Just an hour’s drive north from San Francisco, nestled between San Pablo Bay and the Mayacamas Mountains, is one of the most famous wine-making regions in the United States – Napa Valley. Sure, it’s a relatively small region, measuring around 30 miles (48 km). But set within that magical landscape are over 500 Napa wineries, producing 4% of California wine and responsible for 90% of its global reputation. Tempted? Here are 10 of the best Napa Valley Wine Tours.
From intimate Napa wine tasting to private cave wine tours, there are literally hundreds of tastings and tours to choose from. Alongside tasting some of America’s greatest wines, you can expect warm California hospitality and breathtaking scenery too.
The Napa Valley Wine Trolley
New to California wine? This six-hour wine tour will teach you everything you need to know about it, all while enjoying spectacular scenery, smells and tastes of the region’s world-class vineyards. The wine trolley is a fully motorized, authentic replica of the late 1890s San Francisco cable car. The tour includes trips to three different wineries, with refreshments and lunch, ‘Napa Style’. The Open Air Classic Tour is perfect for those who haven’t been to the Napa wineries, with wine tours of grand estates, subterranean caves and cosy cellars. You’ll get the full experience when you book this winery tour.
Verve Napa Valley
If you’re a more seasoned visitor and think you’ve seen it all, think again. Verve specialises in ‘curated wine country tours and events’. Whatever you’re interested in, they can book it. And, they’re prepared to go niche too. Interested in champagne bottles? You can take a tour and learn all about sabrage, the technique that slices champagne corks. Like old-school vineyards? Saddle up for a guided horseback tour of one of Napa’s historic ranch properties.
If you’re interested in a fully immersive Napa experience, go for the custom-curated culinary experiences, combining California wines with everything from private chef classes to culinary garden tours. You’ll find something for all tastes.
Swanson Vineyards, Rutherford
Looking for a little joie de vivre? This quirky Napa wine tour will whisk you away from California to an 18th-century French culinary salon. This appointment-only Napa Valley wine tasting experience is inspired by the famous political, art and literary salons of Paris.
A skilled salonniere (keeper of the Salon) provides the stories and insights, while guests sit and sip. Founded in 1985, Swanson Vineyards sits on a spectacular 100-acre property. Today, it offers a remarkable range of luxury Merlot and Pinot Grigio wines, and it’s also one of the few places in Napa Valley producing sweet wines.
The Napa Valley Wine Train, Oxbow
Originally a rail line built in 1864 for holidaymakers travelling north to the resort town of Calistoga, the Napa Valley Wine Train runs right through the heart of the region. The three-hour, 36-mile round trip winds past some of the most famous vineyards in the country, across Oak Knoll, Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford.
There are a few different Napa Valley wine tours to choose from, including half-day trips and full-day winery tours. All tours include a lunch or dinner service in the antique dinner carriage, transporting you back to the glory days of train travel. It’s no ordinary train food either – it’s a proper culinary feast. Not a packet sandwich in sight, it’s all about the yellowfin tuna tartare and beef tenderloin aboard the wine train. Perfect for foodies.
Sterling Vineyards, Calistoga
For an elevated Napa Wine Tasting (literally), Sterling Vineyards is one of a kind. The hilltop valley winery is perched 300 feet above the town of Calistoga. When founder Peter Newton decided to open the doors to the public, he was faced with a big problem – how to get them there. Enter the aerial tram. Genius, right?
Modelled after the architecture seen in the Greek island of Mykonos, where Newron once lived, the aerial ride looks like a flying gondola. It offers panoramic views of the rugged Mayacamas and Vaca mountain ranges on either side of the Napa Valley – and all the wineries in between. You’ll want the camera ready for this one!
Private Limo Wine Country Tour of Napa, Napa
The most glamorous entry on the list, this tour offers Napa Valley wine tours in a luxurious limousine. With over 30 years of experience, the tour is completely customisable so you can take your pick from big-name wineries to boutique vineyards. It covers Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek, Alexander Valley and the Russian River. The tour also includes a wine expert driver, as well as chilled sparkling wine. You can also opt for a lunch stop, or pick up a picnic to enjoy at one of the wineries. This is an excellent choice for a tour to remember forever.
Castello di Amossa, St. Helena
Thought you’d have to wait for a trip to Tuscany to experience a wine tour in a castle? No chance. Castello di Amossa is a 107-room castle, complete with a moat, drawbridge, defensive towers and even a torture chamber! The building also boasts some of the most beautiful vaulted wine cellars in the world.
Fourth-generation winemaker Dario Sattui built the 13th century-style Tuscan castle to honour his Italian heritage. The winery specialises in the small-scale production of Italian-style wines to the public. Tours include six reserve wines and a guided tour of the castle, including the state-of-the-art production area, cellars, armoury and Grand Barrel Room.
Women in Wine Tour with West Wine Tours, Napa
Even in 2021, there’s a common misconception that winemaking is men’s work. This winery tour proves it wrong. Napa Valley actually has a long history of women winemakers. In 1886 Josephine Tychson founded one of Napa Valley’s original 13 wineries. Today, 60% of Napa Valley wineries have either a female owner or winemaker. On this private wine tour, you’ll travel through the vines of Napa Valley by vintage Volkswagen bus. The tour stops off at three different wineries with women at the helm: St. Clair Brown Winery & Brewery, Fantesca Estate & Winery and Crocker & Starr Winery. A must-do.
Cave Tour and Barrel Tasting, Rutherford Hill
Rutherford Hill is where you come to sip on world-class California Merlot – and to explore an enormous wine cave. The historic cave is nearly one mile (1.6 km) long, weaving its way beneath the 60-acre vineyard estate. The 30-minute tour of the cave explores the history of the property, winemaking and the Terlato family’s impact on sustainable practices in the region. Then you’ll get to sit back and sip on five estate ed wines, recognised as some of the best in the country.
Napa Valley Wine Tasting Bike Tour, Yountville
Not just one for the fitness enthusiasts, as there’s also eBikes available on this tour. You’ll go cycling through wine country, pedalling an average of 3 to 6 miles between stops at local wineries and tasting rooms. A highlight of this bike tour is the gourmet wine country picnic, catered by Chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. You’ll certainly work up an appetite!
The wines are every bit as good as the views too. You’ll get to sip on award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blancs. It’s a real treat for the soul. Who could resist this?
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