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 13 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 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 Cellar 47 Tour and Tasting, which includes tour through the European-inspired cave as well as a selection of estate cabernet sauvignons.
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 — $200 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.
Canard Vineyard is owned by Rich and Carolyn Czapleski, who purchased the 25-acre property in 1983. From their sustainably-grown, dry farmed grapes, the Czapleskis craft single-vineyard varietal wines and proprietary blends, each highlighting the unique characters of the terroir. Leading with the philosophy, “If you take care of the vines, the vines will take care of you,” the Czapleskis have earned much praise for their wines, including their zinfandel (from 135-year-old dry farmed vines) and cabernet sauvignon wines. Book a private tasting at the Calistoga winery to experience the wines in person, including the rich and full bodied cabernet, which showcases intense fruit characters, fine tannins, and incredible age-worthiness.
Beaulieu Vineyard, or “BV” as it’s widely called, is recognized as one of the longest continually operating wineries in Napa Valley, in addition to its prestige as one of the most iconic producers of cabernet sauvignon wines in the region. In fact, many consider BV’s legendary Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon to be the first “cult” cabernet in Napa – a true benchmark for this iconic grape in the region. Needless to say, a visit to this historic winery is a must for cabernet aficionados, who will appreciate the cabernet-focused tasting experiences offered. Opt for the Cabernet Collector Tasting, featuring five current releases, or delve a little deeper with the Georges de Latour Legacy Experience, a more elevated tasting that includes samples of rare older vintages of this famed wine.
You don’t have to be a wine lover to appreciate Cliff Lede – where music, art, architecture, and wine intersect – but serious oenophiles certainly appreciate the winery’s selection of limited-production wines – the most critically-acclaimed of which are the Platinum cabernet sauvignons. While tastings of current releases can be enjoyed in the incredibly picturesque courtyard, the best spot in the house is the Backstage Tasting Lounge. This comfortable indoor lounge features rotating art exhibits, such as portraits of classic rock artists, as well as access to some of the most coveted of Cliff Lede’s wines. And, in keeping with the theme, expect rock music playing on the speakers as you savor sips of compelling cabs.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 by appointment daily at this beautiful winery, from group experiences to guided private tastings.