5 Can’t-Miss Napa Valley Wine Tasting Experiences to Hit This Summer
Wine tastings have evolved beyond the staid affairs of old, even in a region like Napa Valley that is known for its high-end offerings. Wineries up and down the valley have broadened the concept of tasting to include a variety of experiences that appeal to experts and beginners alike. Whether you want to blend and bottle your own wine, increase your knowledge base on farming techniques, groove to tunes spun by a winemaker turned DJ, explore wine and food pairing options, or party with your friends in an onsite cabana, Napa has you covered. A long spring or summer weekend is the perfect time to visit Napa, and if you schedule in advance and book a car and driver, you can hit all these hot spots in a couple of days and still have time for some terrific dinners.
Owner Jean-Charles Boisset is the consummate host. Along with his team at Raymond Vineyards, he has developed more than 10 tasting experiences to thrill wine lovers and neophytes alike. Try working as a winemaker for a day by crafting your own bottle of a Bordeaux-style red blend, put a cork in it, and bring it home. Or enjoy a specialized tasting in the Crystal Cellar, a working winery lit by Baccarat chandeliers. Those who prefer the outdoors can have a tasting in the grove with sweeping views of the biodynamic vineyards.
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Honig Vineyard and Winery
Honig Vineyard and Winery is solar powered, certified sustainable, and family owned. Their winery is in a privileged location showcasing views of the mountains and vineyards that can be seen during the Terrace Tasting Experience. They also offer an Eco Tour and Tasting Experience where guests jump in a six-person cart and drive through the vineyards to learn how Honig manages water use, their farming techniques, and their role in the Napa River Restoration Project. Guests looking for a little more in-depth tasting can do a premium tasting by booking their Reserve Room AVA Experience.
Cliff Lede Vineyards
In 2002, owner Cliff Lede acquired 60 acres of land in the Stags Leap District and decided to name each block of vines with his favorite rock songs such as “Dark Side of the Moon” and “My Generation.” His son Jason Lede is following in his winemaking and musical footsteps by hosting and spinning a Hip-Hop Happy Hour on select Friday afternoons. The winery also offers a Backstage Tasting Lounge that features rotating art exhibits and tastings of single vineyard wines, appellation series, and Platinum and Library wines. There’s also a VIP Tasting experience in the outdoor lounge that highlights some of Cliff Lede’s best wines. Those seeking an elevated affair should try the Library Tasting Experience that starts with a visit to the estate vineyard followed by a tasting of four wines from the library collection.
Darioush was founded in 1997 by Iranian immigrant Darioush Khaledi and his wife Shahpar to share the art and architecture that inspired their wines. Their stunning winery is built to a resemble a Persian temple, and some of their guest offerings highlight the Persian culture such as the Signature Mezze experience. Guests are served four wines paired with mezze plates and Persian roasted pistachios. Another tasting features their fine wines and artisanal cheeses. Those looking for something different can sign up with the in-house Olive Oil Experience and taste the inherent differences between various olive oils while sipping Darioush’s fine wines.
Louis M. Martini
Louis M. Martini left Genoa Italy in 1899 at the age of 12 to meet his father in San Francisco. They made their first wine together in 1906 and continued to make sacramental wine for local Catholic churches during Prohibition. Modern day visitors to Napa Valley can enjoy their recently opened winery and visitor center to experience the wines of Martini. A group of ten friends can sign up for the Outdoor Cabana Tasting which includes Lot 1 wine, the top of their portfolio, paired with Italian inspired foods. A smaller group might choose the Heritage Lounge Experience including a seated wine tasting with food prepared by executive chef Aaron Meneghelli or the Martini Park Tasting showcasing three wines with an artisanal cheese board.
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