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Walnut Creek Magazine

Go Next Level with These 3 Napa Valley Wine Tasting “Must-Dos”

May 07, 2018 08:30PM ● By Fran Miller


With more than 400 wineries within its 45,000 acres of planted vines, the Napa Valley is ripe with a variety of wine tasting opportunities. But here ye. We’ve found three Napa Valley wineries that provide something a bit more elevated than the traditional tasting: One provides unparalleled vineyard views, another provides a Napa AVA overview so thorough that you’ll soon be schooling the experts, and the third presents its award-winning wines with gourmet food pairings for the ultimate in flavor profiling. Why belly-up to a crowded tasting bar when you can reserve a wine tasting experience that goes a step beyond? Here’s the 411:

Antica Napa ValleyAwe-inspiring Atlas Peak

Antica Napa Valley

Antica Napa Valley Tasting Room

Offering possibly some of the most stunning views in the area, Antica Napa Valley is located in the eastern mountains in the remote Atlas Peak District 1,800 feet above sea level. It’s a bit off the beaten wine path, but oh, so worth it. Antica’s amphitheater-like vineyard layout contributes to a panoramic vista not unlike those of the Tuscan vineyards from whence came the owners – the distinguished Antinori Family of Florence, Italy -  the only Italian wine-producing family that owns a Napa winery. With more than 630 years of winemaking in their family history, it’s safe to say the Antinoris (now into their 26th generation) know a bit about wine, and wine lovers are fortunate that this fabled winemaking family recognized, and then tapped, the potential of Antica estate’s terroir. Antica’s tasting room is located in a lovely Tuscan villa that overlooks the bucolic grounds. Theirs is a quiet and intimate tasting experience where you’ll enjoy a tour of the estate and winery, and pours of their estate-grown Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons. And if you’re lucky, perhaps a sip of late harvest G&G Soracco. These private tours and tastings are $40 per person, by reservation only, with a max of eight guests, and are offered Monday through Friday at 10am and 3pm, and Saturdays during the summer at 10am – during which time it’s not uncommon for one or more members of the Antinori family to peek-in with a welcoming ‘hello,’ while they vacation at their Napa home just up the hill. 3700 Soda Canyon Rd., Napa (707) 257-8700

Conn Creek Winery: Providing the Ultimate Napa Valley Souvenir

Conn Creek Barrel Tasting Room



Sure, you can buy fine wines all over the Valley. But at Conn Creek – one of Napa’s premier Cabernet wineries - you can blend, bottle, cork, and label your very own. Conn Creek’s Barrel Blending Experience is the perfect first-stop for anyone visiting and tasting in the Napa Valley – whether novice or expert – and allows guests to play winemaker for a day. With views of the estate garden and the Vaca Mountain Range, the Barrel Blending Room and its 16 Napa Valley AVA descriptions bring to life the differing Valley terriors. You’ll receive a Napa Valley AVA overview led by a knowledgeable wine educator, a guided barrel tasting, and instructions on blending techniques and strategies. Then, you’ll craft your own bottle. You’ll do a taste test of cabernets, working from barrels containing 14 cabs from the varied AVAs, divvied by ‘soft,’ ‘supple,’ ‘complex,’ and ‘bold.’ Then you’ll blend with a mix of classic blending wines – malbec, petit verdot, cab franc, and merlot. Your educator will instruct on proper quantities. Finally, you’ll fill your bottle, cork it, and create your own unique label. It’s fun. It’s educational. It’s delicious. And you’ll take home the best souvenir the Valley can provide. $125 per person. Offered daily (except Wednesdays), at 10:30am and 2pm. Reservations required. And if you’re simply looking for a small taste of the winery’s lauded Cabernet Sauvignons, Conn Creek is one of the few Napa wineries to still accept tasting bar walk-ins. Daily 10:30am to 4:30pm., $25 per person. Reservations are required for parties of six or more. 8711 Silverado Trail, St. Helena (707) 963-910 

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars: The Ultimate Napa Valley Indulgence


Stag's Leap Cellarius Kitchen & Dining Room


It was more than 40 years ago when Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars' S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon was declared ‘the best’ at what is now known as The Judgment of Paris. The blind tasting pitted high quality French red Bordeaux against California Cabernet Sauvignons. The identities of the wines were concealed and the labels revealed only after the jury of French tasters had voted its order of preference. The result at the time was inconceivable, and today continues to be cause for celebration at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars where history and innovation combine to create amazing wine tasting experiences. The latest tasting adventure is the Cellarius Kitchen Experience where delectable dishes made by Chef Travis Westrope are paired with Stag’s Leap’s storied wines. Held in a casually elegant dining room bedecked with Dutch-German cartographer Andreas Cellarius’ 17th century art pieces, (former Stag’s Leap owner Warren Winiarski was a fan) and overlooking the open chef’s kitchen, the Cellarius wine and food pairing takes Napa wine tasting to new levels. With Fay, S.L.V., and Cask 23 vineyard selections as his muses, Chef Travis creates and presents three creative courses – each made with the best locally sourced, seasonal ingredients - tailored to complement and contrast with the incredible wines. This is an experience over which to linger and to savor each and every bite and sip. On a recent visit, the menu included: First course: Balsamic roasted rabbit over whole wheat cavatelli with heritage carrot puree, English peas, beet terra, and ricotta salata, served with 2015 FAY Vineyard Estate Cab. Second course: Cattaneo Brothers linguica, melted baby leeks, marble potatoes, pickled mustard seed, garlic aioli, egg yolk, and togarashi, served with 2015 S.L.V. Estate Cab. Third course: Niman Ranch lamb chop, green garlic and olive pistou, licorice salsify, and Cabernet gastrique, served with 2015 Cask 23 Estate Cab. Yum! Offered Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, April thru December at 12noon and lasting about 2.5 hours. Seating is for 12 and you may be paired with others. $175 per person, includes a winery tour and seated tasting. Advanced reservations required. 5766 Silverado Trail, Napa (707) 261-6410

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