If you’re doing Napa Valley for the first time or the fifteenth, you’ll likely be tasting a lot of cabernet sauvignon during your visit. Cabernet is, after all, acknowledged as the king of red grapes in Napa, dominating 40% of the region’s total production. With a terroir perfectly suited for growing cabernet, Napa has certainly found its sweet spot with this much loved Bordeaux grape, and the results are powerful, deeply layered, and age-worthy wines showcasing notes of black fruit, violets, tobacco, and cedar, to name a few.
Of course, the sheer number of wineries in Napa featuring cabernet and cabernet blends is enough to overwhelm any wine taster, so where to start? To help guide you, we’ve put together a list of 12 of the most famous names in Napa cabernet welcoming visitors, along with a few lesser known wineries worth noting. Make some room in your cellar, because we have a feeling you’ll be going home with a few new bottles.
Founded by Tony Peju and his wife, Herta, in 1983, Peju (and its iconic 50-foot tower) has remained a fixture along the St. Helena Highway, where guests are welcomed to enjoy tastings while learning about Peju’s history, winemaking style, and wines. Their Rutherford cabernets tend to exhibit notes of cedar box, white pepper, cherry cola, and cocoa, enhanced by the prominent “Rutherford dust” character so typical of this region. Tastings take place in the lovely estate garden or Tower tasting room and include five wines, but for a more enhanced experience, opt for one of Peju’s culinary tasting experiences, such as the wine and food pairing or the private four course lunch enjoyed amidst the vines.
Louis M. Martini Winery was one of the first wineries in Napa Valley after Prohibition ended, founded in 1933 by Italian immigrant, Louis M. Martini, who went on to establish the winery as one of the foremost producers of cabernet sauvignon in Napa Valley. After completing an extensive renovation in 2019, Louis M. Martini Winery continues to offer world-class wine paired with welcoming hospitality, now in a stunning new visitor center with numerous indoor and outdoor tasting spaces. Since cabernet is the speciality, expect to taste a variety of cabernet-focused wines, each meticulously sourced from different blocks throughout Martini’s several estate vineyards.
Single-vineyard cabernets are the name of the game at Hewitt Vineyard, where cabs are handcrafted to showcase the full expression of this Rutherford vineyard. Though it varies from vintage to vintage, the Hewitt Vineyard Cabernet tends to exude notes of black fruit, crème de cassis, black olive, and cocoa, and is regularly well reviewed by critics. In fact, the 2010 vintage was named #4 on the Top 100 Wines of 2013 by Wine Spectator, so you know they’re doing something right. To experience the wines yourself, head to sister winery, Provenance Vineyards, where private tastings include a selection of both library and current release vintages.
Crosby Roamann is owned by Sean and Juliana McBride, who started their label in 2007 with one barrel of cabernet. Since then, the husband-and-wife duo have taken a minimally invasive approach to winemaking, ensuring every effort is made to craft wines with a true sense of place. Though they produce a few different varietals, such as merlot, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc, Crosby Roamann is most known for its Reserve Cabernet. Using fruit sourced from Harmony School Vineyard in Coombsville, this limited-production cabernet is pressed entirely by hand (in an old hand-crank press) and spends 24 months in new French oak. The resulting wine shows notes of fresh raspberry, cassis, vanilla, spice, and coffee. Head to their industrial chic winery, located in Napa’s Crusher District just a few minutes from downtown, to enjoy a private tour, a tasting of current releases, and even samples straight from the barrel.
Owned by Kathryn and Craig Hall, HALL has built a reputation for its Bordeaux varietals, made from grapes sourced from Hall’s 500 acres of estate vineyards and from other esteemed vineyards throughout Napa Valley. Their selection of cabernet wines are much loved by critics and wine lovers alike, regularly striking the perfect balance of ripe fruit, earth, and savory characters. Tasters have not one but two wineries to choose from, thanks to tasting rooms in both St. Helena and Rutherford. The most known of the two is HALL St. Helena, California’s first LEED® Gold Certified winery, which features a one-of-a-kind Bunny Foo-Foo statue, along with over 35 pieces of contemporary art, an expansive lawn, and modern architectural details.
