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5 Napa Valley Wineries You Should Know

In the market for a classic Napa tasting experience? We suggest swirling and savoring here

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JaM Cellars

This winery’s downtown Napa location is more of a nightclub than a tasting salon, complete with leather couches, a huge vinyl collection, a recording studio in the back, and a small stage for live music near the front window. In short, it’s a great spot to kick back with friends while you sip sparkling wine, Chardonnay, Rosé, and Cabernet. The winery is the brainchild of John and Michele Truchard (their initials form the name), Napa natives who also own the more upscale label John Anthony. Their goal with JaM is simple: to make decent, affordable, and approachable wines that everyone likes to drink. JaM is the leading sponsor of Napa’s BottleRock music festival every year and owns naming rights to the big stage at the old Napa Valley Opera House (which is now the Blue Note Napa). You might even see its Butter-branded bus (dubbed the “Butter Bus,” of course) bopping around town.

Stewart Cellars

The country-style NOMAD Heritage Library at Stewart Cellars’ downtown Yountville tasting room has the look and feel of a worldly traveler’s living room: It’s full of books. Rumor has it the titles are tomes that owner Michael Stewart loves and cherishes, and the books are available for guests to read during their time on-site. The Library hosts private and exclusive Heritage Tastings, allowing guests to sample an amazing selection of older-vintage cabernets from consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs. Elsewhere on the premises, the main Tasting Hall features vaulted ceilings, a horseshoe-shaped tasting bar, and floor-to-ceiling doors that open to a private but welcoming courtyard. Wine flights are available in this part of the facility, and they incorporate some of Stewart’s wines from Napa and Sonoma counties. In 2017, Napa’s beloved Southside Café opened a second location at Stewart, serving coffee and California cuisine with a Latin twist. Brunch at this branch of Southside is a big deal; make a reservation ahead of time to start your day with breakfast tostadas, chilaquiles, or a porchetta and potato onion cake.

Ashes & Diamonds

With midcentury modern architecture and vinyl on the turntable, Ashes & Diamonds is not your typical Napa winery. Yet for Kashy Khaledi, the son of Darioush Khaledi (the man behind Darioush Winery), the new digs make perfect sense. The younger Khaledi cut his teeth for the past decade in the music business, with a job at Capitol Records. In 2016, when he decided to make the leap back into the family business of wine, he knew he was going to do things differently. To oversee the design of the winery, he enlisted celebrated Los Angeles architect Barbara Bestor, who conceived of the building’s zigzag roofline, sunshine-yellow doors, and an eclectic interior of Saarinen chairs and North African rugs. To design the bottles’ labels, Khaledi hired Brian Roettinger, who famously designed the album cover for Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail. Other moves, such as bringing on Steve Matthiasson and Diana Snowden Seysses as consulting winemakers to recreate the authentic experience of Napa wine from the 1960s, were bold, too. Tastings (some of which include food pairings) are held in the lounge, at the tasting bar, or on an expansive outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards. The “A&D Experience” features an elaborate five-course meal.

Silver Oak

It’s hard to ponder the growth of Napa Valley without thinking of Silver Oak. The cult-favorite Oakville winery has been producing some of the region’s best Cabernet Sauvignon since the 1970s, and after more than 40 years, the majority of what the place makes remains Cabernet. (Twomey, a sister brand, is produced elsewhere in the valley.) While the tasting room itself is upscale, the winery has other highlights you’ll appreciate when you see them on a formal tour. Like the glass-house library with decades’ worth of wine vintages. Or the history gallery with artifacts and other mementos from the original winery. Or the iconic water tower. For visitors, the daily food-and-wine pairing is memorable for all it includes; chef Dominic Orsini matches four glasses of wine with four different small bites. Visitors can also book a cooking class with Orsini; the hands-on part of the experience is followed by a meal during which students and teacher sit down to eat their creations paired with Silver Oak wine. And now Silver Oak has another wine country experience for fans to explore: It recently opened a second facility in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, near Healdsburg.

Round Pond Estate

Yes, this Rutherford-based agricultural operation sells wine. But what sets Round Pond apart from just about every other Napa Valley winery is its olive mill. Through tours and tastings, visitors get an intriguing behind-the-scenes look into the world of olive oil. Tours wind through the olive orchard while guides explain the process of harvesting. Tastings take place inside the mill; you smell the oil first and then taste it with different vegetables, breads, meats, and cheeses. With the exception of a few reserve samplings, most wine tastings at Round Pond occur on the second-story tasting lounge and covered terrace, a space with panoramic views of the estate and the palm-lined driveway. To combine both sides of the house, try the Il Pranzo tasting, which includes wine and food on the winery side and olive oil and food on the olive mill side. What’s more, for an unparalleled winery visit, book a spot at the weekly garden-to-table brunch, a four-hour experience that includes a tour, a harvesting session in the winery garden, a cooking class, and a farm-to-table meal served in the garden itself.

In Partnership with Afar.

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