I love cooking and eating food, so I tend to prefer wines that pair well with the food. My favorite Napa Valley wineries produce wine with balanced flavors that pair well with rich food. Below are my winery recommendations from my most recent trip. This is my Top 10 Napa Valley wineries, organized by the categories “Rock Star Wineries”, “Great for Picnics.” Part Two of this series will cover, “Great Views”, “Great Tasting Rooms”, “Off the Beaten Path Wineries.” Which are your favorites?
Previous Napa Valley Gastronomic Tour Posts
My Favorite “Rock Star” Wineries
8300 St Helena Hwy, Rutherford – Hours: 10:30-4:00 pm
Tasting Fee: Starting at $15 –Reservation Required - www.cakebreadcellars.com
Cake Bread is one of the cult wineries in Napa Valley that has developed a strong goodwill from loyal wine drinkers and they have the goods to back up their name. Just like any cult, this winery stays off the grid. Advanced reservations are a must.
The reservation system is in place to ensure each guest receives a semi-private tasting experiences. With a very limited number of people present at your tasting bar, you will get heavy personalized attention. We really enjoyed our tasting experience and had the opportunity to discuss the wines, pairings, baseball and history of Cakebread Cellars. This is winery is a must for your next visit because of the friendly service and amazing wines.
My favorite wine was their Chardonnay Reserve. The flavor of the wine is butter cookies, roasted apple, and pear. The wine has citrus, cinnamon and vanilla aromas. This was one of the better wines I experienced on the trip.
Tasting Room: 677 S. St. Helena Highway/ HWY 29 Hours: 10am-5pm
Tasting Fee: Starting at $20 – Walk-ins Welcome – www.florasprings.com
Flora Springs is one of those bucket list wineries that you have to visit during a trip to Napa. Why? It is a combination of their superior wines , friendly service and great setting. You have two options for Flora Springs, their fancy tasting room in St. Helena or their estate winery. The estate winery is a longer adventure with a two hour tour and tasting; in comparison, the tasting room is straight-up tasting. The staff at Flora Springs are very friendly and are a wealth of knowledge about wine. The wines at Flora Springs are very balanced and in my personal opinion, the best wines in Napa for my palate.
My favorite wine was the Trilogy, this is the wine that made Flora Springs famous among wine lovers. It is made with a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. This wine is smooth and balanced between fruit flavors, tannins and character. If this wine was a supermodel, it would be Bar Rafaele.
Wineries with Great Wine and Perfect for Picnics
2000 Denmark St., Somoma Hours: 11am-4:30pm
Tasting Fee: Starting at $10 – Walk-ins welcome www.gunbun.com
We first tasted this wine at a the Vintage Steakhouse in San Juan Capistrano and fell in love it ever since. This winery has been about 155 years and is still operated by the same family. Although this winery is technically in Sonoma it is tucked at the border of Napa, Sonoma and Carneros growing regions. This winery is a scenic side trip if you are staying in Downtown Napa. This property has a rustic tasting room, wine cave tastings, and offers a tour around their expansive property in a Swiss army vehicle. This place is great for picnics. They sell Italian meats, cheese and bread (and wine) that can be enjoyed on their picnic tables overlooking scenic views. We enjoyed a great lunch of prosciutto, bread, guyre and wine over a view of the lake.
My favorite wine at Gundloch Bundschu is their 2010 Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is a great blend providing sweet and savory flavors, complex and elegant just like me. The flavor of this wine was a perfect paradox of bacon, roasted coffee bean, chocolate, and ripe blackberries. This wine tasted like some of my favorite dishes.
1111 White Ln, St.Helena - Hours: 9:00am-6:00pm
Tasting Fee: Starting at $10, Reserve: $15 (cheap) –Walk-ins Welcome www.vsattui.com
Located in St.Helena, at the border of Rutherford, V.Sattui is known for good wines and a great place for picnics. V.Sattui has something for everyone from wine tastings, deli and market, and picnic grounds. This is a great place to unwind after an afternoon of wine tasting. Keep in mind that outside food is not allowed on the property, although the market has a lot of options to make a great picnic. I liked the wines at V.Sattui especially the 2009 Vittorio Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon has the aroma of cocoa powder and earth and has the flavors of berries, oaks and sweet herbs. I picked up a couple bottles along with freshly made sandwiches and fruit prepared by Chef Sainato.