Founded in 1978 by Gary Andrus, Pine Ridge Vineyards is located in the heart of the Stags Leap District, recognized for producing distinct and powerful cabernet sauvignon wines. Sourcing grapes from their 160 acres of Napa Green certified estate vineyards, spread throughout five appellations in Napa Valley, Pine Ridge crafts wine to express the special nuances of each individual site. Their flagship wine, FORTIS Cabernet Sauvignon, represents the best blocks of the vineyards and is characterized by its complex fruit flavors, plush mouthfeel, and age-worthy structure. Named one of the 75 Best Wineries to Visit in California by Food & Wine, visitors can choose from the 60-minute Estate Tasting featuring five current release wines, or the FORTIS vertical experience offering a deep dive into this iconic wine over the years.
As one of California’s earliest wine estates, Stags’ Leap Winery has long been a fixture in the famed Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. First established in 1893, the storied estate is dripping in history, including the castle-like Manor House, constructed in 1890 from stone quarried in a nearby hillside, and the “old stone cellar” surrounding the cave. Most of the 85 acres of estate vines are planted to cabernet, petit sirah, and merlot, which thrive in this region. Their flagship wine, The Leap, is a classically styled cabernet filled with rich layers of cassis, blackberry, baking spices, and chocolate, with a smooth, lithe texture. If the higher end bottlings are out of your price range, try Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Cabernet, an approachable (and more affordably priced) alternative.
Owned by the MacDonnell family, Round Pond Estate is a respected producer of Napa Valley wines, particularly cabernet sauvignon, as well as world-class olive oil and vinegars from their beautiful estate in Napa Valley’s Rutherford AVA. Known for their depth and expressive character, Round Pond’s cabernets range in profile, from the Old World meets New World Rutherford Estate Cabernet to the finessed and age-worthy Louis Bovet Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Guided tastings range in price and focus, depending on interest, but if cabernet is what you’re after, the 90-minute Gravel Series Tasting, featuring current and library releases of this highly allocated cabernet, is not to be missed. Also worth mentioning: a portion of proceeds from all Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon sold during the month of November will be donated in honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
The 110-acre Larkmead estate is one of the oldest family-owned properties in the Napa Valley, originally founded in 1895. Since purchasing the property in 1992, Cam and Kate Solari Baker have transformed Larkmead into the reputable winery it is today and, along with winemaker Dan Petroski, they continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible from this estate. A visit to this picturesque winery includes a personalized tasting experience tailored to each guest, taking place on the serene covered patio looking out over the lushly landscaped grounds and surrounding vineyards. While Larkmead’s portfolio of wines is diverse, their cabernets are sure to impress. Revealing black fruit, savory herbs, and crushed rock nuances, these thoughtfully crafted cabs are powerful, yet restrained, and entirely elegant.
Since their first vintage in 2009, Mira Winery has set out to produce handcrafted single-vineyard, single-varietal wines made from select sites in Napa Valley. With a minimalist approach to winemaking, proprietor Jim Dyke, Jr. and winemaker/co-founder Gustavo A. Gonzalez produce a limited amount of highly allocated wines, such as the seductive Mira Schweizer Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, each crafted with ageability in mind. At their new Winery & Hospitality House, located just south of Yountville, a guided tour and tasting is the best way to see first-hand the meticulous thought and planning that went into making Mira what it is today.
Not to be confused with neighboring Stags’ Leap Winery, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is another well-known Napa Valley winery lauded for its stellar cabernet wines. In fact, this notable winery, founded in 1970, helped make a name for California cabernet when it beat out its French counterparts in the famous blind tasting known as the 1976 Judgment of Paris. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ highly rated cabs, such as the Cask 23, tend to find a nice balance between rich fruit and savory notes, revealing luscious texture and length on the finish. Tours and tastings are offered daily at this beautiful winery, along with a selection of more elevated, culinary-focused experiences to note.
Single vineyard, 100% varietal wines are the focus at Nickel & Nickel, from chardonnay to merlot, but cabernet sauvignon remains the winery’s first love and continued inspiration. Hailing from vineyards as far north as Calistoga and Howell Mountain to the Oak Knoll District further south, each of Nickel & Nickel’s cabernet wines showcase the various nuances of each vintage and vineyard, whether subtle or more apparent. Though it’ll cost you a pretty penny — $150 per person to be exact — Nickel & Nickel’s Terroir Tasting is a must for serious cabernet fans, offering the rare chance to explore eight of the winery’s 100% cabernet sauvignons in a north-to-south comparative tasting.