Napa is home to some of the best wineries in the nation, and those who own vineyards in the area are some of the wealthiest and most affluent residents in California. In fact, to purchase land and open your dream winery takes millions of dollars just to start. In Napa, it’s not just about who you know, but how well you can keep up with the Joneses by hosting charity events, private dinners and securing memberships at the valley’s top country clubs.
So it should come as no surprise that many celebrities have purchased land in this northern California region to get in on all the wine-making action. Wine Country is home to over 1,000 wineries and Napa Valley—which consists of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga—is made up of 400 estates. While many celebs have chosen to only partner with prestigious vinters (no land acquired), some have chosen to buy property for their own wine-making business. If you’re headed to Wine Country this summer and want to do a celebrity wine track, here are five wineries to check out, including one that is uber exclusive:
Photo Credit: Andretti Winery
Andretti Winery — Mario Andretti
One of my own first Napa Valley wine tasting experiences included a trip to Andretti Winery, which instantly became one of my favorites. What I didn’t know back then, was that it was owned by famous race car driver Mario Andretti and his business partner Joe Antonini, Chairman & CEO of Kmart Corporation. At the age of 19, Andretti began racing cars and over five decades ended up securing 111 victories in every form of the sport. In 2000, he was named “Driver of the Century” by the Associated Press. Four years earlier, in 1996, he and his partner founded the Napa winery.
What’s immediately evident when you arrive at Andretti Winery is its Old World Charm. You can’t help but be transported back in time to Italy, the boyhood home of Andretti, as you venture through the beautiful courtyard dressed in green hanging vines and shuttered windows. Andretti’s award-winning winery offers three portfolios to select from: Montona Reserve Series, Napa Valley Series and the Villa Andretti series of fine wines. Among their tours, they offer a private option which allows guests to leisurely browse the grounds, sample the grapes right off the vine, learn about the process through a wine educator and enjoy food pairings (additional).
Photo Credit: Inglenook
Inglenook Winery — Francis Ford Coppola
Most wine lovers know that Francis Ford Coppola’s namesake winery is located northwest of Napa Valley in Sonoma County. What may not be as well-known, is that the five-time Oscar-winning director also owns Inglenook Winery (formerly Rubicon), which sits in between Yountville and St. Helena.
Forty years ago, in 1975, Coppola and his wife Eleanor purchased part of the Inglenook Estate and renamed it Niebaum-Coppola. Its first vintage of Rubicon was produced three years later, and in 1995, the couple finalized the purchase of the remaining land. On top of the already 1,400 acres acquired in their first purchase, they added on another 90 acres of vineyards and the Inglenook Chateau. After a complete renovation of the grounds and following several years of a certification process, the winery was finally marked as a certified organic producer.
In 2011, the Coppolas decided to acquire the Inglenook trademark and restored the winery’s original name. The chateau is elegant, with large oak trees in front, a reflection pool and fountains welcoming guests, and green vines crawling up the historic building. Upstairs you’ll find the Movie Museum filled with many of Coppola’s film props, awards and memorabilia displayed on a rotating basis. Downstairs, the sailing room features mementos from sailor Gustave Niebaum, the original owner.
Photo Credit: Silverado Vineyards Winery
Silverado Vineyards Winery — Diane Disney Miller
During the same wine tasting trip in which I discovered Andretti Winery, I had my first experience with Silverado Vineyards Winery which sits in the Stags Leap District of Napa. Aside from its gorgeous grounds, the winery has some of the best silky-textured cabs in the valley. The winery is owned by Walt Disney’s late daughter Diane Disney Miller, along with husband and former professional American Football player Ron W. Miller. The 81-acre land was first purchased in 1976, and two years later, the 93-acre Silverado vineyard was bought. The construction of the winery began in 1981.
Silverado’s inaugural 1981 vintage wines were released in January 1983, which included 600 cases of Sauvignon Blanc and 1,200 cases of Chardonnay with Jack Stuart as the founding winemaker. Over the years, the winery has won numerous awards including being named the No. 3 wine on the Wine Spectator’s "Top 100 List" in 1993 for their 1990 vintage of the Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Reserve. Silverado offers public, private and group tours, but the ultimate experience is The Silverado package. The $60-per-person tasting starts with an introduction to the winery and a brief 15-minute tour before you settle onto the terrace for a flight of rare and small production wines.
Photo Credit: Bell Wine Cellars
Bell Wine Cellars — Alex Spanos
Although football and wine don’t necessarily go together, San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos begged to differ in 2002 when he partnered with his son-in-law and former California wine wholesaler Ron Berberian to purchase Bell Wine Cellars. Located in Yountville, the winery was originally founded by Anthony Bell and a local Napa Valley grower in 1991. After moving from Carneros to Oakville, Bell finally settled into Yountville in 1998. After Spanos and Berberian acquired the assets of Bell Wine Cellars, they put $10 million into expanding the facility and ultimately grew its inventory from 500 cases to 15,000.
Today, the family-owned and run, limited-production estate holds 1,200 barrels for aging, and 24 stainless steel tanks that hold 40,000 gallons of wine. And, much like the retractable roofs used in stadiums, Bell Wines’ vineyards can be covered with an extensive canopy during the warmer summer months. Planted for Merlot and three clones of Chardonnay, the vineyards are thus able to yield more grapes throughout the season.
Wine tastings can be held in a tasting space, Reserve Room or al fresco on a spacious patio with a pizza oven, outdoor kitchen and bocce ball courts. One of the best ways to experience the winery is to book the Blending Seminar package ($200/person), which allows guests to become a winemaker for the day. During the seminar, you’ll study a comparative tasting of varietals before blending and creating your own reserve. All solo participants will receive a 750ml bottle of their blend, while couples can choose either a magnum bottle or two 750ml bottles.
Private Vineyard — David and Victoria Beckham
While superstar couple David and Victoria Beckham do own a winery in Napa, it isn’t available to the public. But we figured it still deserves an honorable mention. Purchased as a birthday present for his wife, David decided to gift Victoria with her very own multimillion dollar vineyard in 2008. The international soccer legend and his fashion icon wife have no plans to commercialize their wines, but instead use their blends for private dinner parties with friends and family. Props to you if you are one of the select few who’ve experienced the Beckham winery.