With all the different wineries in Napa, planning your first trip there can be really overwhelming, especially when you have limited time.  I talked about some general tips on a previous post, but I thought it would be helpful to provide a full day itinerary.  Schramsberg would be at the top of my list because it offers a great tour.  While there is no right way to fit Schramsberg into your Napa Valley experience, I think this itinerary would be a great way to spend the day:

9:30 am  Chateau Montelena

After eating a hearty breakfast (more than my normal Diet Coke), I would suggest starting your day in Napa with a wine tasting at Chateau Montelena.  This winery is in a gorgeous setting and their wines have historical significance.  At the Paris Wine Tasting Competition in 1976, which is now referred to as “The Judgment of Paris,” a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was chosen as the winning white wine by a panel of nine French judges.  The wine was pitted against four white Burgundies and five other California Chardonnays.

The grounds at Chateau Montelena in Napa are beautiful

The grounds at Chateau Montelena are beautiful

The basic tasting doesn’t require a reservation and is held on the top floor of the Chateau.  The fee is $25 a person, but will be waived with a purchase of $100 or more.   Since we were some of the first guests to arrive right after the tasting room opened, we chatted with the gentleman pouring the wine so he would pour wines that aligned with our preferences.

A nice selection of wine from Napa

A nice selection of wine

After the tasting, we walked through the building and then toured the grounds.  The area was beautiful and very relaxing!  In addition to basic tastings, they also offer two different tours, a sensory tasting experience and a tasting entitled “Beyond Paris and Hollywood: Untold Stories and Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.”  I think that this tasting could be a great way to pick up some nifty bits of wine trivia and I would love to go on it on a future trip!

11:00 am Lunch and a Tasting in Downtown Calistoga

After spending some time at Chateau Montelena, I would suggest heading into downtown Calistoga to go to a tasting room there.  I have been to W. H. Smith and enjoyed tasting their wines.  The tasting room has a nice setup and we were able to sit on barstools as we enjoyed their wines.  Also, while in town, I would get a bite to eat – there are plenty of restaurants, or if you are short on time (or want to focus on drinking) Cal Mart offers boxed lunches.  While we were tasting wines at W. H. Smith, a couple even brought in a pizza to enjoy with their wine – if you are interested in doing this, I would check with the salesperson at the tasting room before ordering to ensure that they are okay with it (and you might even want to offer a slice of pizza).

1:30 pm Schramsberg

Next, I would head to Schramsberg.  The road to get up to the tasting room is rather narrow and steep.  It is important that you have a designated driver who can safely get you there.  As mentioned previously, Schramsberg has a great wine tasting experience (especially for those who like bubbles and  they also have some magnificent reds).  Schramsberg has an impressive history including being the first American wine served at a White House or State event and it has been served at official State functions of every US Presidential administration since Richard Nixon.  When visiting Schramsberg, I have enjoyed looking at the memorabilia framed on the walls detailing the wines served for various state dinners.

The Schramsberg grounds in Napa are lovely.

The Schramsberg grounds are lovely.

The tours at Schramsberg are limited to 12 people and are by appointment only, so it is important to make your reservations early in the trip planning process.  If you are using this schedule, the 1:30 tour would be a perfect fit.  The tasting is slightly pricey at $60, but I greatly enjoyed learning about Schramsberg and the sparkling wine making process, getting to see the caves, and getting to taste the wine.  Also, please note that Schramsberg does not offer tastings without a tour (unless you are a club member).

There are six tours offered between 9:30 am and 2:30 pm and each tour and tasting lasts a little over an hour.    The tour and tasting lasts about 75 minutes.  The tour starts promptly;  I would recommend aiming to get there a few minutes early – the grounds are pretty and it is located off the main road, so it is a very tranquil setting.  At the end of the tour, the tasting included five bottles of wine – four sparkling and one cabernet sauvignon.  This candlelight tasting was also held in the caves – keep in mind that the caves are rather chilly – I would recommend wearing a light jacket.

3:15 pm Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa in Napa is a beautiful castle

Castello di Amorosa is a beautiful castle

For your last stop of your wine tasting day in Napa, I would head to Castello di Amorosa, which is an authentically-styled, 13th century, Tuscan castle and winery.   We did not go on a tour, but instead explored on our own.  It was neat to be able to walk into the various rooms, and the vistas offer breathtaking views.  Exploring the castle can be a great break if you feel that you may be getting wined-out!  After exploring a bit, we went to the tasting room (all adult tickets to enter the castle include a tasting, and tickets for children include grape juice).  The tasting room also has a great selection of wine-related gifts.  As I was wandering around during the wine tasting, I found a great cheese knife and my friend, Leigh-Anne, found some delicious olive oil.

Katherine sitting in an ornate chair in the castle in Napa

Katherine sitting in an ornate chair in the castle

By following this itinerary, you will have a fun-filled, relaxing day in Napa.  You will be able to taste many wines, see fabulous architecture and even learn about the wine making process.   Cheers!


Expert tips:

  • Make your reservation for Schramsberg as far in advance as possible.
  • Read through our wine tasting tips post for dinner recommendations and other suggestions to help you make the most out of a day in Napa.