The Best Napa Valley Wineries for First-Time Visitors

The Best Napa Valley Wineries for First-Time Visitors

Which Napa Valley Wineries should you Visit?

If you’re planning a trip to wine country you’re probably wondering which Napa Valley wineries you should visit, not only that you’re searching for the best wineries in Napa. Because, let’s face it, with over 400 wineries located in one of California’s premier grape-growing regions, there is no way you can do them all. You are going to need to be selective in the wineries you visit.

There are many things to consider when making your list of wineries to visit in Napa.

First, you need to know what type of wine you prefer, white, reds, sweets, or sparkling. (And it’s O.K. if you like more than one!)

Second, consider the experience you prefer. Are you looking for a relaxing sit-down experience with food pairings or are you looking for a quick taste and on to the next winery?

Finally, is there a particular type of winery you prefer? Would you like breathtaking views for great photography, a small family-owned vineyard, or are you looking for the larger or historic wineries that offer one-of-a-kind experiences? Maybe something the whole family can enjoy?

Evaluating your preferences will help you narrow down that huge list of wineries in Napa available to visit. Then you can focus on specific towns or plotting your route up Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail.

Today I’d like to focus on those Napa Valley wineries that I believe are good choices for the first-time visitor. Many of these are the ones I visited the first time I ever went to the Napa Valley, and several are ones we recently visited with a friend who was visiting from Italy.

If you’re a first time visitor to Napa Valley, these winery destinations offer one or more of the following: gorgeous views, one-of-a-kind experiences, food pairings, tours and, of course, delicious wine. These Napa Valley wineries offer a little bit of everything.

If you’re reading this guide you’re most likely going to Napa so if you need some help putting together stylish outfits check out my ultimate guide on what to wear to a winery!

12 of the Best Wineries in Napa

I’ve narrowed down the best wineries in Napa. Don’t get me wrong there are hundreds of other Napa Valley wineries that are unique, one of a kind, and deserve a visit but this is a list for first-time visitors.

If it’s your first time in Napa Valley these are best wineries in Napa for you.

The Best Napa Valley Wineries for First-Time Visitors - Sterling Vineyards

Sterling Vineyards

If a spectacular view is what you’re aiming for then a visit to Sterling Vineyards is a requirement. With an aerial tram that takes visitors 300 feet above the town of Calistoga, you’re treated to panoramic views of the wine country.

You should opt for the self-guided wine-tasting tour, taking your time as you tour the grounds, see part of the winery’s operations, and finally end up on Sterling View Terrace, which is “the” place to take pictures.

Once you make it to the top you can sit and relax if you so desire or move on to the next winery, Castello di Amorosa, which you’re able to see from Sterling View Terrace.

No reservation required.
Tasting Fees range from $29 to $39 per person.
1111 Dunaweal Lane Calistoga, CA 94515
(800) 726-6136

The Best Napa Valley Wineries for First-Time Visitors - Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

This castle winery is unlike any other you will visit in the Napa Valley. Just like Sterling Vineyards, you visit here for more than just a taste of their wine.

When stepping foot on the 170-acre property you’re walking into an authentically styled, 13th-century Tuscan castle. It’s the only one of its kind in the valley and has its own drawbridge, as well as traditional defensive towers, interior courtyard, torture chamber, chapel, knights’ chamber, and a great hall.

If you so wish you can pay for a guided tour of the castle or explore it on your own. The tastings take place in a cave-like setting with a dark and moody ambiance.

No reservation required.
Tasting Fees range from $25 to $80 per person.
Tours & Food Pairings Available.
4045 Saint Helena Highway
Calistoga, CA 94515

The Best Napa Valley Wineries for First-Time Visitors -  Robert Mondavi

Robert Mondavi

Robert Mondavi winery is the perfect place to sit down and relax. If you’re planning on selecting a place toward the end of your day to unwind, this would be a great winery to do so.

With gorgeous outdoor seating and the option to buy wine by the glass, it’s a beautiful place to take in the Napa Valley Beauty!

No reservation required.
Tasting Fees range from $5 to $30 per person.
Tours & Food Pairings Available.
7801 ST. Helena Highway
Oakville, CA, 94562

The Best Napa Valley Wineries for First-Time Visitors - Beringer


Beringer is an icon in Napa Valley because it’s one of the oldest operating wineries, founded in 1875 in St. Helena. It is listed in the National Register of Historical Places and as a California Historical Landmark.

