Tips for Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
Blue Bottle Coffee Company
Vive la Tarte
Brasswood Kitchen and Bar
It feels like forever ago, but we were only in Napa 2 weeks ago! I wanted to recap our trip for you and include tips, because I get a lot of questions about where to go and wine tasting tips in general. I referenced some of these tips in my last post - 24 Hours in Napa, but thought it would be a good thing to go over it again! First, I'll go over where we went the 2 days we were there.
Blue Bottle. We stopped to get coffee and pastries (pictured them here) to start the day. Nick and I usually get one each, then split a sweet of some sort, during the drive to Napa. We have recently only stayed in San Francisco or Oakland, so it takes about an hour to get there.
Hall Wines. We went here because, they actually have ties to Dallas! They have several labels, one of them being Walt, which is known for Pinot Noirs. We went to Walt on our last trip (the tasting room in Sonoma) and were disappointed, but the Walts we tasted here were great! Their winery is beautiful, plus they are art collectors, so there are some really cool pieces. Here's me in their tasting room patio.
B Cellars. Y'all know this is one of our favorites! Their tour is just so fun and they have great wine. My favorite part is their food pairing. They do an amazing job with their pairings. I always send people here. (see my favorite pairing of the day here)
Mustard's. Even though we had food at B Cellar, we were hungry, so we stopped at Mustard's and split a Mushroom burger. So yummy!
ZD Wines. This was our last stop of the day and we were able to go in without an appointment. They have great wines and a beautiful set up! We loved their cheese plate and 2nd floor patio. (pictured here) If you want to try some of their wine, we actually sell it at our shop! Here's the link for Chardonnay and here's the Cab Sauv.
Dinner. Well...We had reservations, but I had a headache and was super nauseous, because I hadn't had enough water, and pretty much ate an entire plate of fried onion strings. Oops! Two things I don't normally let happen! We ordered horrible pasta from some food service. (I should have followed my own tips, below!!)
Sightglass. This is currently our favorite coffee in San Francisco! (I pictured them here) We did the same thing here - 2 savory pastries and 1 sweet pasty. We actually accidentally stumbled onto Vive la Tarte (a couple blocks over) and got another sweet pastry, which we snacked on later! We had the lemon meringue one and it was to die for!
Artesa. This place is GORGEOUS. The wine was good, but the view was better. It's kind of on a hill, so the surrounding area is beautiful, and so is the building. You can tell they spent a lot of time and thought on it, which I appreciated. (see my favorite photo, here)
Cliff Lede. We went here last time and it rocked this time, as well. I say it "rocked", because the owner is very much into music and named the vines and such after songs and musicians. The private tasting room is called "back stage" and it decorated with rock memorabilia and such. Their wine is top notch, too.
Brasswood Kitchen and Bar. We needed food, but we didn't have a lot of time, so we ate about 5 minutes from our next location. They were awesome about getting our food out quickly and out the door, to be on time for our next tasting. I'd love to go back and enjoy the food more.
Duckhorn. We love Duckhorn! They have wonderful reds and an awesome tour. Their porch is definitely my favorite! It is probably our favorite place to literally "wine"d down;) Our traditional porch pic is here.
Delectus. We were able to hurry in here, before they closed. They had some fun wines and a cute little set up!
Ristorante Milano. This was actually where we were supposed to eat Saturday night, but we didn't make it. It was fantastic! Great service and great food. The only downside was limited parking;) My yummy pasta pictured here.
So, here are my top 8 tips for wine tasting in Napa Valley, but really they could be applied to any wine tasting excursion!
1) Eat breakfast. And by breakfast I mean protein and carbs!! Honestly, I always eat some form of savory pastry on days that I wine taste, because I 1) don't want to get hangry and 2) I don't want to get drunk.
2) Drink water. I drink a lot of water during the week, but if I am on vacation or it is the weekend, I'm not sitting at my desk with a huge bottle, reminding me to drink it. It is even more important to drink water on wine tasting days, for obvious reasons.
3) Don't drink all the wine. Let's face it....not all wines are created equal! When you are wine tasting, you are literally tasting wine to see if you want a glass or bottle of something. Yes, it's super fun, but if you're doing a whole day of wine tasting, it's probably best you don't consume all of it, especially if it wasn't really your favorite. Wineries will have a place for you to pour your glass into, if you don't want to finish certain glasses.
4) Research. A lot of my favorite spots are by reservation only (B Cellars, Duckhorn, etc), but I'm not just talking about making appointments. Make sure you know where you are going and that they are worth your time. It's not all ways the big houses that have the best wine ;)
5) Bring snacks. I always bring protein bars! Protein is really good for you to consume while you're drinking, so these are just super easy to pack and eat!
6) Leave space in your suitcase. You never know what wine you will want to bring back! Some wineries will ship, but that is determined by a lot of factors, some which are out of your control, depending on where you live. There are actually "wine suitcases" you can purchase to check as a bag! If you fly with wine, be sure to let it sit for a week or so, before enjoying.
7) Plan your driving situation. Nick usually drives us - he is like a tank, and again, we weren't drinking to get drunk, so it works; however, I know a lot of people don't want to/shouldn't do that. There are buses and such you can take, but you can also get a "driver" for the day and that works too! Just make sure you're safe and being responsible!
8) Stay longer than 1 day if you can. We stayed in Napa 1 day last time and we made it work, BUT it is so much more enjoyable when you can relax and not have to be on too tight of a schedule. Most places close at 4pm, so you don't have a lot of day to experience it!
Oh! And not really a tip, but something else to think about is the weather! Napa is traditionally warmer than SF, because it is in a valley...which is also why it makes a great place for grapes to grow! If you are doing a lot of tours, check with the wineries, to see if they make you wear a certain kind of shoe/if certain shoes aren't allowed (ie open toed). You want to be comfortable, especially if you have a long day of tasting ahead of you, but you still want to be presentable. I wore pants, as we went in March; however, when we went in July I wore shorts and a tunic! SF is still pretty windy then, so I actually wore pants in the city, then when we got to Napa, I changed!
Do you have any wineries in Napa/Sonoma that you love/that I should visit? I would love to explore more of Sonoma next time! Oh and any other tips I should be abiding by for wine tasting? Cheers, y'all and happy weekend!
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