Sullivan Vineyards is one of a vanishing breed in Napa Valley, the family-owned winery.
In fact, it has been a family wine-making operation since founder Jim Sullivan opened it in the 1970s. Today, the second generation of Sullivans run the place. Sullivan is best known for its "big" red wines and was named one of the top 50 wineries in the world by Wine Spectator magazine in 1994.
The Experience at Sullivan
You can take a tour of the winery or just sample some of the wines. The best thing about the Sullivan experience is the laid-back atmosphere and the gorgeous location.
What’s Amazing at Sullivan Vineyards
Sullivan sensibly didn't become snobbish when their wines started winning awards. They didn't build a pretentious, shiny new tasting room, either. In fact, it's the irresistible combination of unpretentious service and amazing wines that makes a visit so much fun.
The wine-tasting experience at Sullivan is rooted in simplicity. They've created a pretty place to sit beneath soaring redwood trees with a view of the surrounding vineyards. The friendly staff pours some great wines - and Sean Sullivan (the oldest brother) often stops by to say hello to visitors, or even guide their tasting.
I have visited dozens of wineries while researching my top Napa Winery picks. Sometimes I swoon, and sometimes I spit (pretending to be all snooty when I really disliked what I was sipping). Sullivan is one of the few wineries where I enjoyed every single wine they poured.
Sullivan Vineyards Will Be Great For You If:
Wine aficionados will love Sullivan's award-winning red wines. If you're more of a casual wine drinker who just wants to enjoy some good wine in relaxing surroundings, you'll be happy there, too.
Visitors get a lot of personal attention, and despite being super-busy the day I visited, they made us feel like we were the only people there.
Sullivan sells their limited production primarily through their tasting room, so the only way to enjoy it (or get a bottle to take home) is to stop in. That makes their wine a good gift for your wine-loving friends back home, too.
Another fun extra at Sullivan are the classic cars that are often parked on the lawn beside the lake, including a 1958 Corvette and a classic Thunderbird.
Sullivan is also dog-friendly. Not only are you likely to encounter their friendly, yellow Labrador retriever on the way in, but you're welcome to bring your own pooch, too.
The Wines at Sullivan Vineyards
Sullivan is primarily a red wine house, producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The white wine drinkers in my group liked their reds, and their Chardonnay is also delicious.
What Others Think About Sullivan Vineyards
Online reviewers give Sullivan 4.5 stars out of 5. They like the setting and how laid back it is.
In case you're interested in the nitty gritty details, Sullivan is located in the Rutherford section of Napa Valley, in the middle of the valley floor. They make a few thousand cases of wine per year.
What You Need to Know Before You Go
Reservations are required. And they would be essential even if they weren't. Sullivan may be small, but their reputation is big.
Getting to Sullivan Vineyards
1090 Galleron Rd.
St Helena, CA
Sullivan Vineyards Website
Sullivan Vineyards is located east of CA Hwy 29 and west of Silverado Trail, south of the town of St. Helena. Turn east onto Galleron Road, which is south of Zinfandel Lane and North of Rutherford Road.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a complimentary wine tasting for the purpose of reviewing Sullivan Vineyards. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.