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Dayle Mar 22nd, 2009 11:26 AM

Tasting Res Needed in Napa this April?
Hi Fodorites!

I needed to use a SW ticket credit before May so decided to go to wine country (not my first visit) since it's an easy non-stop from SLC. I've got reservations at The Oleander House in Calistoga, got a good weekend rate for the car through Hertz (amazing they were the lowest).

My big question is, do I really need to make tasting reservations? All the lodging options I checked out were nearly wide open, yet only a couple were willing to deal. I guess they aren't huring that bad! Anyway, I haven't been to Napa in many years and I hear that tastings are pricey and crowded, needing advance reservations. Would this still be the case in today's economy?

I haven't decided which wineries I want to visit yet, so do I need to hurry and make reservations? Has the valley been busy lately? I'm going April 10 - 13.

Thanks in advance for your input.

Kal Mar 22nd, 2009 02:24 PM

Topping for some of our NV "tasters".

Ronda Mar 22nd, 2009 04:13 PM

Dayle, you can do plenty of tasting without making a reservation. Reservations imho are usually for the small boutique wineries or high end wineries.

If you are interested in seeing the Castle generally, I would say you will need a reservation:

The following web site has lists of some wineries with hours and fees and whether or not a reservation is needed:

They also have a printable map.

My favorite Napa (magazine) guide is the Preiser Key, unfortunately, they are not online but here is their web address with a list of where you can pick it up:

They are more comprehensive than the Wine Country listing.

The maps are great- clear, large, detailed for each area. Also has a list of restaurants.

The weather is supposed to be beautiful so you couldn't have picked a better time.

Kal Mar 22nd, 2009 04:35 PM


Otis_B_Driftwood Mar 22nd, 2009 04:47 PM

Except for Easter week, April is not that busy a month in the wine country. Most wineries don't take reservations for tastings but some of the more exclusive and expensive wineries do require an appointment to visit them. If you have a particular winery in mind, it would be best to contact them directly and inquire about their visiting policy. Usually, a glance at their website will tell you.

Here's an article in today's SF Chronicle that describes their favorite tasting rooms in the Bay Area. Most don't require reservations:

And they have a map of the region too that's helpful:

Dayle Mar 22nd, 2009 04:55 PM


The wine guides look great! I'll be sure to pick one up on my way up from Oakland. I'm also going to stop for a little cooler to take my picnics in.

I'm leaning toward the little boutique wineries. I tend to really enjoy those. Plus, I'll get a chance to taste wines I usually can't get here in UT. Then, I may ship some home to myself.

Due to the weird liquor laws, wines cannot be shipped to individuals in the state. The state only buys wines that are produced in enough quantity to provide for all the state liquor stores, so if a winery is really small, you can't get their wines here.

I've seen Raumbauer and Hall mentioned as very good in some other threads and I haven't seen these in UT at all. Personally, every time I've tried a Rosenblum, I've been extremely disappointed. It is their Zin that is supposed to be outstanding?

Thank God the legislature just did away with the stupid "private club" laws! That, at least, was a MAJOR step forward.

Grazie for the excellent links!

Ronda Mar 22nd, 2009 04:55 PM

Are you sure Oleander House is in Calistoga and not Yountville? Could be two.

Dayle Mar 22nd, 2009 05:07 PM

Otis P, Thank you too. The article was very helpful. I only have 2 full days, so probably will be limited to 4-5 wineries. What would be your favorites?

Ronda Mar 22nd, 2009 05:20 PM

Rosenblum's tasting room is not in Napa but Alameda. My husband had a membership and but I never really enjoyed their Zins. I say that and then last night Dan opened up an Annette's reserve that was really delicious. I also like their meritage (Bordeaux blend). I do not like any of their wines you can buy in the grocery or liquor store, but from the winery. Many of them have a high alcohol content.

My fav's (at the moment - it changes) are Whitehall Lane, Peju, and Rutherford Grove. My 'kids' love Turnbull and they are pretty good. None require reservations. Nickel and Nickel are quite good - believe you need a reservation.

Com'on Kal, fess up.

