Navigating through Napa in a Day

spend a day wine tasting in Napa Valley and enjoy stunning views of the vineyards
by Katherine // 2 Comments

With all the different Napa wine tasting rooms, wineries, and vineyards, planning your first trip there can be 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 Napa itinerary.  

Schramsberg would be at the top of my list if you want to do Napa in one day because it offers an interesting 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.

Napa in A Day

If it’s your first time in Napa, you need to set your expectations.  It is not possible to  to do everything in Napa if you only have a day.   Still you want to make the most of the time that you have. 

For wine-lovers, I am sharing this one-day itinerary wine-tasting in Napa itinerary. 

9:30 am  Chateau Montelena

After eating a hearty breakfast (more than my normal Diet Coke), I 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.

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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 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 to a downtown Calistoga tasting room.  I have been to W. H. Smith, who has been handcrafting wines since 1982.  

The tasting room has a nice setup and we were able to sit on barstools as we enjoyed their wines. If your group is four or less you don’t need an appointment. 

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. Cafe Sarafornia is another option – it’s a traditional diner with indoor and outdoor seating.

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.

1:30 pm Schramsberg Vineyard

Next, on your Napa Valley day trip itinerary, head to the Schramsberg Winery.  The road to get up to the tasting room is rather narrow and steep.  It is important to have a designated driver who can get you there safely. 

As mentioned previously, Schramsberg has a great wine tasting experience (especially for those who like bubbles and they also have some magnificent reds).  Their caves make them one of the “coolest” wineries in Napa.

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 Napa, 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 Schramsberg winery tours are limited to 12 people and are by appointment only, so it is important to make your reservations early (click here to reserve your tour) in the Napa trip planning process.  If you are using this schedule, the 1:30 Schramsberg tour would be a perfect fit. 

The tasting is slightly pricey at $70, 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 Schramsberg club member).

There are six tours offered between 9:30 am and 2:30 pm.   The Schramberg Cave tour starts promptly so 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 wines – four sparkling and one cabernet sauvignon.  This candlelight tasting was also held in the caves which are rather chilly.   I would recommend wearing a light jacket.  The tour and tasting lasts about 75 minutes.  

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3:15 pm Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa in Napa is a beautiful castle
Castello di Amorosa is a beautiful castle

For the last stop of your wine tasting day in Napa, I would head to Castello di Amorosa, 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 start feeling 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.  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

One Day Napa Wine Tour

If you are not comfortable navigating Napa on your own, there are plenty of tour options.  While you will be restricted on where and when you go places, it’s nice to not have to worry about the transportation.

Here are some options to consider:

Guided Napa Wine Tour with Picnic Lunch – Visit some boutique wineries in Napa and enjoy a picnic lunch. Get more details here.

Small Group Tour of Napa from San Francisco – The itinerary for this tour includes touring Castello di Amorosa’s medieval castle, tasting at three wineries, lunch in Calistoga, and more.  Get details here.

Napa and Sonoma Wine Tour from San Francisco – On this tour you get a sample of both Napa and Sonoma.  Get more details here.

Is Napa worth visiting if you only have one day?

Yes.  By following this itinerary (or taking a tour), 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 winemaking process.  



Expert tips for a One Day Napa Itinerary

Disclosure: We were guests of University Rooms.  As always, opinions are mine.

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Last Updated on December 23, 2021

About the Author

Katherine co-founded Two Traveling Texans. She is an experienced traveler and loyal sports fan. When she is not traveling Katherine works as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) specializing in tax compliance and consulting. She volunteers with both the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Junior League of Houston.