Last Updated on June 22, 2021 by The Noms
Taking a trip to Napa Valley? We have some suggestions for you with this Napa Valley Wine Tasting post!
This post was written after the fires in the fall of 2017 in Santa Rosa, California and the nearby Sonoma and Napa Valleys. We have updated it since then. We love spirited travel, and love to share these trips with you!
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This post contains sponsored content brought to you by Frog’s Leap Winery and Benessere Vineyards We were provided a complimentary tasting experiences in exchange for coverage on social media and this blog, but all opinions and views presented here are 100% our own. There are also affiliate links, and we make commission off of these. For further information, or if you are interested in working with us please see our Disclaimer page.
While lots of people plan their trips to places like Disneyland, we plan our trips by where we can have an amazing meal or drink! With delicious goals like this in mind, our version of Disneyland tends to be culinary hot spots like Las Vegas, Chicago, or San Francisco. One of our absolute favorite such spots might be Wine Country in California, where amazing vineyards and restaurants are scattered all over the lush valleys of Napa and Sonoma Counties!
Traveling with Napa as a couple can be a great trip, with lots of opportunities for romantic getaways. Those can be sipping wine at beautifully scenic vineyards, enjoying meals in some of the best restaurants, or exploring some wonderfully cute towns and cities. However, traveling to Wine Country with a group of friends is an awesome experience as well, and one that should not be missed!
We have a group of really close friends we regularly get together with to enjoy lots of laughter, a dinner and maybe a few cocktails (these folks are regularly our test dummies for our cocktail development! We are always talking about how much fun we would have taking a trip to enjoy some wine and before we knew it, we were planning a group vacation to Wine Country for 6 months later!
Napa and Sonoma Valley Fires
(These happened in 2017, but there have been fires almost every year since then, just to make you aware). As we were getting the final steps ready for our trip, we heard the news that there had been a number of huge wildfires overnight that swept through the hills above the Napa Valley and down into Sonoma and Santa Rosa. We watched with rapt attention as the firefighters battled to contain the fires and were all on the phones with each other and our contacts about what we should do.
As the week progressed and the firefighters had more success containing the fires, we heard from our contacts out in California that we should be good to come visit. With some consultation between all of our friends, we decided that our visit was still a go and we headed out to Wine Country (and are we ever glad we did!).
We got to northern California about a week after the fires had broken out and headed up towards our vacation rental near Guerneville, which is a small town to the west of Santa Rosa along the Russian River. Guerneville was west of the areas of Sonoma County that had burned, tucked away in the Russian River Valley among huge California Redwoods and vineyards.
How to Wine Taste in Napa
With a big group like we had, getting a limo for the day is a great (and safe!) way to go try lots of great wineries, especially when you have a driver. If your driver knows lots of small boutique wineries and can help customize a tour to fit your tastes, even better! We were lucky and had a great driver named Hector from Mr. Napa Limo for both of our wine tasting days who has been driving in Wine Country for over 10 years. Hector was super attentive and flexible, and knows his way around the whole region, which was handy with all the fire related road closures!
Getting a limo or a van is a great way to be able to responsibly enjoy a day of wine tasting, and one that we highly recommend!
How Much do Wine Tastings Cost in Napa Valley?
The average wine tasting fee seems to be around $35 per person. Some are lower, some are a lot higher. If you are going to do 3 wineries in a day tour, plan for about $150 per person in tasting fees. Some wineries offer experiences, like food pairings, tours or special accompaniments. Some do waive the tasting fees if you buy bottles.
Is Wine Tasting Free in Napa Valley?
There are some, but not many places that do this. The locations that we know of are Buehler, Sutter Home, Heitz Wine Cellars, and Vincent Arroyo. There are also coupon cards, or packs, like the one Napa has to get a discount, or lower cost tasting.
Which Places Provide the Best Wine Tours and Tastings in Napa for Couples?
If you are looking for a little romance, we can recommend
- Schramsburg Vineyards – some bubbles, and tours are available by appointment only to see their wine caves
- Domaine Carneros – also great for first time Napa Valley visitors this French chateau-esque estate is great for some wine experiences
- Failla Winery – tastings in a cave. Need I say more?
- Castello Di Amorosa – it’s a castle. Tastings are in the dungeon. It’s fun, that is all.
- Trefethen – 400 acre estate that oozes romance. Winery was built originally in 1886.
Frog’s Leap Winery
We rolled over the mountain between Santa Rosa and Napa, and headed into our first Napa Valley wine tasting, Frog’s Leap Winery. Frog’s Leap is located in Rutherford, near the heart of heart of the Napa Valley. Founded in 1981 by John Williams on the site of a former frog farm, John and his partner Larry Turley used their experience gained from working at the famous Stag’s Leap Vineyard to launch their own venture.
Fast forward to 2017, and Frog’s Leap has become one of the best known vineyards in the Napa Valley, with beautiful vines, a spectacular tasting room and grounds and a beautiful garden.
Guests at Frog’s Leap can expect a great tasting experience. This Napa Valley wine tasting has 3 different levels of tasting, from their garden tasting all the way up to a guided tasting and tour. Our tasting featured a flight of 4 of their wines which was accompanied by a little sampler of crackers, cheese and fruit jams made with fruit from their gardens.
We also had an opportunity to enjoy a stroll through the gardens and look at the beautiful vistas that surround Frog’s Leap!
After a successful first vineyard visit, we headed for a quick lunch at the adorable and delicious Oakville Grocery and then turned north to head up to our second vineyard of the day, Benessere Vineyards, an Italian inspired vineyard on the gravely, volcanic soil near St. Helena. This gravelly soil proved to be perfect for growing the classic Italian varietals like Sangiovese and Moscato di Canelli as well as Napa the stars Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
Owned by the Benish family since 1994 and named by the Italian word meaning “living the good life,” Benessere was the first vineyard that we fell in love with on our very first trip to Napa!
We were super excited to share this experience with our friends who are lovers of great red wines, and with us having fallen in love with their reds on our first trip, we absolutely knew they would love Benessere! Our guide for the day Micheal took us on a spectacular private tour of the property while tasting their wines.
Benessere Vineyard Tour
We got to head out into the vineyard and taste grapes right off the vines, see the tennis court where Luciano Pavarotti shot his “spectacular” movie Yes, Giorgio, and more importantly the crush pad and fermentation tanks where the wines are born before ending up back in the tasting room (where the the old stables used to be!)
Getting a chance to taste wines while touring the property was a great experience (especially with wonderful wines to sip on) was a top notch experience and one that we would highly recommend getting a hold of the folks at Benessere to reserve your chance to visit and have their Napa Valley wine tasting!
Visit Wine Country
Like we stated above, it’s great to have a driver for visiting vineyards. You can also get a driver for your rental car, or a driver with a rental van or limo. Remember to make reservations for your own Napa Valley wine tasting! Or, if your chauffeur company will do it for you, then do that. Plan a lunch, and take water and snacks too, that way you can day drink all day!
Also, check out our tour of Sonoma County Wineries!
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