
Morlet Family Vineyards is owned and operated by Luc and Jodie Morlet, who make unique cuvees (blends) of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Semillion, as well as a Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle, and Napa Cab. Their use of traditional techniques with California style produces a variety of wines that are both serious and fun. It’s only $25 per person for a tasting, which is waived if you buy a bottle. They’ll spend up to an hour and a half walking you through their caves and wines.
St. Helena Winery is making some of the best and most drinkable red wines in the Napa Valley. Keep them if you want or down them right away–these bold reds are already aged and ready to enjoy when released. The homey property is comfortable and beautiful (sip on the veranda overlooking the vineyard from their re-modeled historic home) and has a guesthouse with a pool for special guests and Bocce court for visitors who want to play.
Marita’s Vineyard is in beautiful Coombsville, Napa Valley’s newest AVA, and one of the closest (to SF) yet most rural areas of the Valley. This kind and vivacious family and staff make a limited amount of very tasty wine, and keep Marita’s Vineyard a secret so that they can continue to treat all visitors like honored guests.
Parallel Wines has been coveted and whispered about in local circles but lately that whisper is becoming more of a clamor. Their branding is youthful, hip, and pays homage to their love of skiing and vineyards. And their bold and flavorful wines, despite being limited and made by famous winemaker Philippe Melka, are very reasonably priced. Taste just about any time at Vintners Collective in Downtown Napa or call to schedule a cave tour.
Vineyard 7 & 8 is a family owned winery and vineyard near the top of Spring Mountain. Perched above St. Helena, Vineyard 7 & 8 has gained a great deal of local fame for their wines and can be found on some of the best wine lists in the country (like Thomas Keller’s French Laundry). You can also find their wines at Fine Wines International in Pier 19 and other high-end shops if you want to try it first, or re-stock when your stash runs dry.
East Coasters Shirley Roy and her late husband Charles started Roy Estate in 1999. This quiet but classy gem has kept it small despite continuously high ratings and great word of mouth. Their Cabernet Sauvignon and Proprietary Red are approachable despite their full, heavy, and spicy flavors. You'll learn and laugh a lot on their friendly, private tours.