Dan Myers

A Weekend in Napa Valley: Five Must-Visit Wineries

Sterling, Beringer, Provenance, Beaulieu, and Stags’ Leap provide an ideal cross-section of the region’s offerings

Dan Myers

Tour groups can visit Beringer's original winery. 

Planning a visit to Napa Valley can be a bit daunting, as there are so many wineries with tasting rooms in the region (about 400, or 600 if you include Sonoma) that trying to find the right ones can be overwhelming. But during a recent visit to the valley at the invitation of Treasury Wine Estates, we visited five wineries owned by the company Sterling, Beringer, Provenance, Beaulieu, and Stags’ Leap — and would recommend adding any or all of them to your itinerary. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect should you decide to visit.


Located at the north end of the valley in Calistoga, Sterling gets more visitors annually than just about any other winery, and with good reason: it’s so much fun. All visits start with a gondola ride up in the air high above the hillside (the winery itself is perched on a hilltop, and it offers some stunning views), and your wine tasting doubles as a tour of the winery. After receiving your glass and your first tasting, your self-guided tour takes you through the entire winemaking facility (and out onto a deck that affords views of the entire valley), with multiple stops along the way to sample different wines and learn about the wines and the winery.

If you prefer your tasting seated, you can spring for a high-end tasting in a beautiful tasting room, which could easily pass for a four-star restaurant. Wine club members also have access to a private tasting room with small bites, cheese, and charcuterie.


Beringer is a certified powerhouse, a winery that even non wine-drinkers have heard of. Their sprawling compound on the St. Helena Highway features a beautiful tasting room in the Old Winery, a hundred-year-old cave that used to store hundreds of barrels of wine, and one of the most beautiful and historic houses in Napa Valley, the recently restored Rhine House. There are many different tastings and tours available, ranging from a simple $25 tasting of winery-exclusive wines to a $125 private reserve tasting in a private room in the Rhine House. We were able to experience the latter, and it really is a revelation; the wines we sampled, which included four library vintages of Private Reserve Cabernet, clearly proves that its high-end offerings are as good as any you’ll find in the valley.


Dan Myers

Visiting the smaller Provenance winery in Rutherford is a more intimate experience than Sterling or Beringer, and it’s an ideal winery to stop in to if you’re hopping along St. Helena Highway — especially if you enjoy the three varietals they specialize in: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and sauvignon blanc. The small tasting counter has a large window behind it that looks into the sprawling production facility, and if you book a barrel tasting you’ll be able to head backstage and sample one of their wines right out of the barrel. We suggest you drop in and walk up to the counter, where you can choose from a selection of tasting experiences of varying prices; don’t miss out on the opportunity to try their single-vineyard masterpiece, Hewitt.


Beaulieu Vineyards (usually shortened to just “BV” around these parts) is one of the oldest wineries in Napa, founded back in 1900. This winery has a lot of history; it was the beneficiary of the knowledge of legendary winemaker André Tchelistcheff, and just as a rising tide lifts all boats, the techniques and procedures he introduced here (including aging wine in French oak) helped to put Napa Valley on the map. There are two tasting rooms here, the main tasting room and the reserve room. You can sample four limited-production wines for $25 in the main tasting room, but we suggest you spring for a $40 reserve tasting. This way you’ll be able to sample a Georges de Latour Private Reserve cabernet sauvignon (one of the truly legendary Napa cabs) as well as a winery-exclusive Clone Series cabernet sauvignon. You can also try the Retrospective Reserve Tasting ($75), with one current vintage and three older vintages of Georges de Latour, Tapestry, or the Clone Series of cabernet sauvignon; or the 90-minute Georges de Latour Private Reserve Vertical Tasting ($125), an in-depth tasting of five different vintages of this much-lauded wine.


Stags’ Leap

Whereas the other four wineries can accommodate drop-ins, the stunning Stags’ Leap is appointment-only, and can only accommodate 40 guests a day due to its location on a private road. The centerpiece of the property is a historic, recently-renovated Victorian-era manor house that serves as the home base for the two tastings that are available. The first, a 90-minute estate tour and tasting ($65), will give you a tour of the beautiful grounds and a run-through of the winery’s offerings. There are also three rotating tastings that cost $150; all of them will allow you to taste the Ne Cede Malis, which is harvested from a single vineyard that was planted in 1929 and contains 16 different varieties of grapes, but primarily petite sirah (it’s been hailed as the gold standard of Napa Valley petite sirah). You’ll also be able to sample Audentia, another jewel in Stags’ Leap’s crown, comprised of 75 percent cabernet sauvignon and 25 percent petite sirah, crafted by winemaker Christophe Paubert from the property’s best-performing lots. You can read a full write-up of the winery and its offerings here.