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.
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 Vinter's Tasting offers oenophiles and foodphiles the makings of an authentic vintner's lunch, uniting assorted cheeses and charcuteries with the sipper's choice of three wines. Quaffs of the Areté 2010 sauvignon blanc or the Houdini 2007 merlot escort nibbles of artisanal cheeses, cured meats, and mixed olives to a flavorful promenade chaperoned by bites of crusty french bread and a kindly corkscrew. Alternatively, a flight of Spotted Owl Vineyards 2008 mountain cuvée and Veendercrest 2005 Rutherford cabernet sauvignon can coast in for a smooth landing upon your palate's runway.
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.
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
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.