Nestled between Oakville and St. Helena in Napa Valley, California, the Rutherford AVA produces some of Napa’s finest wines. For cabernet lovers, this is where to come to taste the rich, opulent, structured cab Napa is famous for. Not surprising, Rutherford wineries also produce delicious Bordeaux blends to further intoxicate red wine fans.
We know that terroir drives uniqueness in wine, and Rutherford’s special flavor profile is the result of its distinct deep gravel and sandy soils, coupled with the area’s microclimate, which create a longer growing season and hang time. The wine’s tannins are rounded out with a soft, dusty style, imparting such a distinct signature that it’s known as “Rutherford Dust.” For many fans of Rutherford wines, it’s an utterly addicting element that keeps them coming back vintage after vintage.
To taste the best of Napa Valley’s Rutherford wineries, follow our two-day tasting itinerary. As a reminder, due to COVID-19 the wineries now require reservations for visits and tastings.
If you want to drink incredible 100 percent estate wines and help the planet out at the same time, choose to imbibe at the certified Napa Green winery of St. Supéry. Known for its cabernet sauvignon and Bordeaux bottles, and its commitment to sustainability, reserve either the Cabernet Sauvignon Collector’s Tasting or the Five Bordeaux Varietals and Your Five Senses experience when visiting. Either tasting will give you the opportunity to sample wines so good that in 2015 the winery was purchased by fashion icon Chanel Inc. No doubt, Coco and cab are a perfect pairing! Speaking of pairings, if a food pairing is what you’re after, you’ll enjoy the Taste of the Estate experience, which includes four wines paired with small bites highlighting seasonal ingredients grown on-site.
Insider Tip: Don’t miss checking out the art gallery on the winery’s second floor. Exhibits change throughout the year.
Family owned, and led by visionary Tony Peju, the Father of Custom Crush, Peju Winery is known for its classic Bordeaux varietals shining on their own, like the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, or blended into intoxicating bottles like the 2016 Sketches, a blend of cabernet and merlot. Book a private Wine and Dine luncheon to experience a variety of Peju wines while sitting in the beautiful garden. You’re likely to see the matriarch of the family, Herta Peju, digging in the dirt to ensure the roses and dahlias are creating a bouquet as intoxicating as that of their wines.
Insider Tip: Visit the charming, 50-foot tower on property that graces all estate-bottled Peju labels. It also happens to be one of the tallest buildings in Napa Valley.
Since 1900 when Georges des Latour founded Beaulieu with the goal to create wine that rivaled those found in his native France, “BV” has been a pioneer in Napa Valley. For many years its winemaker was the legendary “Maestro” André Tchelistcheff. His Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was the first cult cab in Napa and is still considered one of the best today.
Insider Tip: For the ultimate tasting, schedule the 120-minute Georges de Latour Legacy Experience where you’ll have the chance to try the legendary wine BV is known for.
Napa Valley wines gained international acclaim at the 1976 Paris Tasting when the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay bested all the storied white Burgundies to be named best white wine in the world. Mike Grgich was the winemaker that crafted that famous wine. After the shocking victory, he and his sister founded Grgich Hills Estate. Not surprisingly, it’s chardonnay that reigns supreme here, each bottling made from their certified organic vineyards.
Insider Tip: Book the Picnic Experience to enjoy a customized tasting and lunch in the winery’s picnic area. Make sure to add on the Grape Stomp, where a wine educator will lead your group on an epically memorable grape stomp.
Provenance Vineyards focuses on enlightening oenophiles with estate wines that highlight the differences of terroir, weather, and microclimate in each bottle. The winery is especially known for its Hewitt Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, a single-vineyard bottling that regularly receives top scores, which can be enjoyed in a special Hewitt Vineyard focused tasting.
Insider Tip: You no doubt noticed the large abstract mural by renowned San Francisco artist Heather Day when you first drove up to the winery. Sit on the tasting room patio and you’ll be able to drink in the details of the colorful artwork.
Cab may be king in Rutherford, but up on Rutherford Hill it’s merlot that reigns supreme. The vineyard’s founders noted that this area had a climate and soil similar to France’s famous merlot AOC, Pomerol, and they went all in on the varietal. Today 75 percent of Rutherford Hill wine is merlot.
Insider Tip: Go spelunking for great wine. Rutherford Hill is known for its historic wine caves, which you can explore on the private cave tour that ends with a tasting of five wines crafted by winemaker Marisa Taylor.
Pac-Man would gladly gobble up the award-winning wine at Groth Vineyards & Winery. The family-owned vineyard was founded by the former CFO of Atari, and first jumped on the international wine scene when its 1985 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon became the first American wine given 100-points by Robert Parker. In 2019, the 2016 Reserve Cab was named the fourth best wine in Wine Spectator’s prestigious Top 100 list.
Insider Tip: Taste Groth’s cabernet sauvignon legacy with the Single Vineyard Cabernet Tasting, a 60-minute experience that showcases how small variances in soil, climate, and topography can affect the character of a wine.
If your palate is getting a little tired of Napa cabs, head to Napa Cellars to taste a wide variety of varietals from chardonnay and sauvignon blanc to pinot noir and zinfandel. The Reserve tasting will highlight the best small-lot wines crafted by winemaker Joe Shirley, while the Winemaker tasting features some of his favorite lesser-known red varietals.
Insider Tip: Enjoy your tasting in the unique geodesic domed tasting room commissioned by Napa Cellar’s founder Charlie Woods.
Started in 1879, Inglenook has ushered in a series of firsts in Napa Valley, including the first merlot vines planted, one of the first gravity flow wineries, and the first bottling assembly line. Since buying the winery in 1975, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola has been the Godfather at Inglenook. The winery is known for its Rubicon estate Bordeaux-style red wine, which has been made since 1978.
Insider Tip: To learn more about the legacy and wines of Inglenook opt for the Private Library Tour and Tasting, a sommelier-led library tasting in the historic Inglenook Chateau, or choose to design your own curated experience to discover more about the estate and its wines.