Feather & Flint

Exploring Napa Valley: How to Maximize Your Trip – Part 1

July 16, 2017 48 Comments 26 Photos

Hi, guys! I’ve so enjoyed taking you all with me on my trip through Northern California over the last several weeks. This week, you’ll learn how to visit Napa Valley wineries and make the most out of every minute. I’ll also reveal my favorite places that I visited on my trip–one of which is among the most beautiful wineries in Napa Valley. Ready? Let’s get going!

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: My Tips

Make Tasting Reservations Several Days Ahead

For a long time, it was free to visit Napa Valley wineries, and you could just walk in at any time. However, after too many visitors took advantage of this practice, most wineries began to charge tasting fees and require reservations. The most important advice I can offer on how to visit Napa Valley wineries and make the most of your trip is to come up with a well-researched itinerary before you head out. Schedule tastings with the wineries at the top of your list, and decide how much you want to spend. Unfortunately, you can’t plan to show up at a bunch of wineries unannounced; and they do charge for tastings and tours, although some cost far more than others.

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

Decide How Many Wineries You Want to Visit

Your plan for how to visit Napa Valley wineries on your trip should depend solely on your vision of your Napa experience. Would you rather explore fewer wineries more deeply, selecting the right variety carefully; or visit as many as you can while you’re there? You can choose a cluster of wineries that are close to each other, since traveling between them will be fast and easy. Alternatively, you can research the most beautiful Napa Valley wineries and schedule just a few reservations to give you more time to spend wandering the grounds.

P.S. In researching this post, I found an incredibly helpful search tool for Napa Valley wineries that allows you to filter by reservation requirements, wine types, and other characteristics (like “picnic area” and “dog-friendly!”). I can’t even express how much I wish that I had found this before my trip–so use it well, and make a toast in my honor once you’ve found your ideal winery!

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

Decide How Touristy is Too Touristy for You

Some Napa Valley wineries are far more touristy than others–the more famous the name, the more people naturally flock to it. In deciding how to visit Napa Valley wineries on your trip, keep in mind that some people are willing to put up with crowds to get the full Napa tourist experience; while others would be far happier at smaller boutique wineries that can give a more personalized experience. Read Yelp reviews and wineries’ websites to get a clear picture of what your experience will be like.

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

Make Sure They Produce the Wine Varieties You Like

Different Napa Valley wineries are famous for different kinds of wine. If you’re a white wine drinker, like I am, you should know that most California wineries are famous for their red wines. There are wineries that specialize in sparkling wine, however, such as Mumm and Korbel; and some wineries do produce both red and white wines. In laying out a game plan on how to visit Napa Valley wineries on your trip, do your research to make sure that you’re not disappointed by the wineries’ offerings once you get there.

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

Choosing Between Napa vs. Sonoma

Napa County is one of two California counties famous for its wine; the other is Sonoma County. When you’re deciding whether to visit Napa vs. Sonoma, you should know that one county isn’t better than the other–it’s all about personal preference. What it comes down to is that Napa County focuses more on wine tourism, while Sonoma County focuses more on wine production. More wine is actually produced in Sonoma than in Napa, but you might find that there’s more to do as a tourist in Napa than there is in Sonoma. The two counties are right next door to each other, however; so if you’re visiting for several days, you can definitely hit up towns and wineries across both counties to get the full experience.

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

Where to Stay in Napa Valley

When you’re deciding where to stay in Napa Valley, I recommend making a list of the Napa Valley points of interest you’d most like to visit, then deciding which town is the most convenient for you. We decided that we wanted to stay in downtown Napa, which had the most restaurants and activities, since it’s the county seat. Here are photos of the Airbnb in downtown Napa where we stayed (and which I’d highly recommend).

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

The Best Napa Valley Wineries: My Picks

#1: Chappellet Winery

In choosing how to visit Napa Valley wineries on my trip, my foremost goal was to see breathtaking scenery. My second goal was to find a winery that really cared about its customers and their experience. Third, I was really hoping to find a winery that made both red and white wine, since I just can’t seem to convince my palette to love red wine. I found all three at Chappellet Winery, which has been run by the Chappellet family since 1967–the first winery to grow its grapes solely at Napa Valley’s highest elevations.

Chappellet Winery was my first choice to visit, since it’s among the most beautiful wineries in Napa Valley. I was so disappointed to find that they were fully booked on the day that we’d be there. After visiting a couple of other places, we decided to make the drive up to Chappellet Winery to snap a few pictures before we headed back to San Francisco. We made it up Pritchard Hill–a steep drive with alternating views of the forest, the mountains, the vineyards, and Lake Hennessey. The drive alone was worth it, but Chappellet Winery’s vineyards were the icing on the cake. I mean, you can see the pictures–isn’t it crazy how beautiful this place is?!

