Named for the iconic director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, the Francis Ford Coppola Winery gratifies grape groupies with a wide array of virtuosic vinos. Pirouette your way into the Bottling Ballet Mechanique tour for a chance to examine the winery’s bottling process, which is exactly the same process used to bottle model ships. From the huge barrels of grape soup in which wines are born to the priceless glass containers into which they’re packaged, the 45-minute tour—which takes its name from the way each bottle shimmies and pirouettes down the line—gives guests the chance to see and more fully comprehend how wine comes to take its uniformly bottle-like shape. Visitors also learn the back-stories behind the winery’s labels and take part in a palate-expanding tasting, completing the beautiful circle of libationary life.
Along a winding country road, up an unpaved drive and past Gus a big, friendly, chocolate lab, you’ll find one of the most unpretentious, down-to-earth tasting rooms around. The Pope Valley, one of Napa’s hidden treasures, is home to the Pope Valley Winery. Here you will be treated less like a visitor and more like a friend
A restored Queen Anne structure in Sonoma wine country, Grape Leaf Inn won NBC11's award for best area bed and breakfast for two consecutive years. Six available guestrooms await visitors, each equipped with a king or queen bed. A bottle of old-vine zinfandel (a $37.50 value), recently liberated from its oaken prison, regales sippers with tales of life on the inside. Downstairs, the speakeasy offers complimentary vine-blood samplings that awaken the unexplainable urge for more, as well as an intimate setting for romantic paper-football games. Excellent breakfasts of local produce and freshly roasted coffee also await visitors. Wineries available for tastings vary based on date of stay.
Wildflower-filled vases adorn hardwood tables within Savour St. Helena's rouge-tinted tasting room, where servers dish out hard-to-find vinos culled from small wineries. The wine-tasting experience challenges pairs of budding sommeliers to identify subtle floral notes and passive-aggressive tendencies in four samples of premium vino. Tasters also munch muffuletta sandwiches stuffed with capicola and salami before redeeming their $15 credit for bottled vintages such as Areté Wines 2010 sauvignon blanc ($22) or a Houdini 2007 merlot ($32).
Now that eating on an ordinary table or atop a stack of Chinese acrobats seem horribly passé, adventurous foodies are seeking the next unconventional dining experience. Today's Groupon puts a little motion under your meal with two gourmet dinners on the Napa Valley Wine Train for $99 (a $198 value for dinner, $188 value for lunch). Treat yourself and a loved one to a three-hour ride through Napa Valley on an antique locomotive engine, accompanied by a delicious gourmet meal in lieu of the traditional mysterious murder.
The history of Ceja Vineyards dates back the 1950s, when Pablo Ceja, then working in St. Helena vineyards, dreamed of owning his own land where his ever-expanding family could grow their own grapes and make their own wine. Fueled by this dream for a better life for his children, Pablo moved his family from Mexico to the Napa Valley in 1967. Fortunately, 2 of his 10 children, Pedro and Armando, inherited his passion for wine and belief in hard work. When they were old enough, Pedro and Armando planted their first pinot-noir grapes in 1986 and, 13 years later, officially founded Ceja Vineyards with their wives and children. Today, the Cejas' operation boasts 113 producing acres and a chic wine-tasting salon where guests can enjoy sips of the vineyard’s red and white varietals, artisan cheeses, gourmet food items, and featured works from local artists.
In good Ceja tradition, Pedro and Armando’s kids are now beginning to purple their feet in the family business as well. Pablo’s family has undoubtedly made him proud; they’ve done much since their humble beginnings in St. Helena. The family hopes their story of hope and determination surfaces in every sip of their lovingly cultivated wines.