Are you searching for collectible wines on your next trip? More than tasting rooms, these five wineries create memorable experiences that match their sought-after wines.
In a valley full of beautiful wineries, I love discovering hidden gems that create a luxurious and personalized tasting experience. So after moving to Napa four years ago, I dove into the wine world by taking formal classes, ultimately becoming a certified French Wine Scholar from the Wine Scholar Guild, and WSET 3 certified through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.
During this time, I also started documenting winery experiences and have been fortunate to visit hundreds of wineries. But what makes a memorable winery experience? For me, it’s the opportunity to learn the story behind the label, meet the passionate individuals who create the wines, and gain a deeper understanding of the terroir and farming practices where the wines are grown.
These five wineries focus on collectible wines, each distinctive in its own way.
Promontory Winery, Oakville
Coming from the Harlan family of wines, Promontory is the epitome of opulence. It’s a true wine estate tucked into the western mountainsides of Oakville. While most of the Harlan properties are private, Promontory welcomes visitors and offers a glimpse into what makes the Harlan brand so special.
Visiting here tantalizes all of the senses. A welcome taste of Dom Pérignon while overlooking the rugged mountains dotted with vineyards immediately sets the tone for the rest of the experience, which includes a personalized tour around the state-of-the-art winery before a fully customized seated tasting.
Only one wine per vintage, a Cabernet Sauvignon, bears the Promontory label. But, the Harlan’s have created another wine from their younger estate vines, aptly named Penultimate. Both wines are available for purchase while visiting Promontory.
Rudd Estate, Oakville
Full disclosure, I work here part-time and love it! A true family affair, the Rudds have certainly made their mark in Napa Valley over the last 20 years. Established by Leslie Rudd, an entrepreneur from Kansas, Rudd Estate is located on the prime eastern side of the Oakville AVA. Leslie’s daughter Samantha is now at the helm creating her own positive impact at the Estate, the local community, and the wine world.
Rudd encompasses a strong belief in creating wines with a sense of place. To do this, they only use fruit from their two estate vineyards, follow organic and biodynamic farming practices, and have their own dedicated vineyard and winemaking team the entire year. With this vision, they produce stunning Cabernets and one of the best Sauvignon Blancs in the valley.
You FEEL their philosophy from the moment you set foot on the Oakville Estate. From the understated elegance of the unique private tasting areas to the beautiful gardens that further enhance a diverse and healthy ecosystem, it’s impossible not to understand how this ideology translates into the wines. I felt it so much during my visit that I asked to become part of the team!
Blankiet Estate, Yountville
Nestled in the western foothills just outside the quaint town of Yountville, Blankiet is a hidden gem that flies under the radar unless you’re lucky enough to be “in the know.” The land was undeveloped when Claude and Katherine Blankiet purchased it in 1996. Since then, they have built a state-of-the-art winery and Castello surrounded by their estate vineyards planted to Bordeaux varieties.
An experience at Blankiet is private and intimate. You may get lucky and meet Claude walking around the vineyards as we did during our visit. Since it’s a small operation, they can pick their vineyard like a garden, sometimes having up to 30 separate picks per vintage. The fruit is meticulously cared for by their in-house vineyard team and renowned local winemaker, Graeme MacDonald. It’s an impressive process to see in person, followed by tasting their highly allocated red wines in the Castello or outside on the stunning terrace.
The Vineyardist, Calistoga
Hidden within the Diamond Mountain AVA, The Vineyardist is one of those places that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. The sweeping views of the valley below are breathtaking, the red and white wines are complex and age-worthy, and the extraordinary experience is entirely personalized.
The land for the winery was initially cleared and planted to vineyards by Lorenz Peterson more than 100 years ago. So when husband and wife team Dirk Fulton and Becky Kukkola purchased the property, they paid homage to Lorenz by naming the winery “The Vineyardist.”
They grow and produce extremely limited Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc wines from their biodynamically farmed estate vineyards. While visiting, guests are escorted around the vineyards while learning the history and vineyard practices before returning to the gorgeous tasting room to experience their world-class red wines created by Tony Biagi.
Vineyard 7 & 8, St. Helena
I fell in love with Vineyard 7 & 8 years ago when they introduced me to the beauty of Spring Mountain wines. Located near the top of Spring Mountain, the trip to Vineyard 7 & 8 can take some time from the valley floor. But you’re rewarded with a warm welcome from the incredible hospitality team, breathtaking views from the stunning tasting room, and gorgeous mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
The Steffens family purchased the 40-acre property in 1999 and has remained active with the winery operations ever since. In fact, Wes Steffens is the estate director and associate winemaker. He is also surrounded by some of the best in the business, including uber-talented winemaker Martha McClellan. Every detail is noticed at the winery, from farming to production, which comes through when experiencing the elegance of their age-worthy wines. It’s a “must” for those who love mountain wines!
These wineries exemplify the importance of being good stewards of this unique and special land we call home. With tastings that are typically 90 minutes or more and booked well in advance, they offer experiences for those collectors who want to discover the hidden gems of Napa Valley. As a local, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!