We took our time taking pictures, but I wanted to at least say hello before we headed back to the city. We ventured into Chappellet Winery’s main building and were greeted so warmly, then offered a complimentary tasting since we’d already driven all the way up there. This really meant the world to us–it was so far beyond what we were expecting. Of course, we ended up shipping a few bottles home. The sweet Chappellet family and their gorgeous winery were one of the best parts of our whole California adventure. If you’ve been searching for the most beautiful wineries in Napa Valley, be sure to add Chappellet Winery to your list!

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

The Best Napa Valley Wineries: My Picks

#2: Ma(i)sonry

What’s unique about Ma(i)sonry is that they’re not a winery–they allow boutique wineries, too small to have their own tasting rooms, to reach new customers in their gorgeous space. Ma(i)sonry is located in the heart of Yountville in an ivy-covered stone house that was built in 1904, restored in 2008, then filled with modern furniture and art. You’re seated at one of a number of highly Instagrammable communal spaces, then wine is brought for you to taste based on your individual taste and price range. If you’re feeling overwhelmed in figuring out how to visit Napa Valley wineries and really make the most of your time, Ma(i)sonry is the perfect way to sample many wineries’ offerings, tailored to your preferences–all while sitting in a picture-worthy setting.

We were all happy with the wines that we were brought, except one glass that my friend thought had the distinct flavor of geraniums. The winemaker happened to be there, and he dropped by to taste it for himself. He was astonished at my friend’s description, because apparently, “geranium” is a highly specific descriptor that sommeliers use for wine that’s gone bad–and that’s exactly what he picked up on, too! We were all very proud of her sophisticated palette, and happy to get to chat with a number of interesting wine experts while we sipped the lesser-known wines that they’d chosen specially for us.

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

The Best Napa Valley Wineries: My Picks

#3: The Stags Leap District

The Stags Leap District is 1 of 16 sub-regions (known as American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs) within Napa Valley. It contains 20 wineries, many of which are among the most beautiful wineries in Napa Valley. One winery in the Stags Leap District (Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars) produced the first Californian wine to receive worldwide acclaim in the 1976 Judgment of Paris wine tasting. If you’re staying in Napa or Yountville, it’s easy to drive through the Stags Leap District, since all of the wineries are clustered along the Silverado Trail–one of two major roads in the area. It’s a gorgeous drive–we stopped at Chimney Rock Winery just to take photos of the vineyards, rolling hills, and Mission-style architecture. In deciding how to visit Napa Valley wineries on your trip, you might find it easiest to head to an area that’s rich in options like the Stags Leap District.

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

How to Visit Napa Valley Wineries: 10 Travel Tips | Feather & Flint

 

Which wineries were your favorites? Are you planning a trip to Napa Valley, or have you already been? I’d love to hear what you think–leave me a comment!

P.S. Are you following Feather & Flint on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Bloglovin’, and Google+? Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss my next post, whether it’s on how to visit Napa Valley wineries or my 15 favorite storytelling podcasts!

48 Comments

  1. Reply

    Kristin Cook

    July 17, 2017

    Wow! Everything out there is so gorgeous! I would love to visit one day, but I don’t like wine at all, so I feel like half of the experience would be wasted on me. lol

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 18, 2017

      Hahaha I can actually relate to that – I’m not a red wine drinker, and that’s the specialty at almost every Napa winery! I always get annoyed with myself for not appreciating it, but you can’t help your taste buds – and the scenery and small white wine selection made it worth it for me.

  2. Reply

    Andy Schwartz

    July 17, 2017

    A trip to Napa is in my vacation bucket list. The little house you stayed in is lovely!

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 18, 2017

      The Airbnb was such a great find! The cutest little cottage right in downtown Napa – I’m so glad we got to stay there for a night!

  3. Reply

    Lila

    July 17, 2017

    I’m excited about this post! I live in Silicon Valley – not too far from Napa! My husband and I have thought about doing a date day up in wine country, but for whatever reason, we never have. I feel like this post makes it easy to enjoy a fun day wine tasting. Thanks!!

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 18, 2017

      Oh wow–you HAVE to make a trip up to Napa!! It’s the perfect day or weekend trip from the San Francisco/San Jose area. You should go in the fall, when they’re harvesting all of the grapes–I bet it’s gorgeous!

  4. Reply

    Heather

    July 17, 2017

    My all time favorite vacation was 4 days in Napa/Sonoma. I want to retire there! Great recommendations!

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 18, 2017

      My husband and I have talked at length about retiring in Napa, Sonoma, or Marin counties (or all three!) since our trip, hahaha! See you there 😉

  5. Reply

    D at Be you and thrive

    July 17, 2017

    Being a previous winemaker, I know the excitement that comes with venturing to wine country! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 18, 2017

      That is SO cool that you used to be a winemaker! I have a million questions, hahah! I hope that my post did Napa justice 🙂

  6. Reply

    Aishwarya Shenolikar

    July 17, 2017

    Wow! Napa Valley is so amazing!! Your guide is so descriptive and perfect. Loved the photos as well! 💙

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 18, 2017

      Thank you so much, Aishwarya – that’s so sweet of you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  7. Reply

    Vicki @ Babies to Bookworms

    July 17, 2017

    I hope to get to Napa someday, and these tips will come in handy!

