Napa Valley is one of the most renowned wine regions in the world, producing some of the finest wines from a variety of grapes. Whether you’re looking for a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, a crisp Chardonnay, or a spicy Zinfandel, you’ll find something to suit your palate in this beautiful valley. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the top wines and wineries from Napa Valley, and give you some tips on how to enjoy them.
Cabernet Sauvignon The king of red grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted varietal in Napa Valley, and for good reason. It thrives in the warm and sunny climate, producing wines with dark red and black fruits, tobacco, mocha, and hints of spice. Cabernet Sauvignon is also known for its great structure and aging potential, making it a collector’s favorite. Some of the best examples of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon come from Ink Grade, a family-owned winery that sources grapes from their own vineyards in Howell Mountain and Coombsville, and La Jota Vineyards, a historic estate that produces elegant and complex wines from the high-altitude terroir of Howell Mountain.
Chardonnay The most popular white grape in the world, Chardonnay is also the leading white varietal in Napa Valley. It can express different styles depending on the winemaking techniques, from lean and crisp to voluptuous and full-bodied. Napa Valley Chardonnay is probably best-known for its award-winning turn during the 1976 Judgement of Paris, when Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay beat some of the finest French wines in a blind tasting2. Another iconic producer of Napa Valley Chardonnay is Stony Hill, a family-run winery that has been making elegant and balanced wines since 1952.
Zinfandel Often called America’s heritage grape, Zinfandel has a long and rich history in Napa Valley. Some of the best wines come from old vines that were planted pre-Prohibition, giving them a unique character and concentration. Zinfandel is usually a full-bodied, fruit-forward wine, with notes of blackberry, raspberry, pepper, and spice. It can also be made into a rosé wine called White Zinfandel, which is lighter and sweeter. Some of the top producers of Napa Valley Zinfandel are Robert Biale Vineyards, which specializes in single-vineyard Zinfandels from old vines, and Grgich Hills Estate, which makes a biodynamic Zinfandel from their Yountville vineyard.
Sauvignon Blanc A highly aromatic varietal, Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley is distinctly different from Sauvignon Blancs from France or New Zealand. Here, it shows bright tropical fruits and an irresistible zestiness which make it a very food-friendly wine. While often fermented in stainless steel, it can also be aged in neutral oak barrels to add texture, as is the case with Grgich Hills’ Fumé Blanc2. Another notable producer of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc is Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery, which makes an organic and elegant wine from their St. Helena vineyard.
Merlot As either a partner to Cabernet in a Bordeaux-style blend or as a varietal wine, Merlot’s fruit-forward profile and plush texture show an added finesse in Napa’s terroir. Plummy and juicy but still savory, Merlot is a popular choice during a wine tasting experience. Some of the best examples of Napa Valley Merlot come from Markham Vineyards, which has been making Merlot since 1978 from various vineyards across the valley, and Duckhorn Vineyards, which has been crafting acclaimed Merlots since 1976 from their estate vineyards in St. Helena.
Cabernet Franc Cabernet Franc plays a vital role for a winery focused on blends, but an increase in vineyards of this lighter-bodied and spicy red grape shows a growing passion for varietal bottlings—even single-vineyard focused wines. Cabernet Franc can show notes of red currant, violet, graphite, and green pepper, depending on the ripeness and oak treatment. Some of the top producers of Napa Valley Cabernet Franc are La Jota Vineyards, which makes a stunning wine from their W.S. Keyes Vineyard on Howell Mountain, and Falcor Winery, which makes a rich and smooth wine from their Coombsville vineyard.
These are just some of the famous wines and wineries from Napa Valley, but there are many more to discover and enjoy. If you’re planning a trip to this wine lover’s paradise, make sure to book your tasting appointments in advance, as some of the wineries require reservations. You can also join a wine tour or hire a driver to explore the valley safely and conveniently. And don’t forget to pair your wines with some of the delicious local cuisine, from casual burgers and pizzas to fine dining and Michelin-starred restaurants.