These large grounds give you plenty to see and tour. If possible, opt for the Reserve Tasting Bar at the Rhine House and take a seat outside to enjoy the gorgeous weather and relax. They also offer a huge platter of cheese and nuts to enjoy with your tastings, which of course we had to partake.

No reservation required.
Tasting Fees range from $25 to $125 per person.
Tours & Food Pairings Available.
2000 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574

Domaine Carneros

This Napa winery lures you in with its beauty! Driving by you can’t help but make a U-turn and stop at this 18th-century inspired château. The château resembles that of the one where Champagne Taittinger winery resides in Champagne, France, who also own this property.

Domaine Carneros is a tableside service winery with sparkling wine as its specialty. (No surprise there!)

Reservations are a must because it is always very busy. Reserve a seat on the terrace to enjoy the vineyard-covered hills of the valley.

Reservations are required.
Tasting Fees range from $30 to $95 per person.
Tours & Food Pairings Available.
1240 Duhig Rd.,
Napa, CA 94559

The Best Napa Valley Wineries for First-Time Visitors - V.Sattui

V. Sattui

V. Sattui is a very active winery with a deli and cheese shop, weekend barbecues, and picnic area, located at the southern end of St. Helena.

Have a tasting, buy your favorite wine, pair it with a cheese from the cheese shop, and take it outdoor to enjoy. This is a gorgeous place to end your day. If you scheduled some extra time to enjoy yourself at one location V. Sattui is a great choice.

No reservation required.
Tasting Fees range from $15 to $25 per person.
Tours & Food Pairings Available. Reservation required for food pairings and gold room tasting.
1111 White Lane
St. Helena, CA 94574

Peju Province Winery - Napa Valley - one of the best napa wineries for tasting experiences

Peju Province Winery

This is a good example of a smaller, family-owned winery that is also sustainably farmed. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not as good as its larger counterparts dotting the Napa Valley. This Rutherford winery is well known for its gardens, contemporary artwork, and some very, very good wines.

I recommend going on one of their tasting experiences (tours which are led by wine ambassadors). One allows you to taste straight from the barrel, while another pairs local cheeses. You won’t be disappointed.

No reservation required.
Tasting Fees range from $35 to $65 per person.
Tours & Food Pairings Available.
8466 St. Helena Highway
Rutherford, CA 94573

napa valley wineries - stags leap wine cellers

Stag’s Leap

Located along the Silverado Trail in Napa, this 240-acre winery is hidden in a valley in the valley, making for unique terroir and some marvelous wine. The 19th-century stone winery lends to the overall appeal, although it can be hard to find, as there are no signs.

Take their 90-minute tour (all visits by appointment only) and tasting and you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time, amongst the old stone cellars and musty wine bottles.

Reservations are required. (We dropped in during the off season without a reservation.)
Estate Tour & Tasting $65 per person.
6150 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558

wineries in napa - The Hess Collection

The Hess Collection

This unique winery is located on Mount Veeder in Napa, housed in a historic stone building constructed over a century ago. The gem of this winery, other than the wine itself, is the access that you have to contemporary art. The vineyard’s owner has opened his private art museum to the public. It is an absolute must-see venue.

Hess offers several exclusive tastings experiences, which are worth the time and money. I’m fond of the Wine & Chocolate Experience, which provides a tour of the museum and a wine-and-chocolate pairing that will make you swoon.

No reservation required.
Tasting Fees range from $35 to $165 per person.
Tours & Food Pairings Available.
Exclusive Experiences Require Reservation.
4411 Redwood Rd,
Napa, CA 94558

Domaine Chandon

This vineyard is known for its sparkling wines, which is not surprising as its parent company is Moet & Chandon, the well-known champagne house in France.

Established in Yountville more than 40 years ago, their tours are very educational, and I found that it’s a wonderful place to wind down your day, sitting on their terrace, sipping bubbly.

