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Best Bets for Napa Valley Wineries

Wine Tasting

Hall, Rutherford or St. Helena. Two choices: a quiet brick-lined cave at a hillside retreat or (after its opening in late 2013) a flashy glass-walled visitor center amid the vineyards.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards, St. Helena. Tastings at Phelps unfold like everything else here, with class, grace, and precision—an apt description of the wines themselves.

Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley, Yountville. No ordinary tasting facility, this art and design gallery pours vintages from limited-production wineries.

Winery Touring

Beringer Vineyards, St. Helena. Of the three Napa wineries that provide the best overview of California winemaking (Beaulieu and Mondavi being the other two), Beringer occupies the prettiest site.

Frog's Leap, Rutherford. A lighthearted tone and well-informed tour guides make for entertaining education at Frog's Leap. By tour's end you'll be able to pronounce Trockenbeerenauslese, the name of the winery's splendid dessert wine.

The Hess Collection, Napa. The guided tour of the facilities at Hess is enlightening, but the real revelations come on the self-guided tours of the owner's modern-art holdings.

Schramsberg, Calistoga. Deep inside 19th-century caves created by Chinese laborers, you'll learn all about crafting méthode champenoise sparkling wines. Back aboveground, you'll taste the fruits of the winemaker's labors.

Setting

Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga. You have to admire a guy who dreams of building a 107-room replica of a medieval castle—and then makes it happen. Crazy. Eccentric. Worth a peek.

Far Niente, Oakville. Something's always abloom in Far Niente's landscaped gardens. Splurge on the tasting and tour and bask for a moment in the sublime sophistication that is the Napa Valley.

Rutherford Hill Winery, Rutherford. Few publicly accessible perches in the valley outshine this one for panoramic views.

Food-Wine Pairing

Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Napa. "Eat seasonally, drink good wine, and live a long and prosperous life," advises culinary director and cookbook author Maria Helm Sinskey.

Round Pond Estate, Rutherford. Excellent morsels accompany the sips and samples at both the high-tech olive mill and the country-chic winery.

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