Napa Valley in a Day

Napa Valley is a wine-lover’s must-do. Few regions have the status, good looks, and number of books written about them. The county took in a record $276 million in hotel revenues alone in 2012–that’s a lot of beds.

It seems that no matter where I go, someone dramatically yawns, “Ohhhhh you MUST get to Napa–it’s soooo Wonderful.” After many polite and often insincere smiles, I went.

Napa gets its reputation for a reason, as I discovered. It’s gorgeous, as you would expect from a landscape dominated by endless rows of grapes interrupted by “Tuscan” villas and cute gift shops.  Style is definitely paramount to the region’s tasting room managers and architects.

We started the tour off with a godawful 3 hour drive  at arguably the most influential Napa Valley winery: Stag’s Leap. The estate  celebrated its first vintage in 1972 was one of the two wineries that put Napa Valley on the map back in 1976 when Napa and Bordeaux went head-to-head in a blind tasting competition in France that came to be known as the Judgement of Paris (which made its film debut in the 2008.) French critics surprised mostly themselves the world when they voted Stag’s Leap the best red against top-notch Bordeaux wines.

heir prices skyrocketed as a result, but it’s the style that makes Stag’s Leap special. Their big, oaky, fruit forward reds and rich chardonnays molded what’s become the classic Napa style that permeate wine lists across the country today.  We begrudgingly empited our wallets on the table went for it and tasted through the winery’s current releases.


Our survey flight at Stag’s Leap.

The aforementioned style thoroughly dominated the reds we tasted.  The 2010 Artemis (a veritable steal at $54/bottle) showed driven black fruit flavors and baking spice with a smooth finish that made a bottle the perfect souvenir.

We also loved their KARIA Chardonnay, which was smooth and rich with notes of cooked pineapple and golden apple. It was round in all the right places, without being flabby or overbearing.  (Bring me roasted poultry and cool fall breezes and I’ll drink this wine forever.)

Visit iconic Napa Valley winery, check.



Napa Valley Uncorked:

Laura Loves: Mathiasson Sauvignon Blanc! Absolutely delicious with great fruit flavors and hints of smoke.

Farmstead Restaurant, which boasts house-made olive oil, beef from the owner’s farm, and their own estate wine–Farm to table on a whole new level.



Leaping out of the car to pose with (and pick!) Napa Cabernet Grapes.


Do: Plan. While the big hitters usually have open tasting rooms, more unique producers (like Larkmead, Mathiasson, & Storybook) require an appointment.

Hire a driver or bring a non-drinker. Napa is all about the wine, and way less fun if you can’t partake.

Don’t: Expect a bargain.  Napa is notoriously expensive for a reason. Tasting flights average about $15, and you can reasonably expect to do 3 tastings per day.

Forget your sunglasses/sunscreen! It’s Cali after all, and Napa has 260 sunny days per year! 


At Stag’s Leap they’ll even let you pose with a fake magnum.


  • October 2, 2013
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