Ridiculous views are just one perk of wine tasting atop Napa Valley's iconic mountain appellations. These wineries promise big, complex wines that benefit from volcanic and sedimentary soils, elevation, and extra vitamin D—and many of them get better with age. Just plan ahead, as all of these tastings are by appointment. (Hint: No crowds.)
(Courtesy of Hess Collection)
Just a few miles north of downtown Napa, Mt. Veeder is perfectly situated between the Napa and Sonoma valleys. The coolest of the four mountain appellations, temperatures are fairly moderate, resulting in a long growing season. The vines struggle to prosper in the rocky, clay soil that's been pushed up the mountain by tectonic plate movement, but those that do survive, produce mostly high quality, super concentrated, fruit-driven reds.
In order to soften the larger-than-life tannins and flavors typical of Mount Veeder juice, Progeny (1032 Mt. Veeder Rd., Napa) implements an extended age and barrel program, aging their flagship cabernet sauvignon for six long years. The ultra-scenic drive over rolling hills is worth a visit to this hilltop winery alone, plus they will debut a brand new hospitality center later this year.
Across the way, Hess Collection (4411 Redwood Rd., Napa) takes a particularly artful approach to vino: Hess' three-story contemporary art museum showcases modern artworks from all over the world, collected by proprietor Donald Hess over the past 40 years. Order up the Taste of Mount Veeder flight, and then ask for a splash of a few of their hard-to-find varietals, including albariño, charbono, and orange muscat.
Get a hands-on cabernet blending lesson in the cellar of family-run Fontanella (1721 Partrick Rd., Napa), where you might get inspired to go home with your own blending kit; the winery will then produce, bottle, and custom label your unique blend.
On your tour of Mayacamas' original stone winery (1155 Lokoya Rd., Napa), built in 1898, stop to admire the large-format casks used for extended aging in the red cellar, dating back to the 1920s. Enjoy a private tasting of their classic, Old World–style wines, both new and library vintages.