Nestled at the foot of Sugarloaf Ridge, Chateau St. Jean's idyllic 250-acre estate fills with the soft hush of broad grape leaves rustling in the sun. Hedges of waxleaf privet shelter well-manicured gardens, where firework-like bursts of hydrangea sway beneath courtyards and tasting rooms. Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren strolls among the trellises, checking on the grapes, which hang heavy with sugar on the vines. She has spent the last 32 years overseeing the harvests at Chateau St. Jean, producing wines that have earned significant praise and awards. Wine Spectator gave the St. Jean Cinq Cépages cabernet sauvignon 93 out of 100 points, calling it “complex, layered, elegant and refined, with cedar cigar box, tobacco, currant and black licorice—trim and tapered.”
The wines fuel jocund chatter in the fully restored chateau, which was originally constructed as a summer home in 1920. In private rooms as well as outside on the sun-drenched deck, glasses click together with the soft jingling sound xylophonists make in their sleep.
Schweiger Vineyards' passionate oenophiles cultivate varietals from 62 acres of volcanic soil using solar-powered technology. Vineyards Estate tours commence with an abridged chronicling of the grape plantation's yesteryears as guests sip house-made chardonnay, with hints of pear, citrus, and oak, and inhale the aromas of lemongrass and pensiveness in the sauvignon blanc. Expeditions then journey through the tank room and on through Schweiger’s underground cellar as adventurers sip flutes of merlot, with cedar and black-pepper notes, and sample a cabernet with a finish as smooth as a velvet pillow coated in shortening. The tour guides at Schweiger Vineyards suggest toting along cameras to capture their breathtaking views that overlook Napa Valley at elevations of up to 2,000 feet.
Opening its hallowed, grape-infused halls in 1876, Beringer Vineyards boasts a storied history buoyed by a rich register of fine wines. During the tour and wine tasting for two, couples, connoisseurs, and career-regretting raisins sample four pours from the Private Reserve collection, highlighted by the chardonnay and the cabernet sauvignon. A blend of grapes reared and refined by the stern confines and fermentation lectures of French Nevers oak, the 2007 cabernet holds an outstanding grade of 93 from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar. Wines get swirled, sniffed, and slurped amid the horizon of linear vineyards and ornately manicured gardens that pepper Beringer's property. The grounds also feature architectural highlights such as the Rhine House, a 125-year-old homestead and prime example of Victorian architecture, teeming with stained-glass windows, gables, turrets, and the ghosts of frock coats past.