Obviously, wine tasting in Napa Valley is a must, and the real reason everyone visits. But the valley is literally dotted with fantastic wineries. Figuring out where to start and which wineries should top your list can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, Emily had the brilliant idea of going on a wine tour our first full day in Napa. Wine tours are a great option because they are run by locals who know the region, take you to wineries that you may not have heard of (or are off the beaten path), and, the best part, you don't have to worry about drinking and driving.
We took our tour with Platypus Wine Tours. They were spectacular -- organized, well-run, and, most importantly, fun! We shared our mini-tour bus with four fabulous couples, who, thanks to lots of wine, quickly became our good friends. We visited a total of four wineries, all of which were quite generous with their tastings, and the ones at the end of the day were real generous... that's when things get a bit hazy lol.
Our timing in Napa was perfect without even realizing it. I should have know it was harvest time, since I participated in the harvest in Tuscany last September, but both Emily and I forgot until we arrive and found ourselves in the middle of the harvest.
We started our day of winery hopping at the Ruthorford Ranch winery. The best part about this winery is that they offer a wine and chocolate tasting! Oh, it was so yummy. Four wines paired with four amazing types of chocolate. Our next stop was the hipster Casa Nuestra winery, where we tasted tasty organic wines, had a picnic lunch, and played with their adorable goats. Casa Nuestra had a very cool, earthy vibe about it and they specialize in cultivating older grape varieties that are disappearing from the region.
Our third winery was the charming and laid-back Tudal winery. The Tudal estate is full of quaint little seating areas and communal games like giant Jenga and cornhole. After some fun and games, we headed to our last and most generous stop, Hopper Creek. This is where things got weird lol. Everyone was suddenly best friends and we ended up frolicking through the vineyards and taking a thousand photos. We really couldn't help ourselves, the wine at Hopper Creek was everyone's favorite. And we tried them all!
My only complaint about Napa is that the majority of the wineries grow French grapes and make French-style wines. Where are the Italian wines? I learned this past summer, through much trial and error, that I don't love French wines as much as I do Italian wines. Of course, this did not stop me from trying all of the wines in Napa.
In addition to touring smaller wineries, Emily and I also visited a couple larger, more famous estates (more on that next week). I think to really appreciate Napa and its wine, you need to experience both, and a wine tour like this one is the perfect way visit small and truly unique estates.
I highly recommend Platypus Tours if you are visiting Napa Valley (they offer Sonoma tours too)!
And you can read my tips for looking like you know what you are doing when tasting wine here.