Chardonnay Lover’s Weekend Guide to Napa Valley

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  • on SEPTEMBER 21, 2015
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If Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of Napa Valley, Chardonnay is its queen. Luscious and fruit-driven, the premium Chardonnays of Napa Valley are worth seeking out. We’ve compiled a list of the top eight Chardonnay producers to visit on a two-day Chardonnay tour of Napa Valley.

Day 1

Fresh and Age-Worthy

Image Source: Stony Hill Vineyard and Yelp

Stony Hill Vineyard
3331 Saint Helena Hwy N
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-2636
Yelp: 4.5 stars, 9 reviews
Reservation: Required
Directions: Location 3 miles north of St. Helena off of Highway 29. The property is the McCrea family’s home, so to protect their privacy, they will send directions when you make an appointment.

Stony Hill has been a historic leader of Chardonnay in Napa Valley since the McCrea family founded the winery in 1943. The beautifully balanced Chardonnays are not your traditional Napa Valley “oak and cream” wines. They are crafted to age for years, so buy a case to drink some now and save some for later. The winery itself is secluded and peaceful, with incredible views over St. Helena and beyond.

Insider tip: Come armed with questions and a ready palate—owner Willinda McCrea is the hostess and she can answer pretty much anything you want to know about Stony Hill Vineyard and Spring Mountain.

Forever Classic

Image Source: Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena
1429 Tubbs Ln
Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 942-5105
Yelp: 4 stars, 303 reviews
Reservations: Required for tours
Directions: Turn left back onto Highway 29, then drive north for 3.5 miles. Turn right onto Dunaweal Lane, drive for less than a mile, then turn left onto the Silverado Trail. In 1.5 miles, bear right to get onto Highway 29, then turn left onto Tubbs Lane. The winery is on the right.

The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay won the Judgment of Paris, earning California Chardonnay respect all over the world, and the wine is still as stunning 40 years later. (The winemaker of that 1973 wine, Mike Grgich, now has his own winery, Grgich Hills in Rutherford, which is worth checking out too). The winery itself, an ivy-covered stone chateau, is one of the most beautiful buildings in Napa Valley.

Insider tip: Check out the pond below the winery, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch a glimpse of the resident otter.

Rich and Creamy

Image Source: Yelp and TripAdvisor

Rombauer Vineyards
3522 Silverado Trl N
St. Helena, CA 94574
(800) 622-2206
Yelp: 4 stars, 243 reviews
Reservation: Required
Directions: Turn left onto Tubbs Lane, turn right onto Highway 29, travel south for 1.5 miles then make a slight left to get onto the Silverado Trail. Drive for 6.5 miles, then look for the winery on your right.

Rombauer is a classic example of Napa Valley Chardonnay—rich, round, and full of ripe tropical fruit and buttered toast flavors. Be sure to make an appointment, as the tasting room gets crowded on weekends, but once you’re seated in the shaded garden sipping on Chardonnay, everything else melts away.

Insider tip: Schedule some extra time to admire the whimsical artwork collected by Koerner Rombauer that is on display.

5 Star Decadence

Image Source: Lewis Cellars

Lewis Cellars
4101 Big Ranch Rd
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 255-3400
Yelp: 5 stars, 4 reviews
Reservation: Required
Directions: Turn right onto the Silverado Trail, then travel south for 26 miles. Turn right onto Oak Knoll Avenue, then turn left onto Big Ranch Road. Drive for less than a mile and the winery will be on the right.

Lewis Cellars has produced some of the highest scoring Napa Valley Chardonnays over the past decade. The grapes are sourced from premium vineyards, go through 100% malolactic fermentation, and spend 15 months in French oak barrels, creating creamy, decadent wines. The tasting experience is equally high end, with only a few tasting slots open during the week and all the stops pulled out.

Insider tip: If you get to meet Randy, one of the owners, ask him about cars—he was a professional racecar driver for 23 years!

Day 2

Pioneering Spirit

Image Source: Yelp

Newton Vineyard
2555 Madrona Ave
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-9000
Yelp: 4 stars, 34 reviews
Reservation: Required
Directions: Drive north from Napa on Highway 29 for 18 miles. Take a left onto Madrona Avenue, follow it until it dead ends, then take the road going to the right. Follow it until the end, and you’re at the winery.

A pioneer in the 1980s, Newton Vineyard helped put Napa Valley Chardonnay on the map. Today, the wine is consistently one of the best around, and the Unfiltered Chardonnay is exquisite. The winery is a treat to visit, from a stroll through English gardens, to a jaunt in a six-wheel-drive Pinzgauer through the vineyards, to the elegant wine tasting.

Insider tip: The Red Label Chardonnay is one of the best values in Napa Valley, at $28 per bottle.

Highway 29 Hideaway

Image Source: TripAdvisor

Alpha Omega
1155 Mee Lane
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 963-9999
Yelp: 4 stars, 355 reviews
Reservation: Required for special tastings and tours
Direction: Drive back down Madrona Avenue, take a right onto Highway 29, and travel south for 3 miles. Turn left onto Mee Street, and you can’t miss the winery and the fountains.

Alpha Omega sources fruit from some of the best vineyards in Calistoga and Carneros to make delicious examples of the lighter style of Napa Valley Chardonnay. They are fruit-filled and clean—perfect for seafood or solo sipping. The winery sits alongside Highway 29 but you couldn’t feel farther from the rushing cars when you sit back in a plush deck chair under a wide umbrella, next to the water fountains.

Insider tip: This is a good spot for groups of four or more people—large tables and an accommodating staff make it a stress-free choice.

A Style for Everyone

Image Source: Cakebread Cellars

Cakebread Cellars
300 St. Helena Hwy
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 963-5222
Yelp: 4 stars, 510 reviews
Reservations: Required
Directions: Turn left onto Highway 29, drive south for 2 miles, and take a left into Cakebread Celalrs’ driveway.

Cakebread Chardonnays are great examples of the range of Napa Valley Chardonnay, from crisp and lean, to ripe and round. These style differences reflects the vineyards, from warm mid-Napa Valley to cooler Carneros. Whatever your Chardonnay style, you’ll find it here, along with a beautiful, newly renovated tasting room.

Insider tip: Cakebread really shines in the education and food pairing departments—book yourself a guided tour of the vineyards or a seated pairing to experience true Napa Valley hospitality

Rare and Tasty

Image Source: TripAdvisor and Yelp

6711 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-0889
Yelp: 4 stars, 163 reviews
Reservation: Required for sit down tastings
Directions: Turn left onto Highway 29, travel south for 3 miles, take a left onto Madison Street (the first light you come to). Turn right at the next block, and the tasting room is a few blocks down on your right.

This Yountville tasting room pours some of the most sought-after small production wines in Napa Valley, including Chardonnays. The tasting room started out as a local grapegrower’s home built in 1902, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Inside the building and surrounding it, sculpture and artwork turn the space into a constantly evolving gallery of talented artists. For art and wine lovers, it’s one not to miss.

Insider tip: Both Pahlmeyer and TOR pour their wines here, allowing you a rare glimpse into their Chardonnay utopia without having to join the waiting list.

There is no shortage of fantastic Chardonnay in Napa Valley, and this list will give you a solid start on your exploration of all the region has to offer. Buckle up, it’s Chardonnay time!


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