5 Chiles Valley Wineries Are a Chill Antidote to Touristy Napa
Volker Eisele Family Estate (Courtesy of the winery)

5 Chiles Valley Wineries Are a Chill Antidote to Touristy Napa


Should you find yourself sitting in bumper to bumper on Napa's Highway 29 and feeling like a schmuck—this parade of tour buses isn't for a savvy local such as yourself—veer off toward the northeastern hills of Chiles Valley. In this sub-district of Napa Valley, cooler temperatures and higher elevation make for distinctive wines, and the handful of unpretentious family-owned wineries offer experiences so pure, you'll want to keep them a secret.

Volker Eisele Family Estate

Volker Eisele Family Estate was among the earliest Napa Valley vineyards to adopt organic farming practices, all the way back in 1974. The family's dedication to the land and mission to grow high-quality fruit is instantly apparent when you join a walking tour of the picturesque 400-acre estate. Depending on the time of year, you'll get a hands-on lesson in suckering the vines and get to taste and compare different varietals of grapes. Then, kick back for a private wine tasting in the historic 1800s winery. // Volker Eisele Family Estate, 3080 Lower Chiles Valley Rd. (St. Helena); by appointment, volkereiselefamilyestate.com

(Courtesy of Nichelini Family Winery)

Nichelini Family Winery

Established in 1890, Nichelini is Napa Valley's oldest family-owned winery, now six generations and counting, with a saucy history—the original stone winery operated secretly throughout Prohibition and still stands today on the edge of Sage Canyon Road. If the weather is nice, walk down to Nichelini's lush oasis of picnic tables and bocce courts, where the tasting bar is built beneath an enormous antique Roman wine press. The Nichelini family sources some of their grapes from 70-year-old vines and still makes a couple of California classics rarely seen today in Napa Valley, including like Primitivo and Muscadelle. // Nichelini Family Winery, 2950 Sage Canyon Rd. (St. Helena); appointments necessary on weekdays,nicheliniwinery.com

(Courtesy of RustRidge Winery & BnB)

RustRidge Winery & BnB

Animal lovers are bound to dig RustRidge, which is part winery and part ranch with an abundance of friendly felines, rambunctious labradors, and thoroughbred horses (don't forget to pack some apples). It's also part B&B, so you can turn a tasting stop into a chill country getaway. RustRidge visitors often enjoy the rare privilege of tasting with the owner and winemaker themselves, who might just offer you a sample of a new blend in the works. Take your vino out to Poppy's Platform for panoramic vineyard views. // RustRidge Winery & BnB, 2910 Lower Chiles Valley Rd., (St. Helena); by appointment, rustridge.com

(Courtesy of Brown Estate)

Brown Estate

The least rustic of the Chiles Valley bunch, Brown Estate is run by a family grape growers from Panama and Jamaica and who together have spent the past 35 years turning an overgrown ghost ranch into today's impressive estate. Known for their total mastery of zinfandel, Brown offers an hour-long tour through the estate's charming grounds, including a unique honeycomb cave, finishing in the tasting room that's housed in an elegantly refurbished barn. Sip fine zins, each paired with a cheesy delicacy. // Brown Estate, 3233 Sage Canyon Rd. (St. Helena); by appointment, brownestate.com

(Courtesy of Green and Red Vineyard)

Green & Red Vineyard

Smaller than a studio apartment, this unassuming tasting room sits on the only level ground of Green & Red Vineyards' 200 acres, where breathtaking mountains serve as the backdrop for sipping noteworthy and affordable zins. Named for its rust-hued iron soils veined with emerald serpentine, Green & Red sources grapes from three vineyards on the property, each with different elevations ranging from 1,000-1,800 feet. If you're lucky, owner and winemaker Jay Heminway, who was one of the first to grow grapes in this valley in the early 1970s, may take you for a ride up to Tip Top Vineyard where, on a clear day, you can spy a view of the city. Green & Red hosts only three tastings per week, so plan ahead. // Green & Red Vineyards, 3208 Chiles Pope Valley Rd. (St. Helena); by appointment, greenandred.com

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