No reservation required. Reservations are required for parties of 10 or more.
Sparkling Tour + Tasting $40 per person
Tours Available.
1 California Drive
Yountville, CA 94599

Newton Vineyard

Newton sits atop Spring Mountain in St. Helena and provides breathtaking views of the valley. They are well known for bottling their wines without filtration, something you will not find at many wineries along the Napa Valley, so for that alone this winery is worth the visit.

While tours and tasting must be arranged in advance (no drop-ins), it is worth the trouble and drive to get here. You can walk amongst their formal English gardens, visit the pagoda, tour their cellars, and taste some extraordinary wines.

No reservation required for tastings. Tours by appointment only.
Tasting Fees range from $50 to $105 per person.
Tours Available.
2555 Madrona Avenue
St. Helena, California 94574

Schramsberg Vineyards

This winery, located in Calistoga, is well-known for its sparkling wine, of which they have an impressive array. That array is primarily stored in caves that were dug out of volcanic rock in the late 1800s and now hold over 2.5 million bottles.

The cellar is a sight to behold, and I marveled at how many bottles could be stacked in the arched cubbies throughout the cellar. I highly recommend a tour, but arrangements must be made in advance, as the traffic up the road to the winery is limited each day and drop-ins are not allowed.

Reservations are required.
Tasting Fee $120 per person
1400 Schramsberg Rd,
Calistoga, CA 94515

While this is by no means a complete list, it’s a good starting point for first-time visitors to Napa Valley. We recommend no more than 4 wineries in a day, with at least one full tour of operations. And make sure you check the wineries’ websites; many require booking appointments for both tastings and tours.

If you plan on staying in the Napa Valley, I highly recommend the Meritage Resort, a gorgeous Napa Resort that has tons of amenities and beautiful views of the vineyards. There are also numerous B&Bs, with owners who have a good knowledge of the best restaurants, secret tours, and out-of-the-way places. For larger groups or longer stays, you might consider Silverado Resort and Spa, which is located in and amongst two championship golf courses and offers a hotel as well as cottages and townhouses of varying sizes.

I hope our best wineries in Napa guide will help you with your wine tasting itinerary. Napa Valley has a lot to offer, and there is no shortage of wine tasting experiences, if you need more information about these Napa Valley wineries just send me a message, I’m happy to help!

Stay Stylish,

PS. If you’re planning a trip to Napa Valley make sure you read my ultimate travel guide: Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the Napa Valley.


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6 thoughts on “The Best Napa Valley Wineries for First-Time Visitors

  • default avatar
    Tamara Landre

    Hello Vanessa,

    Lovely article, very well done with great photos. I thought you might want to know that you’ve included a photo of the wines from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (5766 Silverado Trail), but the address you’ve given is for Stags’ Leap Winery (6150 Silverado Trail). Two different places, though they both share the name of the iconic viticultural area. I see someone else mentioned this, so I posted both addresses for you.

    Napa Local

  • default avatar

    Thanks! This is one of the best articles I’ve read. Very informative!

  • default avatar
    Terry Gutman

    On our next trip to Napa my husband and I are hoping to visit some of these that we didn’t get to last time. I must point out though that you have confused Stag’s Leap Cellars with Stags’ Leap Winery. Both are located on the Silverado Trail and both are worth visiting. Stags’ Leap Winery as described above will take you back in time and give you a great history of the Napa Valley in general. Stag’s Leap Cellars is the picture above and will be our first stop on our next trip. Their wines are outstanding. Yes there is a story behind the similar names and different spellings and I will let you and your readers figure that out on your next trip to Napa.

  • default avatar
    Terence Sims

    These wineries are definetly the busiest in the valley. Maybe a little warning to the first timers that they are very busy and unlike most of the rest of the wineries the valley has to offer. Otherwise they are going to think every winery is packed. I’m referring to Saturday and Sundays for sure. Other modest but awesome first time wineries would be Raymond, Frank Family, Silver Oak and Silverado Vineyards without the crush of people. But a very good article.

  • default avatar

    Schramsberg for sure! I would also say Silver Oak (new wine and food pairing from Chef Orsini) and Artesa (stunning architecture and lovely Pinots.)
    Cheers… The Wine Ho

  • default avatar
    Kathy johns

    My husband and I were able to make it to Sterlington & Robert Mondavi, and they were suburb! Absolutely gorgeous wineries highly recommend if you visit.