Only have time for a day trip to Napa Valley? No problem. Here’s an itinerary that will get you up here and enjoying yourself quick-smart.
Let’s make the most of the limited time you have and hit up wineries in Carneros.
What’s especially nice about Carneros is that, as the southernmost wine area of Napa Valley, it’s a shorter drive from San Francisco and the East Bay. Not only that, the wineries themselves are close to one another, so your precious wine tasting time isn’t wasted getting to OR between destinations.
And while this may be a quick one-day visit, it doesn’t mean you’re speed tasting through a dozen wineries. No, No.
Instead, the plan is to go to fewer wineries and spend enough time at each one to really take it in, really enjoy yourself.
Normally I like to start my itineraries with a coffee/breakfast suggestion, but I’ll forego that today since you’re short on time. So I’ll leave you to procure your own coffee and breakfast en route to Napa. You know, get that base started for your abbreviated day of wine tasting.
Yet while I’ve skipped the coffee suggestion, what I cannot skip is beginning the day with some sparkling wine.
Thus, the first stop is Domaine Carneros.
Domaine Carneros is known for sparkling wine, and though this chateau is one of the more popular wineries in Carneros, you’ll still likely have success booking an appointment for the same day.
There is an indoor tasting salon, but if weather allows I’d recommend requesting a table on the terrace. It’s lovely and lively, and offers grand vineyard views.
Photo courtesy of www.domainecarneros.com
Opt for a full bubbly tasting flight or just order a single glass (if you choose this option I’d recommend Le Reve). Either way, kick back and enjoy the setting — and the people watching, because it’s enthralling.
Oh, and if you didn’t get around to that breakfast on your way to Napa, here’s a chance to line your stomach with one of the cheese or charcuterie plates on offer.
Ah, bubbles. Aren’t they just the best way to start the day? I know!
On a personal note, I may have once spent an entire wine tasting day at Domaine Carneros. Maybe.
But as you’ve only got today, you ought to wrap up your photo shoot and pack up your purchases. It’s time to go.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to travel far.
Directly across the driveway from Domaine Carneros is Cuvaison.
Again, an appointment is required, and again, you can often get one on the same day with a simple phone call.
The Carneros wine region, being the coolest growing region in Napa due to it’s proximity to the bay, is wonderfully suited for grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Cuvaison has taken advantage of this by producing both, and you can taste a number of each during your visit.
As for the winery itself, Cuvaison is an entirely different experience from the chateau. The tasting room is sleek, modern, and much smaller, with far fewer visitors.
Even with the floor to ceiling windows, aim to enjoy your tasting on the patio. With rolling hills covered in vineyards, the views are fantastic.
This being just a quick day trip we want to make sure you get home at some point. You’ll need some food before any more wine if we’re going to be safe about this. Luckily, today’s lunch is less than a mile away.
Map your way to Market at the Carneros Resort and Spa. I only suggest consulting your GPS because it’s not obvious how get to this resort. One way roads and turning lanes mean access is different from different directions. But I promise it’s easy when your navigator is on your team.
There are a few options for meals at the Carneros Resort. However, today just pop-in to the deli for a sandwich or similar.
Grab that to go, then head across the lawn to sit under the shaded patio of Farm at Carneros Inn. You get both worlds: a relaxing outdoor lounge and deli food. You get to be fancy and picnicky all at once.
I love the outside bar at Farm. The style, the shutters, the fire pit… It all makes me feel like I’m on vacation. As do all the beautiful people wandering around who actually are on vacation.
For you? Play a game of corn hole, or play the tic tac toe they’ve laid out for you. Place some bets. Collect your winnings. Prepare for your next move.
And if you’ve still got time, I’ve still got suggestions. Shall we?
Only 2.5 miles down the road is Etude. See? You really aren’t going too far to have a great day today.
Etude is a 35+ year old winery that, being in Carneros, has a strong focus on Pinot Noir. No appointment is necessary for the regular tasting, and you’re welcome to grab an outdoor table and explore the grounds. However, on the day we visited it was bright and hot, and the cool stone building brought a much needed respite after being outdoors all day.
Wahhhh, too much sunshine, wahhh!
Anyway, choose your preferred seating and enjoy your taste of each offering. Then try to figure out how you’re going to get all the wine that you just bought back to your home. Perhaps a wine suitcase?
Chances are you’re going to need to head out soon. But there’s still time for one more, right?
Just 5 minutes from Etude is Starmont Winery and Vineyards.
This tasting room is a relatively new one as the building only opened to the public somewhat recently.
The building design is slick, as is the decor, and it’s both dog and family friendly.
The whole Carneros region is closer to the bay than the rest of Napa Valley, and Starmont in particular reaps the benefits of the cooler temperatures during the late afternoon.
Enjoy the breeze, the view of the Butler Bridge and the vineyards, as well as all their wine options — you can taste through a whole flight or just share a bottle.
Big surprise, during my recent visit we elected to sit outside. And as this is the final destination on our itinerary today, you should do the same because soon enough you’ll be back in The Fog.
You know, visiting four wineries on a time crunched day is certainly a successful trip. And wasn’t it worth it? Hopefully you came away with some new experiences, some great wines, awesome photos and plenty of stories and suggestions for your friends and family back home.
Hope to see you again soon, and that you give yourself more time. There’s still so much more to do and see…
Be safe & responsible in Napa Valley (and everywhere else) with this.