Even the inclement weather doesn’t keep the wine aficionados at bay in the iconic Napa Valley! Sometimes the rain can work in your favor with reduced crowds in some of the most popular wineries, with wine hosts eager to serve the weary and soaked traveler.
A must stop, rain or shine, is Hall Winery in St. Helena. Look for the enormous animated Bunny Foo-Foo metal sculpture leaping over the historic Bergfeld vineyards on Highway 29. Touted as one of the oldest vineyards in the valley, grapes were first planted here in 1859. Hall Winery is definitely a main player in Napa, with a second tasting room in Rutherford. Kathryn and Craig Hall have put their heart and soul into Hall Winery, making it a top wine destination spot.
Besides the mind-blowing Cabernet, Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Walt Pinot Noir, there are over 150 pieces of modern art to behold with wine glass in tow. The service is stellar, albeit somewhat corporate, but the wines speak volumes and will hold you captive.
Heading south on Highway 29, slow down before the railroad tracks to visit Whitehall Lane Winery, a rather unassuming modern facade, with a fabulous wine line up. Family owned, the Leonardi’s makes this a hospitality factor number 10. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay is their primary focus and they do it well.
The Whitehall Lane property dates back to the 1800’s when the Napa Valley was just getting settled. With six prime vineyards to source grapes from, there is much diversity in the estate wines, with high accolades for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In addition, a small amount of Orange Muscat is grown for their delectable sweet dessert wine.
Wine history buffs will appreciate a quick stop at Grgich Hills in Rutherford to see the famous 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay on display, and to perhaps catch a glimpse of the nonagenarian Miljenko “Mike” Grgich himself.
At the time of the 1976 Judgment of Paris, Grgich was the winemaker for Chateau Montelena. During a blind tasting of French Burgundian Chardonnay versus the then unknown Napa Valley Chardonnay, Napa Valley beat the French winemakers at their own game, putting Napa Valley on the world wine map. The fascinating story is recounted by Grgich in A Glass Full of Miracles.
A great way to end the day is at the Blue Note Napa, a collective jazz and music venue, which formerly housed the Napa Valley Opera House on Main Street. Notables such as Leo Kottke can be found here at the intimate club. Of course, the wine list is amazing, as is the food.