10 Must Visit Napa Wineries: Boutique & Off The Beaten Path

As wine country opens back up, Napa is very reasonably flooded with tourists. And while we think that all wine tasting is good wine tasting, let’s get off the beaten path a little bit to experience art, family, views, and more. The following experiences will have you rethinking what you know about Napa – and eager to learn more.

Travel Tips & Logistics

If you’re planning on visiting Napa Valley, we recommend flying into San Francisco airport (SFO), renting a car, and then choosing a hotel that fits your travel style in the Valley itself. The drive from San Francisco to Napa takes a little over an hour. Remember if you’re wine tasting, please be responsible and do not drink and drive.

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Winetraveler Tip: Want to stay on a vineyard? Take a look at some of our favorite vineyard hotels in Napa and get updates on flight deals into San Francisco as they arise. If you’re a wine lover, consider signing up for the Grand Reserve MasterCard credit card. You’ll earn extra points at many of the wineries in California, as well as anytime you purchase wine at shops all over the world.

10 Must-Visit Wineries in Napa That Offer Boutique Experiences

Kenzo Estate Winery

Japanese tech giant Kenzo Tsujimoto’s obsession with the 1976 Judgement of Paris led him to purchase this breathtaking parcel of land in Napa and has since brought on superstar winemaker Heidi Barrett to craft gorgeous wines available at top restaurants like Per Se.

Kenzo and his wife Natsuko’s heritage is integral to the experience as each wine bears a Japanese name that embodies the concept behind the wine. Sip on Asuka, a Cabernet Franc named for Kenzo’s hometown, or the rose Yui, which means unity. Natsuko has overseen the opening of Kenzo Napa, a sleek Japanese eatery (to re-open soon after covid-19 closure). Visitors to the estate are offered different experiences, the star of which is a tour and wine tasting paired with lunch from Bouchon.

AXR Napa Valley

Located on a century-old estate, AXR manages to marry history and modernity with both their wines and décor. Even the name – AXR – is a reference to the original rootstock that helped build Napa to be Napa. Winemaker Jean Hoeflinger crafts everything from approachable Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to luxurious single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons. Allow plenty of time to experience an estate tour to fully appreciate the chapters of Napa history incorporated before sipping through a flight on the veranda.


RELATED: Traveling During COVID-19: Essential Tips for Flights, Hotels and More


Piña Napa Valley

Small, intimate wineries are increasingly difficult to come by in Napa but the Pina brothers stay true to their Napa roots: Their great-great-grandfather settled in Napa from Missouri back in 1856! The Pina family keeps things small and focused as winemaker Anna Monticelli crafts five single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons, a reserve Cab that is a blend of the vineyards, and a Chardonnay, a Napa Cab, and an after-dinner port-style Cab. Book a visit to experience Napa before it became Napa.

Brasswood Bar + Bakery

Okay so this isn’t a winery, but it is the place to taste the fabulous wines of Brasswood itself or of exclusive boutique wineries that don’t yet have their own tasting rooms. Taste their signature Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rose, Pinot Noir, Syrah, or Cabernet Sauvignon with lunch, or experience some specialized tastings like Mondavi Sisters Dark Matter wines at a luncheon curated by the sisters themselves. Bevan Cellars, another fabulous boutique winery, also offers a four-course food & wine pairing at Brasswood. Brasswood will never disappoint no matter what choice is made!

The Hess Collection Winery

Art lovers, rejoice: this one’s for you! The Hess Collection is actually an art museum of collector Donald Hess’s acquisitions that just happens to be a winery as well. Hess believes in supporting living artists and currently features the works of 20 artists that he adamantly endorses. Explore the galleries and after you’ve gotten your artistic fix, head to the tasting room to experience the wide range of wines. From its Hess Collection Chardonnay to The Lion Cabernet Sauvignon, Hess’s commitment to quality and artistry is unwavering.

Ovid Napa Valley

Naming a winery after a celebrated poet from antiquity is a bold move, but Ovid delivers time and again. The theme of metamorphosis permeates the wines, the land, and the experience. Ovid is located atop Pritchard Hill, which innately guarantees breathtaking views of Napa. Steep in serenity while tasting through some of the most distinctively terroir-driven wines that Napa has to offer. Ovid’s precise and focused Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah remind us why Napa became one of the top wine regions in the world.


RELATED: Get To Know Napa Valley: A Regional Guide


Spottswoode Winery

Spottswoode estate dates back to 1882 when German immigrant George Schonewald planted about 17 acres of vines and built an elaborate Victorian home for his family. The estate changed hands multiple times over the years and fell into disrepair during Prohibition before being fully restored and enhanced to its current splendor. Spottswoode’s wines are just as elegant and splendid, from their Cabernet Sauvignon to their Sauvignon Blanc. Allow plenty of time to explore the grounds during a tasting.

Mi Sueño

Mi Sueño is quite literally a dream come true: owner Rolando Herrera left his native Mexico at 15 to work in Napa and worked his way up to director of winemaking at Paul Hobbs. With his wife Lorena, he founded Mi Sueño in 1997 by producing 200 cases of his own Chardonnay. His lineup has since expanded to include Syrah, single-vineyard Cabernets, red blends, and more. Despite the critical acclaim, visiting Mi Sueño still has a very family-oriented and down-to-earth feel, which is refreshing in Napa. Plan a visit around an event like Cinco de Mayo for the best experience possible.

Darioush

Ready for opulence? Darioush is it! Owner Darioush Khaledi sought to pay homage to his Persian roots by honoring the seep history of winemaking in what is now Iran. Darioush stays true to its pedigree, with extracts of Persian art incorporated everywhere from the glorious tasting room to wine label designs. The wines are just as glamorous, and in particular, their luxuriously crafted single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons. Book a wine tasting with their signature mezze, or small plates, or a cheese pairing matched to a flight. Be sure to grab a book about Persian art and history, too!

TATE Tasting Salon

Winemaker David Tate cut his teeth at Barnett Vineyards and Ridge before launching his own label with his wife Suzanne in 2011. His experience shows with his outstanding small production wines. Book a tasting in his newly opened tasting room in St Helena to experience his current lineup and be sure to buy what you can: between small production and such quality, vintages sell out quickly!

Napa Wine Tours & Experiences

If you’re still looking for additional recommendations or guided tours around Napa Valley, here are some of the most highly-rated options you can find in the region right now.

 


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jamie Elizabeth Metzgar began her career in wine by pouring in a tasting room on the East End of Long Island, NY. After moving to New York City, she landed a position at Chambers Street Wines where she was encouraged to pursue wine education at the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET). She earned Level III certification there and has since earned California Wine Appellation Specialist and Certified Specialist of Wine certifications as well. After way too many moves, she is now nestled along the Central Coast in California where she is compiling an unofficial roster of dog-friendly tasting rooms.

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