Whether you are a first timer or a seasoned Napa Valley wine connoisseur, taking a Napa Valley Wine Tour is a hassle-free way to explore and enjoy world-class wineries Napa Valley has to offer. Take a ride through picturesque Napa Valley on board of one of the hand-built replicas of a California Street Cable Car.
Enjoy the breeze while soaking in the sun and the view by sitting in the open sections of the trolley.
Or if you are like me, enjoy the view from inside the cabin.
Napa Valley Wine Tours offers two types of trolley tours: Classic and Premium. The $99 Classic Tour is a 6 hour experience “Down the Valley” (with occasional exceptions), which includes wineries in the southern part of Napa, Yountville, Oakville, and Rutherford. The $129 Premium Tour is a 6.5 hour adventure “Up the Valley”, which includes the northern half of the Napa Valley, focusing on wineries in Calistoga and St. Helena. Each tour includes transportation, visits to three or four Napa Valley wineries, a catered picnic lunch, a short Napa history and wine education from a friendly driver/guide.
Today I will be talking about the Classic Tour. The tour starts and ends at and the Oxbow Market in downtown Napa, including local hotel pick-ups. The list of wineries varies by the day of the week, which allows visitors to take an additional wine tour on a second day. The wine tasting fees at wineries vary from $10- $25 per person and are usually waived with the purchase of wine.
One thing I would suggest to bring with you on a tour are snacks for the rides in between wineries. All that wine tasting on an empty stomach might give you a headache. My snacks consisted of fresh bread form the Model Bakery and salami form the Fatted Calf next door, both popular Napa spots.
The tour started at 10:15 a.m. with the first stop at the Pestoni Family Estate Winery, formerly known as Rutheford Grove Winery. With over 100 years of history in Napa Valley, Pestony family has established itself as one of the artisanal wine makers in the region offering wide selection of premium wines such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sangiovese, and sauvignon blanc at their Rutherford Ranch, and cabernet sauvignon, merlot and a Bordeaux-style blend at their Howell Mountain Estate.
I especially enjoyed their 2012 Rutherford Grove Cabarnet Sauvignon.
The second stop was Raymond Vineyards, one of Napa’s classic wine producers. Drawing on experience from the five generations of wine makers, the Raymond Vineyards produces an impressive list of wines, which includes cabarnet sauvignon at their Rutherford Vineyard, cabarnet sauvignon at the St. Helena Vineyard, and chardonnay, merlot and sauvignon blanc at the Jameson Canyon Vineyard.
The wine tasting in this particular tasting room was very different from the wine tastings I have attended before. Entering the tasting room submerges you into a world of neon lights, crystal, lavishly decorated wine bottles, wine barrels, and the star of the show, a very friendly sommelier, who made the whole experience very glamorous and entertaining. My favorite wine at this wine tasting was the 2014 LVE Collection Chardonnay.
After the wine tasting, along with other wine tasters, I went on a little adventure to explore the parts of the winery that were available for viewing with this tour.
At the bar of the Crystal Cellar visitors can expand their knowledge of decanting wine and enjoy fine wines such as District Collection Cabernet Sauvignon and Generations (premiere flagship).
Walking through the Corridor of Senses is a fun way to learn how the color, smell, and texture express themselves in wine.
For an intimate wine tasting experience the Library Tasting looked ideal.
Red Room Salon Privé will not only take you back in time, but also will stun you with its grand interior.
Here you can experience luxurious private tasting which offers a flight of the winery’s best wines, including the Red Room Red and The Surrealist.
Below is one of many educational plaques about the wine making process in the two acre Theatre of Nature at Raymond Vineyards. The Theater of Nature is the largest educational exhibit on Biodynamic farming in the Napa Valley.
Walking through the Theatre of Nature worked up an appetite, luckily it was lunch time. The lunch was catered by Bottega, Napa Valley’s exquisite Italian restaurant owned by the renowned chef Michael Chiarello. Grape Salad and Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad were served as starters, and Focaccia Alla Giana, Toasted Spice Chicken Sandwich, and Caprese Sandwich were the entrees.
Shaved Brussels sprouts salad with whole Meyer lemon dressing, Marcona almonds, sieved egg, and Pecorino cheese.
Toasted Spicy Chicken Salad – roasted chicken breast, olive oil braised potato, tomato, arugula, and Sherry vinegar served on ciabatta roll.
Focaccia Alla Giana – Sopresetta, Mortadella, Proscuitto Cotta, Provolone served on house made focaccia roll with basil aioli, tomato, and arugula.
To finish off the meal, Italian pastries were served.
The last stop on this palette satisfying adventure was Andretti Winery, founded in 1996 by Mario Andretti, one of the greatest race car drivers of the era, and his longtime friend, Joe Antonini, former Chairman and CEO of Kmart Corporation. With its warm ambiance of the charming Tuscan style villa, away from the bustle of the city, the Andretti Winery is a place to unwind with a glass of their premium wines produced from the grapes that grow in the surrounding the winery vineyards in Oak Knoll region of the Napa Valley. Pinot grigio, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and merlot are the grapes that harvested here.
The tasting took place in the Barrell Room, which was a nice reprieve on this hot day. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon was my choice at the Andretti Winery.
At the tour’s end, I walked though the rows of grape vines and touched the grapes that were at the height of their ripeness and connected with mother nature, which was an absolute delight. I look forward to exploring more of Napa Valley on my next visit. Happy travels!