mgs - We have been to Napa/Sonoma 3 times in the past 5 years -and did not want to go anywhere we had been before, so my list is unlike many others that you will find on these forums. Most of the posters hereabouts are quite heavy on the high end cabs; I prefer to stay at $50 or less per bottle, and like cabs as well as Merlot, Zin, Syrah, Sangiovese, Grenache, Mourvedre and Pinot Noir, as well as a few nice Chardonnays. I also tend toward immediate drinking - I seldom keep a bottle more than 5 years. So, that said, here are my favorites from this most recent trip ( January 2006.), listed with the best first.
1..Shafer ( appt - very limted - go online today !)
2...Vine Cliff ( appt)
3...Darioush (good wines, great pistachios,outlandish setting)
4...Schweiger ( appt)
5...Beringer ( reserve tastings in the Rhine House- no appt)
7...Tastings on Main ( in St. Helena )
8...Spring Mountain ( appt )
9...Conn Creek ( go online & sign up for the newsletter and get a free tasting certificate. Really liked the Anthology. )
10...Ehler's Grove ( free tasting coupon in Wine Country This Week magazine - which you will find everywhere once you arrive in the area.)
Others we liked : Pride Mountain ( most love it - it was raining and totally foggy when we went, so we missed the famous view; excellent wines, though ( appt); Hall, Bennett Lane, Sequioa Grove ( we like their wines much more than Laube does)
Andretti, Sawyer and Frank Family. On past trips we enjoyed Benessere and Franciscan, too.
1...Jordan ( appt - quite a stunning place )
3...Ramey ( just a warehouse tasting, but great wines- appt.)
7...Locals - in Geyserville - dumpy place, but you can taste a huge number of reasonably priced wines for free - some, especially the Eric Ross, Martin and Ramazatti were very good.
8...Arista - check out the Japanese garden behind the tasting room
9...Lake Sonoma ( in Healdsburg - nice folks, great looking room, Try the Barbera.)
10...Rosenblum ( also in Healdsburg )
Didn't get to any of the wineries near Sonoma & Glen Ellen this time - lots of fun to be had there, too.
One bit of advice - either bring a designated driver or learn to spit when you taste. Bringing your own plastic spit cup avoids any anxiety about missing the dump bicket on the tasting bar. Sounds gross, but it really is a good idea to avoid driving when you ought not.