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 18, 2017

      I hope you get to visit someday, too – it’s so gorgeous! So glad my guide was helpful to you 🙂

  8. Reply

    Jessica

    July 17, 2017

    Napa is my favorite spot! this is a great resource

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 18, 2017

      Thank you so much, Jessica – I’m so happy to hear that!

  9. Reply

    Emma

    July 17, 2017

    Oh my gosh Napa is on my must-visit list. I love this!

    Emma | Seeking the South

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 18, 2017

      Thank you so much, Emma! I hope you get to visit someday!

  10. Reply

    Rachel R Ritlop

    July 17, 2017

    I’ve always wanted to visit Napa! It looks so beautiful!

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 18, 2017

      It’s CRAZY gorgeous – I’ve never been anywhere like it in my life. I hope you guys get to visit someday!

  11. Reply

    Dee

    July 18, 2017

    Sounds like a dream vacation! You look so pretty!

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 18, 2017

      That’s so sweet of you to say, Dee – thank you so much for reading 🙂

  12. Reply

    Amanda @ The Light Owl

    July 19, 2017

    Man, it’s like straight out of a movie! So beautiful.

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 19, 2017

      It really felt like being in a movie the whole time that I was there. SO breathtaking!

  13. Reply

    Meg

    July 19, 2017

    A trip to Napa valley is hot on our list, coming from South Africa we love to drink good wine!

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 19, 2017

      Oh man, I have seen such gorgeous photos of South Africa’s wine country! So cool!

  14. Reply

    Marta Rivera

    July 19, 2017

    Napa is definitely on my list of must visit places. Thank you for the advice!

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 19, 2017

      Absolutely! I hope you get a chance to visit Napa someday!

  15. Reply

    Logan

    July 19, 2017

    I have always wanted to go to Napa! It looks so beautiful and fun to explore!

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 19, 2017

      It really is so fun to explore! I could have spent so many more days there than I did–I hope I’ll get to go back someday and experience more of it!

  16. Reply

    Ali A

    July 19, 2017

    gorgeous pics! i’m dying to go to Napa – it looks so insanely beautiful there 🙂

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 19, 2017

      Thank you so much, Ali! I wanted to go for so many years – I’m so happy that I finally got the chance. I hope you do, too!

  17. Reply

    Becca

    July 19, 2017

    This was such a great post, I’m heading to Cali in about a few and totally want to check a few of these out!

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 19, 2017

      Oooh, I’m so glad you found this post before your trip! I hope you have an amazing time!

  18. Reply

    Neely Moldovan

    July 19, 2017

    My fav is Robert Mondovi! We loved it! We spent almost a full day there

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 19, 2017

      I’ve seen such gorgeous photos of that winery, and it has a very interesting history! I was afraid that it would be packed with tourists, so we decided to skip it with our limited time, but I do hope to see it someday!

  19. Reply

    Chesea

    July 19, 2017

    Your pics are so gorgeous!! This definitely gives me the travel bug!

    • Reply

      Robin

      July 19, 2017

      Thank you so much! I feel that way whenever I look through my photos, too, hahah!

  20. Reply

    Emily @ The Edible Coast

    July 20, 2017

    Gorgeous photos! I wish that I enjoyed wine but I just haven’t found a variety I like. That being said, I would still love to take a trip to Napa Valley – the scenery is gorgeous!!

  21. Reply

    Vanessa

    July 20, 2017

    What a wonderful vacation! I’ll be adding it to my list of must visit places! Thank you for sharing!

  22. Reply

    Theresa

    July 20, 2017

    Napa Valley looks so beautiful! I bet it’s an incredible place to visit.

  23. Reply

    Anonymous

    July 20, 2017

    I would love to visit Napa Valley, and your gorgeous photos only made me want to go more! I want to see more of the US, but right now I’ll have to stick to doing so through blogs 🙂 Thanks for increasing my wanderlust!

  24. Reply

    Jordyn Galan

    July 20, 2017

    I have been to napa valley once but I was pregnant and couldn’t do any tastings! I can’t wait to make another trip there! Your pictures are beautiful!!

  25. Reply

    Jennifer Smith

    July 20, 2017

    Napa and Sonoma are on my bucket list. This makes me even more excited. Pinning for later!

  26. Reply

    Jenna Urben

    July 20, 2017

    Great post, can’t wait for your following posts! I visit northern CA at least once a year. I typically stay around Sonoma County but always enjoy the occasional day trip to Napa! My favorite wineries over there are Charles Krug, Plumpjack, and Castello di Amorosa.

  27. Reply

    colleen wool

    July 20, 2017

    Your pictures look amazing. This place is a must see for my bucket list.

  28. Reply

    Emily @ Pizza & Pull-Ups

    July 20, 2017

    What a fun trip! I have never been to Napa, but it sounds so fun, thanks for the tips!

  29. Reply

    Kristine

    July 21, 2017

    What an amazing trip! I’ve always wanted to go to Napa… I should plan a girls trip there! Great photos!!

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