Napa Valley Wineries for First-time Visitors
If the thought of spending the day at picture-perfect wineries on the golden hills of California and drinking the best wine in the world sounds like something out of a dream, then this post is for you! Napa Valley is home to more than 400 wineries throughout a collection of six quaint towns: Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Calistoga.
Most of them being family-owned, they welcome millions of guests annually with winery tours, wine education, and tasting rooms. It’s one of the smallest wine regions in the world, making Napa Valley an easy to explore paradise for wine lovers.
Prior to my recent trip to Napa Valley, I did tons of research on the region. With only one full day to spend there, I wanted to find the perfect wineries for a first-timer like myself to visit. Choosing from over 400 wineries across several towns was a tough feat, but I successfully narrowed them down to 3.
I had the most wonderful time there (in fact my favorite part of my whole California trip!) and wanted to share the 3 best wineries for first-time visitors to Napa Valley. And why only 3 you might ask? Because 3 wineries is the perfect amount to visit in one day at a relaxed pace that allows you time to really enjoy your surroundings. If you prefer not to travel to them on your own, there are many fun organized wine country tours that set everything up for you.
One thing I read over and over again was that one of the biggest mistakes first-timers make when visiting Napa Valley is trying to squeeze in too many wineries in one day. Don’t be that person! 3 wineries is the sweet spot. Most wineries open at 10 am and close at 5 pm, so you have a solid 7 hours to get your drink on!
I’ve put together the perfect itinerary for first-time visitors, so read on to see my list of the best wineries in Napa Valley. Each one of these wineries has something special to offer.
Looking for flights to Napa Valley? You can find the cheapest airfare here.
Artesa Vineyard and Winery
Views, views, views! Artesa offers the very best in terms of Napa scenery. This winery has the most incredible views since it is perched at an elevation. To say that the panoramic views are unbeatable is an understatement. Artesa offers a variety of experiences and tasting options showcasing their artisanal wines.
I was welcomed by Artesa to have a tasting in their modern and spacious salon bar, which included a flight of their current release wines. I must say that this winery has an air of sophistication that really makes you feel… well… fancy! Haha! It’s a great place to start off the day.
Artesa is a great winery for first-time visitors to Napa Valley because reservations are not needed, only recommended. This works if you need a flexible schedule or just need to add a winery visit at the last minute.
On a clear day, you can see all the way to San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge. Even on a cloudy day, you can see across miles and miles of vineyards. Making it a perfect place to relax and enjoy a glass of wine.
I was totally obsessed with this yellow dress from Shein! It made me feel so girly and was perfect for a day of wine tasting. If you love it you can find it here.
To learn more or book a tasting visit Artesa Winery.
V. Sattui Winery
V. Sattui made my list for one of the best wineries in Napa Valley because it offers so much more than just wine tasting. V. Sattui is the best winery to visit during lunch time! Just head to their onsite gourmet deli and cheese shop, where you’ll find a large array of meats, cheeses, and sandwiches. Make sure to bring your lunch and bottle of wine out to the picnic table area.
The gorgeous picnic grounds have plenty of shade with huge oak and walnut trees. I had read that this was a very popular winery and that having lunch there meant dealing with crowds, but that was not my experience at all.
If you’re in the mood for a tasting, V. Sattui’s are super affordable at $20. You really can’t beat that! The rest of the grounds have a beautiful old-world Italian charm and offer a great opportunity for lots of photos (Hey Instagrammers!). Try to go during the week when it’ll be less crowded than on the weekends. That’s when I went and maybe the reason I did not experience huge crowds.
To learn more or book a tasting visit V. Sattui Winery
I was invited by Raymond Vineyards to come and experience their private tour. I must say that it was the most thorough, informative and entertaining winery tour I have ever been on. Our tour guide Alicia did such an amazing job at detailing the story of Raymond Vineyards from past to present. The winery is now owned by Jean-Charles Boisset and his presence is felt everywhere.
During the tour, you are encouraged to taste the grapes off the vines. The tour continues into their barrel cellar all while you’re tasting their estate wines. Who knew that mixing a history lesson with drinking wine could be so fun! Seeing the production of the wine from the early stages of grape growing, to fermentation and bottling makes you appreciate the endless years of work that go into just one good glass! Here you’ll see winemaking at its best! Raymond Vineyards definitely offers the best experience for a first-time visitor to Napa Valley who interested in the winemaking backstory.
Make sure you don’t miss the Red Room! This velvet lined room, lit by Baccarat chandeliers, is breathtakingly beautiful.
My favorite glass of wine was the Rosè so I just had to buy a bottle to take back home!
To learn more or book a tasting visit Raymond Vineyards
Where to Stay in Napa Valley
Andaz Napa is a charming hotel located in the heart of Downtown Napa. The hotel is centrally located, making it a great starting and ending point for excursions to the best wineries in Napa Valley. It’s a short walk to dozens of restaurants, bars, galleries, and fun boutique stores. My favorite part of the hotel was the 2nd-floor outdoor terrace called Mercantile-Terrace. It’s a beautiful space that has a full bar, cabanas, tables, and rocking chairs surrounding a fire pit. I really loved the ambiance because it’s a great place to relax at the end of the day. I’ve written a full review of my awesome stay there.
The hotel treated us to chocolate & a bottle of Chardonnay. It was a sweet welcome!
You can check out their latest reviews and book a room on TripAdvisor.
Tips for visiting Napa Valley
- The best time to visit is during spring or fall, generally April through June or September and October.
- Call ahead to make an appointment, even if just 5 minutes in advance. Most require reservations, some can accommodate you last minute, but still prefer to have advance notice.
- Have a Designated Driver or take an Uber. This just might be the most important tip. The Sheriff’s Department is on patrol in Napa Valley and they want to make the roads safe for everyone.
- Tasting room fees can add up quickly. It’s totally acceptable to share a tasting with the person you’re with!
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