Being a wine lover, Napa Valley was obviously on my bucket list. When a business trip to San Francisco popped up, I knew that I needed to extend my trip to make a visit to the wine capital of the USA. I was making the trip solo, so I started looking into guided group tours leaving from San Francisco. There’s a wide variety of tours that cater to every audience, and it can actually be quite intimidating picking out a tour. I started out by searching for tours that were the most economical. There are some big bus tours that will take you to 3-4 wineries and include all of the tasting fees. The wineries that they take you’ll visit aren’t the world renowned wineries, and actually offer free tastings to all of their visitors. I decided to take a smaller mini van tour because the wineries looked more interesting to me. It visited Castello di Amorosa (a winery with a Tuscan style castle), V. Sattui (one of the best wineries in Napa), and the famous Robert Mondavi Winery. The tour cost about $140 CAD and didn’t include any of the tasting fees, but included a picnic lunch at the second winery.
The tour started bright and early at 8am when I was picked up outside of Macy’s at Union Square. The tour does offer hotel pickup if you book far enough in advance. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped at the welcome centre to take a few pictures.
From there, we made the one hour drive to Napa. Our tour guide had a microphone and gave us some history on the area and pointed out some notable sites. All of the wineries we visited were in the Napa region, but we also drove through Sonoma. We learned about how the recent wildfires have devastated Napa and almost wiped out some of the wineries. He even pointed out some of the worst wineries in Napa Valley, which were the ones visited by the big bus tours (I guess I made a good decision!). We had some extra time and drove through Yountville, the biggest town in the Napa area.
We started our wine tasting at around 10:30am (is it ever too early for wine?) at Castello di Amorosa. The winery has a Tuscan style castle on site, with everything in it imported from Europe. Admission to the castle + the wine tasting came up to about $40 CAD. Our entire group (all 7 of us) headed down to the wine cellar to start out tasting. The sommelier was fantastic and actually let us try 10 of their most popular wines (our tasting only included 4 wines!). He brought out some breadsticks so we could cleanse our palettes between wines. After our tasting, we wandered around the extravagant rooms of the castle.
We all met back at the mini van at the appointed time and headed to V. Sattui for lunch. We each got a coupon to spend $15 in the deli for lunch. After we finished our lunch, we checked out the tasting room where we were able to pick out any 5 wines to try. The tasting came up to about $45 CAD, but it was definitely worth it! The sommelier was so passionate and poured me a few extra glasses when he figured out what types of wines I enjoyed.
Lastly, we visited Robert Mondavi Winery, which is one of the most famous wineries in Napa. Their wine is readily available at liquor stories in Canada so I was quite familiar with their wine. This winery was probably my least favourite because it seemed less personal than the other wineries. Their tasting room operated more like a restaurant. There were 3 preset wine flights, which means that you didn’t have much say into what wines you wanted to try. I ordered the flight of white wine which cost about $35 CAD. The wines were served on a paper place mat which gave me some insight into each of the wines.
After our visit to the third winery, we made the hour and a half drive back to San Francisco. After all of that wine, there were a few people that fell asleep on the ride back. I’d definitely recommend this tour to anyone who wants to visit some quality vineyards in Napa. There was definitely more of a focus on wine tastings as opposed to wine production; if that’s what you’re looking for, I might recommend a different tour.
What are your favourite wineries in Napa Valley? Let me know in the comments below!