You can probably get a hundred different answers here, but I can tell you that a couple of weeks ago my wife and I went with no prior plans and had wonderful tasting experiences at both Signorello and Sinskey. Wonderful wines, wonderful customer service and both gladly waived tasting fees with purchase.
I have to chime in with Del Dotto. I spent a week in Napa early this year (and the previous two years) and my wife and I both agreed, without a doubt, the cave tours at Del Dotto are first class, and the best time.
Close seconds for me were Spring Mountain and Pride.
Incidentally, we had a great time at Signorello also. I don't know if it was a normal time, as we hit it late in the day, and the individual working there happened to be from the same area as us. It was a great afternoon, and he closed the gates and we sat out on the patio, drank wine, and told stories.... Wink
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Originally posted by SFbaybum:
You can probably get a hundred different answers here, but I can tell you that a couple of weeks ago my wife and I went with no prior plans and had wonderful tasting experiences at both Signorello and Sinskey. Wonderful wines, wonderful customer service and both gladly waived tasting fees with purchase.


IIRC Last time I visited Sinskey they were pouring 4 wines costing around $20-$30 each and wanted $10 to taste, which I consider excessive. Plus the service was a bit brusque, but to be fair it was a weekend.

My vote goes to the little guys, like Casa Nuestra and Van Der Hayden. You get more attentive service and you won't find the wines easily elsewhere.

But if you can visit only one, you might try Family Wineries in Sonoma Valley. There are 6 different tiny wineries in one location, such as Mayo, Sunce and Deerfield Ranch, and they pour about 30 different wines of all kinds - for no charge.
Since there are hundreds of wineries in Napa-Sonoma counties, the answers will simply reflect the experiences at a small percentage of visits from each person.
I would just say that as one who does business with many of the wineries, I see firsthand the efforts most of them make toward friendly attitudes and a good tasting experience for the consumer.
There is extreme competition for the consumer dollar, so most wineries will offer a decent experience, Those who don't will suffer and they know it.
Having said that, I just spent a full day on Spring Mountain and you could do far worse than choosing a bunch from that area to visit.
Neal, of course, but Mark and Gove do have day jobs, so we all ought to keep this quite ... Smile

Paloma (on the top of Spring Mountain, just down the road from Pride, across the valley from Neal on Howell Mt) is also a great experience - and very different from most. Mrs. Richards is a wonderful older lady - great to sit on her deck, drink her wine and gaze at her wonderful hillside vineyard and views of NV.
As a general rule, since I've been to Napa and Sonoma many times, I would go to wineries that are difficult to find where you live. It is lots of fun to go to some of the wineries like BV, Stirling etc because they have interesting tours, but it is easy to find their wines anywhere. Pick some wines that you would really like to try and see if you can go to those wineries. You will probably not be able to get their best wines as they have been sold out or are allocated, but you never know. Besides, you can normally sign up for thier allocation lists at the winery.

For example, here in MD it is almost impossible to get Martinelli so the last time I was in Sonoma I went there and am now on thier allocation list.

When in doubt, open another bottle.
It is hard to pick just one winery to visit!

The smaller vineyards are much more generous and personable.

Von Strasser. They opened about 4 or 5 bottles of awesome wine just for my wife and I. We did a full tour of the facility and met the Von strasser family. Needless to say I left with a trunkful of their wine.

Neal Family. A gorgeous little vineyard with a true personal touch. Mark certainly cares about the wine and was more than generous with a personal tour and some wine theiving of his next batches. Again I left with a case or so.

If you like the strong stuff these are great places to go.
I would like to recommend two wineries:
Guilliams (on Spring Mountain) We were there a couple of years ago. John Guilliams passion for his wine was very refreshing, the wine outstanding and the price very reasonable.
AND
Dutch Henry (in Calistoga on Silverado Trail) is a very friendly and informative small winery with great ambassadors (the dogs). WSJ picked it as one of the best wineries to visit.
I have to agree with Dave Tong. Casa Nuestra is fantastic. Also of note is Vincent Arojo's place. Cool as hell with wines that are to die for. Check out Zahtilla just out side of Calistoga for Zins and some pretty heavy weight Cabs. Grazier for another refreshing blast from the past. And I also like Goosecross for their stainless steel Chardonnay, which I deem to be a real treat these days. Miner is also worth a look into and Robert Sinsky has a Pinot Blanc and a Vin Gris that are must haves for any white wine fans.

Okay... that's it for now.

CD

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers." Henry V, William Shakespeare
Currently, am planning to visit David Arthur, Schramsberg, and Pride. Would visit Neal, but am going to a Neal tasting at the end of this month so it seems as if it would be too duplicative. Will definitely add 2 to 3 others as time approaches. Any new suggestions?

Also, what is the etiquette when making appointments for wineries. How obligated are you to buy right then and there? In the past when visiting wineries, I've always bought a couple of wines, but I've never been to places that require an appointment, so I'm wondering if there is a different etiquette. I'm not cheap, but I'm also not someone who can afford walk away with a case of $75+ wine on an impulse buy.
If only allowed to visit one, it would be Provenance with Tom Rinaldi. Started off in the tasting room and soon moved to the barrel room where we tasted just about every tank and barrel he had. From Sauvignon Blanc to various years of Merlots and Cabs including Hewitt. Returned to the tasting room to finish off what they had in bottles. If had to pick a top ten the other nine would be: Raymond with Walter Raymond and Kenn Vigoda, Swanson Salon, Charles Krug with Peter Jr., Buehler with John Page Buehler, Ehler's with Rudy Zuidema, Schramsberg with Fred Zammataro, Storybook Mountain with Dr. Seps, Vine Cliff with Rob Sweeney, and ZD with Brett deLeuze. We did have an enjoyable time at Opus One but the tasting fee was waived. Silver Oak also has a nice tasting in the barrel room. Beringer and Robert Mondavi have pretty good tours and the private tasting rooms are really nice. Hartwell has a nice tasting room in the caves.
Believe it or not, my wife and I had the most awesome experience at Villa Mt Eden. The wine guy (owner?) was sooooo pleasant and knowledgable. Even the guy's cat was friendly and inviting! We were the only ones in there at the time, and got great personable service. It was so nice, we ended up buying a mixed case. Great great time!!
From our recent trip, Neal Family Vineyards was the most beautiful and scenic location we visited in Napa. And the hospitailty and wine sure didn't disappoint either.

Has anyone ever done the wine and food pairing at Cakebread? I read about that and it looked interesting but we didn't have enough time.
I wouldn't say it's my "favorite"; I'd have to think on that a while.. .but I notice that Stony Hill is not mentioned, and it is a wonderful & lovely & very hospitable place. Halfway from St H to Calistoga, off the Bale Mill Park exit.. gorgeous view, wonderful wines... call and ask for either Peter or Willinda or Mike <winemaker>. The wines are home runs, all.
Gee, since no one said David Arthur, I guess I'll have to vote for that... Wink It's so nice that when we visited Bob Egelhoff, he had us meet him at David Arthur. Smile

Diamond Creek is nice...if you can get in. They only open the grounds once or twice a year for mailing list people (we are not anymore) but when they do, you have free reign of the property. Don't expect to taste much of their wine though - they barely give you a pour.

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