• An "Innsider's" View of Napa Valley

A Perfect Day Wine Tasting – November

Putting together a perfect day in the Napa Valley:


10:00 am

It was a gorgeous fall day so we busted our 1967 Firebird out of the garage and took it for a drive up valley. November through January has the best foliage colors and I could have spent all day in the car driving up and down along the valley. Not too hot…not too cold…kind of like a nice glass of Cab.

10:15 am

Robert Mondavi Winery. Okay, okay….we all know that Mondavi is almost always completely overrun with tourists. But, I hadn’t been there to do a tasting in years and I kept saying I was going to go. We had some friends in town for this trip and they had a couple of wineries they really wanted to visit including Mondavi. It was quite pleasant and parking was a breeze. We got there too late to get on the first tour, but the tour cleared out the tasting room so we had the whole room to ourselves. Their reserve tasting was at a reasonable price and they had some pretty tasty wines.

10:45 am

Rubicon Estate. Formerly the Inglenook Winery and Niebaum Coppola, Rubicon is one of the most beautiful historic wineries in the Napa Valley. Owned by Francis Ford Coppola, this winery is worth a stop on your trip even if you just want to take a look around. The tasting room is beautiful and they spare no expense throughout the grounds and inside the winery. Call ahead – you need an appointment and the tour is a bit pricey, but it’s worth it. Don’t forget to hit the gift shop on your way out…

11:30 am

Beaulieu Vineyards. Since we were right across the street we swung in here for a quick tasting. Lucky us – they had several of our favorite wines on sale for 50% off! I love the tasting room staff here too, so much fun.

12:00 pm

Rutherford Grill. My favorite part of the day- lunch. Oh, wait, and dinner. And sometimes brunch. In any case, I could do all three of those at the Rutherford Grill. A nice glass of wine, sitting in the sun on the patio, perfection… I liken the special ingredient in the smoked salmon to whatever people say they put in the chicken at KFC; you will crave it always. If you get there just before noon, there usually isn’t a wait. By the time we were leaving there was at least an hour wait.

1:00 pm

Frank Family Vineyards. This was my first visit to Frank Family since they remodeled their tasting room. I was so excited when we pulled up, and it wasn’t impossible to find a place to park! We were handed a glass of sparkling when we walked in and then another glass of their limited holiday sparkling. We were then shown into one of the three other tasting rooms of the main entryway. A much more intimate setting and there were only about 5 other people with us. I have to say, Frank Family’s collection of red wines is absolutely stellar. I could have stayed there all day.

2:00 pm

Rudd Winery. At $50 a guest for their private tours, this tasting is definitely at the top of the price spectrum. But, just to see how this winery operates and to drink from their high-end wines makes it well worth it. The private tour is nice because you have a dedicated tour guide and you can pick their brains about everything from vineyard maintenance to their concrete tanks. If you don’t want to do a private tour, they have a daily tour for $35 each. Reservations are required for both options.

4:00 pm

Naptime. Yes. I said it. Naptime. Nothing like a one-hour power nap to rejuvenate you and get you ready to head back out in rockstar style.

6:30 pm

Celadon Restaurant. Celadon never fails to deliver and is one of my favorites. We shared the calamari, crab cake, and small green salad. I had the special soup which was fantastic – I don’t think I’ve ever had anything from their specials that I didn’t like. The big hit of the night was the Edge Hill Mixed Black we picked up from Rudd Winery on our way out. Have you ever had that wine that was so good you didn’t want to share? And you wanted to lick up the drops that accidentally spilled on the table? This is that wine. You can only buy it in the winery, but it is well worth the trip. And…buy more than one bottle if you can afford it. If you don’t you’ll wish you had.

8:30 pm

Wander Downtown. Sometimes last minute tickets are available for live music at Blue Note, and there’s usually a trio or so playing at a couple of the local water holes. If not, you might find some vinyl spinning at Cadet.


Time to call it a night. While hanging out all night at the club is enticing, it’s been a long day and I’d like to keep it perfect. Not a good idea to end it with a late-night last-minute decision to head down to Henry’s…

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