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Wine Country Weekend: Best Places to Wine Taste In Napa Valley This Spring

Wine tasting at Charles Krug. Photo courtesy of the winery

As the vaccination pace rises and the country opens up, many are planning their first getaway in nearly a year. Napa Valley has always been an idyllic destination for rest and relaxation, and the bucolic region continues to offer one of the dreamiest spots in which to enjoy not only some of the best wine in the world, but also California’s legendary sunshine. Hire a car service or select your designated driver, follow this three-day itinerary that winds through some of the Valley’s best wineries and most beautiful estates, and enjoy the type of incomparable and memorable travel experiences you’ve so been missing:

DAY 1

Ehlers Estate (St. Helena) 

Start your day off at 9:30am in St. Helena at Ehlers Estate for a breakfast and tasting in their beautiful olive grove. Two unique tastings include the Ehlers Tasting ($50 per person; accommodates parties of 2 to 6), an intimate, personal presentation of their estate-grown wines led by a knowledgeable wine educator, or choose the Cabernet Tasting ($50 per person; accommodates parties of 2 to 6) for the most serious wine collector and Cabernet lover. Both options feature current releases and shared stories about the history of the property.

Photo courtesy of Ehlers Estate

Larkmead Vineyards (Calistoga)

The next stop is Larkmead Vineyards. Founded in 1895, Larkmead continues to serve as a leader in the region as one of the most forward-thinking producers, prioritizing sustainability and planning for the future via a Research Block dedicated to exploring new grape varieties as the climate changes. To experience Larkmead’s renowned wines by winemaker Dan Petroski, guests can choose between the Estate Tasting ($70 per person; accommodates parties of 2 to 6), a private tasting in one of the premiere outdoor spaces featuring four current release wines and a walking tour of Larkmead’s newly planted research vineyard (weather permitting), or the Larkmead Reserve Tasting ($95 per person; accommodates parties of 2 to 4), a private, host-led tasting of five wines from Larkmead’s unique Napa terroir and a tour of the groundbreaking research vineyard (weather permitting). Allow 75 minutes for this experience.

Larkmead Vineyards. Photo courtesy of the winery

Charles Krug (St. Helena)

End the day at Charles Krug in St. Helena. One of California’s oldest wineries founded in 1861, the winery invites guests to enjoy modern outdoor tastings within their renovated picnic grounds. The Curated Estate Tasting ($45 per person; accommodates 1 to 6) is a comprehensive entry point into their lineup of classic Napa wines. With five new cabanas, guests can also indulge in a luxurious, private tasting with the winery’s Cabana Experience ($400 Minimum)Groups of up to 6 are invited to reserve a tailored two-hour tasting that includes exclusive wine flights, full-bottle selections, and delicious culinary fare such as wood-fired pizza and more.

Charles Krug Cabana Experience. Photo courtesy of the winery

DAY 2

Cardinale (Oakville) 

The gorgeous Cardinale estate in Oakville features an unforgettable tasting experience led by a knowledgeable and dedicated estate team. Upon arrival, guests enjoy a panoramic view of the valley and the mountain appellations that come together to create the Cardinale limited production Cabernet Sauvignon. Further exploration into the world of Cardinale continues with a curated selection of wines enjoyed in the tasting room, artfully paired with seasonal small bites. Cardinale offers two private tasting experiences, the Estate Tasting ($100 per person; accommodates parties of 2 to 6) and the Library Tasting ($150 per person; accommodates parties of 2 to 6). 

Cardinale Winery. Photo courtesy of the winery

Nickel & Nickel (Oakville)

Focused on creating 100% varietal, single-vineyard wines, Nickel & Nickel Winery in Oakville is the perfect next stop for decadent Cabernet Sauvignon and fantastic terroir-led wines. At the estate, guests can choose from three different wine tasting experiences: the 60-minute Estate Tasting ($80 per person; accommodating 2 to 6), the 90-minute Estate Tasting ($95 per person; accommodating 2 to 6), and a very special Terroir Tasting ($80 per person; accommodating 2 to 6) that features eight 100% varietal, single-vineyard wines from Napa Valley’s most exciting sub-appellations that reveals no two vineyards are alike. This experience grants exclusive access to the extraordinary diversity of Napa Valley's finest vineyard while being surrounded by serene views of the Vaca and Mayacamas mountains. 

Nickel & Nickel Winery. Photo courtesy of the winery

Far Niente Winery (Oakville)

Just a short distance away, Far Niente Winery in Oakville is the last wine tasting stop on day 2. Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel both fall under the Far Niente Family of Wineries & Vineyards, and similar to the prior tasting, guests can choose from three different wine tasting experiences: a 60-minute Estate Tasting ($80 per person; accommodating 2 to 6), a 90-minute Estate tasting ($95 per person; accommodating 2 to 6), and a Cave Collection Library wine tasting ($120 per person; accommodating 2 to 6) with both current and extremely limited Cave Collection wines. While experiencing these unique and extremely limited wines, guests are surrounded by beautifully cultivated gardens and sprawling vineyards.

Far Niente Winery. Photo courtesy of the winery

DAY 3

Gary’s Wine & Marketplace (St. Helena) 

Take it slow this morning and stop by Gary’s Wine & Marketplace for coffee and pastry, and perhaps picnic items such as a freshly prepared salad or sandwich made with locally sourced ingredients. Gary’s carries a variety of gourmet delights so you can also stock up on epicurean souvenirs to bring back to friends and family after your travels, or pick up a few bottles of wine from other outstanding Napa Valley wineries at which you were unable to stop during the weekend. 

Gary of Gary's Wine & Marketplace pours Schramsberg's Jack Davies some bubbly. Photo courtesy of Gary's

Artesa (St. Helena) 

Enjoy a lovely outdoor seated tasting at Artesa ($45.00 per person; accommodating 2 to 6). Artesa’s Visitor Center offers beautiful vista views from every area of their modern and spacious tasting salon. They also offer two distinct tasting flights from which to choose and a handful of optional food pairings to enjoy during your visit. Upon arrival, you are greeted with a taste of sparkling wine to savor as you consider the menu of tasting flights. A host walks you through the options and introduces each wine throughout the tasting as they share information on the ways Artesa wines are produced, the vineyard, the wine-making practices, and what makes each wine special or unique. 

Artesa. Photo courtesy of the winery

Quintessa (Rutherford) 

End your holiday at Quintessa with The Quintessential Experience ($145 per person; accommodating 1 to 4), which expresses the ideal fusion of world-class wine and nature. As your host guides you to your private pavilion surrounded by vineyard covered hills, they will share the story of Quintessa and the winery’s organic and biodynamic farming practices. Settle into your pavilion and experience a jewel-like view of the estate - one of the quintessential vistas in the Napa Valley - while your host prepares your tasting flight of five wines. Enjoy the Illumination Sauvignon Blanc, two vintages of Quintessa, and two-barrel samples of a future Quintessa vintage while your host shares more about Quintessa’s holistic philosophy and state of the art winemaking techniques. It’s the perfect end to a perfect weekend.

Quintessa. Photo courtesy of the winery

Fran Endicott Miller

Fran Endicott Miller is a luxury focused freelance feature writer for a variety of lifestyle publications and websites, editor-at-large for JustLuxe.com, and a California editor for luxury travel concierge service Essentialist. Prior to her journalism career she held positions in the fields of politics, television, and professional sports, and is proud to have established the Golden State Warriors...(Read More)

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