The Ultimate Napa Valley Travel Guide

On Tuesday, I shared details on our stay with Andaz Napa which was AMAZING in case you missed it. This post details what we did, where we ate, and the wineries we visited thanks to Doug from Beyond the Label.

OUR NAPA VALLEY TRAVEL GUIDE

Before leaving for Napa, I'd done a little bit of research but there are SO many wineries. I knew I wanted to visit the boutique wineries, you know, had to keep it local and small business-minded. Andaz actually recommend Doug as someone to contact regarding Napa tours. Doug owns Beyond the Label Napa Valley and offers exclusive tours that you wouldn't receive without his guidance.

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Normally, Doug offers two different types of tours: Meet the Vintner Tour and and Wine Maker Lunch Tour. Both of these tours include personal meetings and tastings with winery owners and/or the winemakers themselves. You'd enjoy lunch, possibly even a food pairing, and also be able to taste wines at vintner's homes. Doug hires a driver and joins you on this upscale Napa tour. Talk about an exclusive experience!

After telling Doug a little bit about who I was, my target audience, and what we wanted to experience, he set up tastings at three perfect wineries. He joined us for the tours and was able to tell us about the history of Napa. As we drove through the valley, he pointed out various homes and hot spots. Check out the details on the wineries below

Napa Travel Guide: Wineries We Visited

Honig Winery

Honig, a family owned vineyard, was the first winery we visited in Napa and it was everything I'd hoped for. I smiled in excitement as we pulled up to an outdoor patio area where we enjoyed our tasting. We even met one of the owners, Stephanie Honig, who was just the sweetest.

Honig is known for their crisply delicious Sauvignon Blanc, but we also tasted a couple of Cabernets and a dessert wine that was Collin's favorite. Our guide for the day took us on a golf cart tour of the property while we enjoyed our second Cabernet. It was amazing to me to see the endless rows of grapes in the vineyards. I also learned there that only 4% of the world's wines come from Napa, isn't that crazy? 

Ashes & Diamonds

Around lunchtime, we headed to Ashes & Diamonds. Doug had arranged a food pairing for us there meaning we had a three course meal with different wines for each plate. Everything we tasted was just amazing. I wish I had a better word for it, but just imagine sitting in an upscale mid-century designed tasting room with enormous windows looking out onto the vineyard enjoying the best salad you've ever had and sipping on a refreshing white wine. Sounds like a dream right? It pretty much was. 

We also took a short tour of their property where we saw the barrels of wine being stored. These barrels cost over a thousand dollars and each has an indication of what wine is inside and how long it needs to be stored before being bottled. This is a newer winery in Napa and it was so fun to see a different vibe than what I was expecting. Also I must say, their branding is on point. I loved the labels on each bottle.

Starmont Winery

Starmont was the finally winery we visited that day and the perfect place to end our day. The sun was shining brightly so we enjoyed our tasting inside, but the patio area is accented with shades of warm tones outside of what looks like an upscale barn. We all took a short tour of the property while sipping on Pinot Gris (a bottle actually came home with us) and we saw part of the barrel washing process. They wash the barrels to ensure the wines taste the way they should and aren't tainted by the wood. 

Toni sat with us for our tasting and gave us a brief background of Starmont and discussed the overall wine business in Napa. She told us about various events the winery hosts all of which I wish I could attend because they sound so fun! We were also able to meet the winemaker for a brief moment before heading back to the hotel for the day.

All of these experiences were so personal and unique. The wine business in Napa is so rich with history, I'd have to live there to remember it all. If you plan to visit Napa, I'd highly recommend all three of these wineries because they each offer a different experience. 

A fun fact about Napa wineries? Just because they have rows and rows of grapes doesn't mean the wine you are tasting at a certain winery was made from grapes on the property. As you can see on the Starmont menu, the grapes come from various vineyards. Not every part of Napa is able to grow grapes for every wine because the soil and temperatures differ so much. In a sense, they all work together to benefit each other and the success of Napa as a whole.

Tasting with a Winemaker

The following day, Doug had set up a meeting for us with Ian Devereux at Jam Cellars next door to our hotel. Ian is a winemaker, musician, dad, writer, creative and so much more. He sat with us for about two hours while we tasted several of his wines and told us a little bit about his story. A girl is what lead him to Napa while he was writing in San Francisco. He started to cover the wine articles as he was going back and forth so much. Essentially one thing led to the next and he ended up partnering with Steve Smith to create Smith Devereux Wines.

To be able to sit with someone who's name is on the bottle was insanely awesome. Ian was so patient with our questions which became more frequent with each sip. As you can see on the bottles, these wines are produced in limited quantities making them highly unique. We ended up signing up for wine club so we will receive four shipments a year with three bottles of our choosing. It's going to be great! 

So to recap:

  1. Go to Napa and stay with Andaz.
  2. Hire Doug with Beyond the Label if you're interested in a unique Napa experience that you wouldn't otherwise get.
  3. Visit Honig, Ashes & Diamonds, and Stamont.
  4. Set up a tasting with Ian of Smith Devereux Wines.
  5. Drink plenty of water and don't forget to eat.

Napa is on my bucket list for Bottle Rock, basically a classy Coachella with a lot of wine. 

Cheers to Napa and all the people there that made our experience wonderful, 

Steph

Let me know if I forgot something out of this Napa Valley travel guide.

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