Top Napa Valley Wineries and Tasting Rooms

Vineyard. Napa Valley. Napa County, California, USA
Danita Delimont / Getty Images

For some wine snobs, a trip to Napa is all about finding the top-rated wineries to visit. For the rest of us, it's a chance to enjoy some excellent wine in an iconic and beautiful area.

Forget those tired old lists of best wineries to visit in Napa, the ones that get copied from one website to the next, written by people who may have never set foot in California. Don’t put too much stock in online reviews written by random strangers, either. This list is based on in-person visits, looking for the best of the best in every category. 

To make it onto this list, the wine has to be excellent. More importantly, the winery and its staff have to deliver an experience that you'll remember, one that you will still be talking about months if not years from now.

To visit any of these wineries, you should make reservations ahead of time.

01 of 10

SIgnorello Vineyards

Vineyard at Signorello

 Signorello Vineyards

Best for: Tasting experience, winery tour, food and wine pairing

After the October 2017 Atlas Peak Fire, all that was left of Signorello was their vineyards and their wine tanks. It took owner Ray Signorello only moments to decide what he would do about that. After asking whether the employees were ok, then inquiring about the vineyards, he immediately pledged to rebuild.

That process may take a few years, but even in their temporary quarters, Signorello offers one of the best winery experiences in Napa Valley.

You could go to Signorello Estate to enjoy one of the best tasting room views in Napa Valley. You could go to sample their limited production, highly-rated, estate-grown wines. You could even go because they’re one of the few Napa wineries that pour two white wines along with their reds.

But the real reason to visit is to get a glimpse of one of the few family-owned wineries left in Napa, a winery where the owner and his father planted the original vines by hand.

Go for the Estate Experience, which includes a driving tour of their vineyards, followed by a seated tasting of five wines, paired with thoughtfully chosen, seasonal gourmet bites. 

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02 of 10

Round Pond Estate

Olive Oil and Wine Tasting

 Courtesy of Round Pond Estate

Best for: Tasting experience, winery tour, food and wine pairing

Quite a few Napa wineries offer food and wine pairings, but few do it as well as Round Pond Estate. At Round Pond, you get a real taste of “terroir” (the complete natural environment in which a wine is produced) in their wines and in their estate-grown olive oils, all paired with seasonal produce from the chef’s on-site organic garden.

During their Il Pranzo experience, you’ll get a chance to enjoy Round Pond wines and olive oils. Allow up to 3 hours to enjoy yourself at a leisurely pace. Far more than just a few bites of this and that, you'll get a satisfying meal.

They also offer a Garden to Table Sunday Brunch and a Signature Tour that includes a ride around the estate in their cute, red truck.

Try their dense and elegant Gravel Series wines to sample the best of the best. The grapes come from vines growing in fingers of gravel created by the Napa River and Conn Creek. It took twelve years of painstaking research to identify them, vine by vine.

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03 of 10

Raymond Vineyards

Crystal Cellar at Raymond Vineyards
Courtesy of the Boisset Collection

Best for: Tasting experience

Stylish and chic, with one of the most unusual tasting rooms in Napa Valley, Raymond is a refreshing break from the stuffy, traditional winery scene. And a chance to sample some of the best wines produced in Napa Valley.

Opt for their premium tasting room called the Crystal Cellar, where Baccarat crystal chandeliers and mannequin angels hover overhead. Or sign up for their winemaker for a day program and learn how to blend your own wines. And don't miss the Corridor of Senses, where you get a whiff of the aromas found in wine.

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04 of 10

Heibel Ranch

Sheep Grazing in the Vineyard at Heibel Ranch

 Heibel Ranch Vineyards

Best for: Tasting experience, winery tour, boutique winery

You won't find a more charming winery experience anywhere than the Back Country tour at Heibel Ranch, hosted by the winery's owner and his dog Chachi. They don't have a fancy tasting room, just 185 acres of land that has been in the family for three generations. And some award-winning wines to taste.

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05 of 10

Smith-Madrone Vineyards

Stu Smith at Smith Madrone Winery
Courtesy of Smith Madrone and Kelly Puleio

Best for: Tasting experience, boutique winery

There's no pretense, no fancy tasting room, and no one telling you what you should be tasting at this two-man winery in the mountains above St. Helena, where it's easy to imagine what Napa was like 40 years ago.

You'll need a reservation for one of their limited number of tasting opportunities., which are led by winemaker Charlie Smith. They charge for tasting but will waive the fee if you buy a bottle of wine. And the owners are so much fun to talk to.

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06 of 10

Schramsberg Vineyards

Sparkling Wine Tasting in the Caves at Schramsberg
Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Best for: Winery tour, sparkling wine

If bubbles are your thing, don't miss Schramsberg Vineyards. You'll not only get a chance to tour one of the oldest in Napa Valley, with caves that were hand-dug by Chinese laborers.

You'll also get a look at some of the painstaking processes Schramsberg uses to make their award-winning sparkling wines, learn what ridding is, and how they get all those bubbles into the bottle. And of course, you'll get to taste some of their yummy sparkling wines.

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07 of 10

CRU Tasting Lounge

Cru Tasting Room at the Oxbow Public Market

 Oxbow Public Market

Best for: Tasting experience

The CRU tasting room near the Oxbow Market looks so little like a traditional tasting room that they may greet you at the door by explaining what it is. That’s not a complaint, but a compliment to a tasting room that provides a laid-back wine-tasting experience with no pretense.

CRU wines are designed to be approachable and affordable, made from grapes that come from vineyards in parts of California where the best varietals are grown. But as they say on those late-night infomercials, that’s not all. The tasting room also features wines from Vineyard 29, a place so exclusive that mere mortals may find it hard to get in.

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08 of 10

Del Dotto Wine Gallery

Tasting Wine from the Barrel

 Inti St Clair/Getty Images

Best for: Tasting experience, winery tour

They call it a tour, but the Del Dotto experience also involves wine tasting, focusing on the role that barrels play in the way wines taste.

Their signature experience takes you into the wine cave and includes tasting six to eight wines directly from the barrel, followed by a selection of cheese, house-made salumi, pizza, and dark chocolate. 

Their original location (Historic Del Dotto) just outside of downtown Napa feels more authentic than Del Dotto Estate on CA Hwy 29.

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09 of 10

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa in the fall
Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa

Best for: Winery tour

The building almost eclipses the wines at Castello, a faithful reproduction of an Italian castle. That's what makes their tour so much fun. The fully-equipped dungeon is often a big hit with kids of all ages. Opt for one of their specialty tastings to get a better experience.

You'll be better off to reserve ahead any time, but they accept walk-in visitors if they have room.

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10 of 10

What You Need to Know About Free Wine Tasting in Napa

Free wine tasting is nearly impossible to find in Napa Valley wineries. You might find lists online but all are are out of date, listing wineries that have no tasting room at all and others that may have once offered free tasting but don't do that now.

If free wine tasting is what you're looking for, you may be better off to head for Sonoma instead, where some tasting rooms don't charge a fee.

Here's a simple way to save money on wine tasting in Napa: Share your tasting with someone. One glass, two people, sipping from it. Not only does it save money, but it can be romantic and it keeps the intoxication level down.

You can also buy discount cards, Groupon deals, look for wineries that refund your tasting fee if you buy a bottle of wine, and find other ways to save money, but if you're looking for a memorable winery experience during your trip of a lifetime, it may be best to spend a little more.