Ronda Mar 22nd, 2009 05:26 PM

There is a show here in the Bay Area called In Wine Country. Kind of fun. You might like to view some of the clips that interest you:

Ronda Mar 22nd, 2009 05:30 PM

I take it back. Rosenblum does have a tasting room in Alameda, but it also has a tasting room in Healdsburg. Sorry.

Dayle Mar 22nd, 2009 05:42 PM


Well now I don't feel so bad about not caring for their wines. I'll probably take a pass on Rosenblum, but Hall and Reju will make my short far! A friend from CA brought up a Turnbull Cab when she came for Sundance one year and we all thought it was excellent! Where is their winery?

Kal Mar 22nd, 2009 07:48 PM

"Fess up"?

#-O What I do now????

All I know is I'm dying for a glass o' red!

Jackie Mar 22nd, 2009 08:53 PM

I'm just back from Napa/Sonoma. It wasn't crowded and we didn't need reservations anywhere. Tastings were pricey, ranging from $5-$25. They do allow you to share. Also, in my research, I learned that with a Visa Signature Card you can get 2-for-1 tastings at many places and that you can get coupons on the web ( ?)

Ronda Mar 22nd, 2009 09:09 PM

Peju, Turnbull, Rutherford Grove, Whitehall, Nickel & Nickel are all very close to each other.

Peju has a beautiful winery with some art, and worth seeing even if you don't taste. We like their Cabernet.

Turnbull has two tasting rooms - regular and reserve. My 'kids' (I say kids but they are late 20's) like the Old Bull Red but I'd skip it. We like their Cabernet S. and Merlot. One of their Black Labels came in our December shipment and it was wonderful. If you join their wine club, tasting in both rooms is free (as with any winery).

Rutherford Grove has a nice little tasting room with a fireplace. Like their Cabernet S. (do you see a theme emerging here? - cabs from Rutherford). They also have a large picnic ground out back.

Whithall Lane has some nice cabs, too.

Nickel and Nickel - need and appointment.

Dan said to be sure to tell you not to miss William Harrison over on the Silverado Trail. Small, excellent wines.

Darioush is south from William Harrison, has a beautiful facility. We did not taste. We have had their 'off label' wine - Caravan - which was very nice but I see they are sold out of it.

This is just a handful of wineries I am familiar with. There are so so many. Hopefully tomorrow some others with more information will be along to give you ideas.

Dayle Mar 23rd, 2009 08:13 AM

Thanks Ronda! There really are so many producers now that it's hard to keep track. Unfortunately, I can't join any wine clubs because UT is one of the states that doesn't permit shipping. Had to give up my 2 wine clubs when I moved here. Bummer.

Ronda Mar 23rd, 2009 08:44 AM

These wineries are close to Yountville. If you are staying in Calistoga, you may want to head over to Healdsburg. Stu Dudley always has great recommendations for Healdsburg/Sonoma area.

Kal has been to Napa a time or two so perhaps when you are ready for restaurant recs he will chime in.

Nikki Mar 23rd, 2009 09:20 AM

On our trip to Napa Valley last month, my family's favorites were Peju and Hess Collection, neither of which required reservations. Hess Collection is up a bit in the hills over Napa and in addition to the winery, there is a gallery of contemporary art from the owner's extensive collection.

Ronda Mar 23rd, 2009 10:52 AM

Hess is definitely worth a visit.

I talked to my BF this morning who goes to Napa quite often. She recommends that you go to Napa Wine Company in Oakville. They have a tasting room not only for their own wines but many others and some who don't have their own tasting rooms:
some wines you can taste there:

The tasting room is on the same side of the road as Oakville Grocery (great sandwiches) and is easy to miss.

It can be a little overwhelming so talk to the server and let him guide you. Advantage is that you can taste many wines in one place.

A winery our husbands have been wanting to go to is Neal which does require an appointment.

Dayle Mar 23rd, 2009 11:50 AM

Thanks so much everyone. So many wines, so little time....

What would be a good, mid-priced restaurant for a dinner out? I don't want a super fancy place where I would feel odd solo dining. I solo dine frequently, but not at snobby places.

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