Napa wineries to visit for "non-geek" wine travelers?

I had some friends who are going out to Napa contact me regarding good wineries to visit in the area. Problem is – it’s a big area, and I’m not a regular drinker of CA wines. They are regular wine drinkers, but not serious wine geeks in any way.

Can anyone provide a few recommendations for places to visit, articularly those with a reputation for friendly tasting room staff (and perhaps a good tour), and fairly affordable wine (by Napa standards)?

I’m sure if you searched, this topic has been addressed ad nauseam…Mondavi does tours and is more like Disneyworld than a winery! My personal favorites that I visit every time in the valley are Etude (apt only), Markham, Alpha Omega and Silver Oak.

Silverado has a lovely tasting room, with a patio overlooking the valley surrounded by flowers and vineyard, and a pretty solid and diverse lineup of wines, if nothing profound.

Joseph Phelps has a nice perch on a side valley off the main valley, with good wines, a scenic patio, nice folks, etc. They’ll pour the Insignia for you as part of the lineup.

Rutherford Hill has a nice view, wine caves to tour, and some of the prettiest picnic areas, complete with nice tables and seating, which are unrestricted for use. The wine and tasting room are so-so, not terrible but not interesting either.

None of those require appointments or have any sort of obligations which would make the casual visitor uncomfortable.

Sterling has them riding an air tram around the grounds, Coppola has movie memoribalia, Hess has an art museum. All great distractions for non-wine geeks who are crossing their eyes by the third tour or wine club pitch.

Schramsberg does a really nice tasting and tour and has sparklers at many price points.

Good call on Hess and Coppola, but I thought Coppola moved up north?

ZD Winery fits the bill. Lots of wine to taste, nice tasting bar, friendly and knowledgeable folks, good wine at very fair prices. Probably Whitehall Lane, too. If they want an over the top time, Del Dotto is quite the experience, and a lot of non-wine geeks get a kick out of it.

I thought whitehall was okay, nothing really special about their tasting room or facility…and I’m not crazy about their wines!

Elyse & August Briggs have a good variety of wine, friendly people, not outrageously priced . Elyse is nothing fancy but friendly people with drinkable wines. Another place, mostly for the building is Darioush, it’s a persian palace that’s quite a spectacle and also has a good variety of wine but a bit higher $$ than the other two I mentioned.
I would say seeing Castello di Amaroso (The Castle) is hard to beat. I went for the first time and was really in awe over the place. Wine is so-so. They have a few different tours, the place is amazing. .

disclaimer: No affiliation, Although we do carry some Darioush & August Briggs Wines.

Ty…I was answering specifically to the original poster’s specifications.

Some might not think $45-50 for a bottle of mediocre Cab is “affordable”, and the OP was also requesting a place with a friendly staff and tour…IMO, Whitehall falls short of this requirement so you didn’t really offer anything to the OP’s specific needs and I felt as though it was my responsibility to point out your ineptitude in regards to this thread!

It wasn’t your responsibility.

I wish I didn’t just read that you said all that to Merrill because for the first time in a long time I would like to reach through my computer and slap the shit out of the sorry childish person that you are.
Merrill is one of the kindest people you would ever want to meet and you have no right to make a comment as you did. You owe her an apology and if you are not man enough to do so, go climb back under the rock you came from.
You do not belong in a public forum with people that are enjoying conversation about wine. So, take your 100+ bottles of Pinot and go the fck away.

enough already.

I know, Carrie - we might have our first ‘voted off the island’ Berserker in our forum history here…

I don’t want him representing my country either. I’ll follow up on that.

I don’t visit Napa wineries very often, but I’ve had a good time in the past visiting Vincent Arroyo in Calistoga. Way less formal and more friendly than 90% of Napa wineries I’ve been to, and many of the wines are pretty good too. A big plus is the great winery dog there.

He ended up on my ignore list a week or two ago already.

Responding is taking the bait.

Thanks to those who provided useful answers. :slight_smile:

I vote: yes/off. This uncalled-for angry lambasting & bullying must end for our communities well being going forward.
Merrill deserves an apology. As a matter of fact, the whole community does.
Ty, sell 15 bottles of your wine and seek professional help, 55 minutes at a time.

To the OP…go up to Frank Family. Good wines and the tasting guys are a freakin’ hoot.

I do not know if this still works, but in 1998, when I was just getting back into wine after a lengthy hiatus, this made me feel like I was a special “knowledgeable” insider. Maybe someone can comment on whether it is the same these days.

Beringer has a big tasting room on the main road south of Calistoga. I was told that there was a stairtway in the tasting room that went to the upstairs, which is where the secret good wine tasting room was located. I was told to wait at the bottom of the stairs, and periodically someone from the staff would come downstairs and bring people up to the secret room. My wife and I waited quietly and after a few minutes, someone came down, asked us what we wanted, and when we told them we wanted to taste some wines at the other tasting room, we were ushered upstairs. That room was my introduction to the Sbragia Spoecial Reserve Chardonnay, which in those days was fantastic, the Nightingale, and the Beringer Estate Cab. We had to pay per glass (most of the tasting rooms were free at the time) but the fee was insignificant. We were able to buy limited bottles of those on sale. I remember there was a one bottle per person limit on the Sbragia so I asked if my wife and I could together get two. They said, “Of course.”

It was, by the way, a good way to do business. I subsequently bought, for myself and others, cases of that Chardonnay when it became available in stores a few years later. I would not have found if they had not let me into the VIP room.