10 Napa Valley Wineries: Prestige Brands and Amazing Quality

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts,” Albert Einstein

Writing a Story about the Napa Valley: Any Suggestions? I don't often get asked by other writers who [unlike me] get paid to write stories about the wine scene here in California for recommendations about the wineries, the places I know where some great stories can be found. But just two weeks ago, I did receive such a request. Of course, it goes without saying; I was quite flattered to be asked in the first place. That said and being the 'nice' little wine blogger, you know [and hopefully love] that I'm; I quickly whipped together a list and shot it over to the requester via email.

"The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.” ~Mark Twain

Honestly, no fiction here, I really don't mind giving recommendations, and I'm always eager to help. When I do, I often attempt to send them to one of the many great folks I've met over the years and besides I can't cover the entire wine scene alone, even with the help of various contributors new and old.

Writing about wine, wineries and the folks behind the label takes many different voices, and the storylines and angles are as vast as the ocean. I hope they do get a chance to visit even one of the wineries I recommended. It was a bit of tough question to address, while some wineries say, "Prestige Brand" just from looking at their fantastic curb appeal, still others without the fancy chateau-like facades produce wines of stupendous luxury, but without the price tag that could make your wallet want to run for cover. So I tried to come up with a balanced list, something I thought would touch all the bases and below is that list I shared with her.

First, you must visit Carter Cellars, who is in my opinion making some of the very best Cabernet Sauvignon in the valley, hands down. Honestly, I can't afford too many of their wines, [sigh] which are available via allocation only, and while he has no fancy Chateau to gaze at, his wines will make your heart sing and your palate rejoice with the wine-gods. And Mark is about laid back as it gets, completely unassuming. If you do find yourself in Calistoga, please do pay them a visit, their tasting bar is shared with Envy Wines. Editors Note: I don't like vertical images, but it's the only one I have. 

Second: Now here's the place you can snap, video or whatever the money shot. Go to Spring Mountain. Where you will find Vineyard 7 & 8 I did a story on them a few years back. They're grape peeps, you'll love getting to know them, their wines and the tasting room is jaw-droppingly scenic. As for their wines, the Chardonnay is off the hook amazing, it's not like any other Napa Valley property, this 100% Spring Mountain Chardonnay and their Cabernet Sauvignon is mind-melting good, wines which say luxury all the way. 

Third: This is another money-shot place is Quintessa, believe me, no expense was spared building this place, with massive 40-foot doors that open into the vineyard from the crush pad, sweeping panoramas from the rooftop. On top of that, the wine is outstanding as well, but it is a luxury brand. And their story is quite amazing, and for images, you'd be hard pressed to find a better locale.

Fourth: A visit to the Hess Collection. Yes, they do walk that fine line between value wines and wine luxury, but I'd have to say their wines represent a substantial "value" to the consumer overall. They have a good selection of wines at many price points and deliver a very consistent product. For the visitor to their tasting, don't forget to check out the fantastic art collection, it is quite impressive and changes often and again this money-shot territory for the luxury brand. A great place to see sustainability in action. 

Fifth, a visit to Inglenook is a great place to see a prestige brand up close and personal, with loads of great history. And a historical, recent name change, that left a few folks puzzled. Considering the time and effort, it takes to build a brand and the crazy attempt to revive an old brand, which doesn't necessarily connote prestige at first blush.

Sixth: If you're going to write a story about the Napa Valley wine scene, then you have to visit up to Howell Mountain, to get above the fog. Take a trip to Red Cap Vineyards, the last time I had their wines, they were just stunning, textured and in a word delectable. A small family run operation, where the wine is bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside.

Seventh: If you need another money shot, then take a drive up to Atlas Peak [also known as Blue Mountain to the locals] to visit the grape folks at Antica in the Atlas Peak AVA, if possible ask to do a tasting from the picnic spot, right outside the caves and overlooking a sweeping vine covered vista. Another prestige producer, luxury wines with price tags to match, but so worth the price of admission if you have the coin. 

Eighth: If you want to visit another historic property, one of the 'old guard' iconic brands of the Napa Valley, then you owe to yourself to visit Beaulieu Vineyard and inquire about the possibility of not just tasting current releases, I'd ask about doing a vintage retrospective. I had a bottle of theirs from 1994, not stored in ideal conditions and sold for 15 dollars back in the day, that was a stunner. Loads of great history, a great storyline and a winery with real depth, delivering a Bordeaux like experience in the bottle, and price points from luxury to the everyday.

Ninth: The quiet and unassuming, often flying under the radar Elizabeth Spencer. A winery that will blow your doors off and they have a great story to tell as well. I've had their wines on many occasions, and I'm always impressed with the quality, depth, and complexity.

Tenth: Last, but certainly not the least is a great place, easily found along famous Highway 29 which intersects the valley, it is called St. Clement. S
pecifically, I've been a huge fan of their Oroppas, and I know with one sip, you too will share my joy. As for pictures the old Victorian Mansion and tasting salon makes for great luxury imagery. Sad to hear, that after some seventy five years in the biz, they're calling it quits. It will be sad to see them go. 


My husband and I visited The Hess Collection about 10 years ago. We really enjoyed their wines, the many photos opportunities and the amazing art display. Although art is NOT my thing normally, I was so impressed by their gallery that I purchased a hardback reminiscent book full of copies of the work displayed.

We also enjoyed the wines (especially their Reserve Wines)and beautiful views at Sterling Vineyards!

Thanks for your recommendations.

Michael Nguyen said…
Thank you for the love!! I just caught wind of this article!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing love to our gem! Our team has shared your article through out our facebook page, personal and Red Cap Vineyards. #muchlove

Michael Nguyen | Director of Marketing
Red Cap Vineyards | Howell Moutain, Napa Valley
E: atredcapvineyards@gmail.com
(707) 965-1145
Will Eyer said…
Hi Miki,

Wow it's good to be back in San Diego once more. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Hess is an amazing spot to visit, a little something for everyone, and many different wines at all different price points.

All the best,

Bill Eyer
Will Eyer said…
Hi Michael,

Thanks for your input. Redcap made a very favorable impression with me, right from the very first time I tasted their wine at the Peterson Automotive Museum in LA. Thanks for sharing the article further on Facebook, that is really appreciated. I'm so glad to see your enthusiasm for the article.


All the best,

Popular Posts