Carneros Region

View of Carneros Region

View of Carneros Region from Truchard Vineyards

The “Los Carneros” region (Spanish for “the Sheep”) is an area that spreads across the southern ends of both Napa and Sonoma Counties.  Known as either Carneros or Los Carneros, its location near the Bay means cooler temperatures which makes it an excellent growing region for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.  These varietals are used to make amazing still wines and lovely sparkling wines from the region.

You will also find well-crafted wines made from other varietals grown in the Carneros region including Albariño, Roussanne, Pinot Blanc, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The dining options in the area are casual and comfortable with high-quality offerings, especially for breakfast and/or lunch.  Los Carneros is also popular for bike riding, with or without wine tasting.

Favorite Tasting Rooms in the Carneros Region

Artesa – Come here for wines and views at the former site of Cordoníu Napa.  The building is set into the highest hill of its 350-acre estate and was designed to blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. The terrace offers 360 degree views of the San Francisco Bay and the Carneros Valley.  Walk-in tastings are available for groups under 8 people.  Artesa also offers (with reservations) semi-private seated tastings including pairings of Wine with Chocolate, Cheese or Tapas.  In addition to their Sparkling Wines, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs we suggest you also try their Albariño and Merlot.  1345 Henry Road, Napa  (707) 224-1668  [reservation required for groups of 8 or more]

Bouchaine Vineyards – This family-owned winery is focused on producing excellent Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs although they are also one of the few local wineries producing a Pinot Meunier wine.  Bouchaine has the distinction of being the oldest continuously operated winery in the Carneros region.  It’s also a very nice place to have a picnic if you want to bring some cheese, charcuterie, etc.  We recommend their Pinot Gris, Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Bouche de Beurre Estate Chardonnay, Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs (Gee, Rockin’ H), and clone-focused Pinot Noirs (Mariafeld, Pommard and Swan).  1075 Buchli Station Road, Napa  (707) 252-9065  [reservation required for groups of 6 or more]

Ceja VineyardsThis Latino family owned winery was founded by Amelia, Pedro, Armando and Martha Ceja, first generation Mexican-American winegrowers and the second generation is actively involved in the business as well. When Amelia was named Ceja’s first president in 1999, she was the first Mexican-American woman to be president of a winery and this contributed towards her recognition by the California legislature as “Woman of the Year” in 2005. Our favorite wines here include a Sauvignon Blanc, Carneros Merlot, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and their Dulce Beso (Botrytis-style dessert wine crafted from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes).  22989 Burndale Road, Sonoma  (707) 255-3954  [reservation required for groups of 6 or more, tasting room only open Fri – Sun]

Cuvaison Estate Wines – Although Cuvaison was established in 1969, they didn’t have a tasting room on their actual Carneros estate until 2009. Environmentally conscious, Cuvaison is proud that they have certifications from Napa Green Land, Napa Green Winery and Fish Friendly Farming.  The modernistic building here has plenty of windows so you can easily see the surrounding vineyards (if you’re not already sitting outside on the patio in the first place).  The wines here are crafted with a vineyard-driven focus and we especially like the Kite Tail Chardonnay, Two Estates Meritage and Brandlin Vineyard (Mount Veeder) Cabernet Sauvignon.  1221 Duhig Road, Napa  (707) 942-2455 [reservation required]

Domaine Carneros – Founded by the family behind Champagne Taittinger, the focus here has been on sparkling wines and Pinot Noir.  The wines here all come from grapes grown in the Carneros region, and 95% of the fruit comes from their own estate vineyards. The beautiful 18th century château-style building has both an internal salon and an outside patio where they provide table service to visitors. Caviar and Artisan Cheese plates matched to Domaine Carneros wines are also available. We recommend the Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay, Estate Brut Cuvée, Brut Rosé, and our favorite here is the Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs.  1240 Duhig Road, Napa  (800) 716-2788 [reservation required]

Donum Estate – In 2001, Anne Moller-Racke set out to make the best Pinot Noir possible from her Carneros Vineyard. Since then, the winery has expanded to 180 acres including the Winside Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Donum has also started sourcing grapes from the Angel Camp Vineyard in Anderson Valley for other Pinot Noir bottlings.  In 2014, the estate began adding sculptures to the Carneros property, making any visit an intriguing blend of wine tasting and art appreciation.   From Sanna (the giant head at the entrance) by Jaume Plensa, to Love Me (the hilltop reflective heart) by Richard Hudson, to the Circle of Animals (representing zodiac signs) by Ai Weiwei, you’ll be glad you came.  Our favorite wines include the Rosé of Pinot Noir, the Carneros Estate Pinot Noir and the Ten Oaks Russian River Estate Pinot Noir.  24520 Ramal Road, Sonoma  (707) 939-2290 [reservation required]

Etude Wines – Best known for producing high quality Pinot Noirs for 35 years, Etude has many other fine wines to offer. Onsite sustainability efforts include recycled water for landscape irrigation, solar panels providing about 1/3 of their energy needs, and an employee-cultivated garden with a portion of the produce donated to the Napa Food Bank. We recommend the Pinot Blanc, Heirloom Chardonnay, Carneros Estate Grown Pinot Noir, Deer Camp Pinot Noir, Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon.  1250 Cuttings Wharf Road, Napa  (877) 586-9361 [reservations available but not required for walk-in tastings at tasting bar, seated tasting experiences require a reservation]

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards – Established in 1986, Gloria Ferrer was the first sparkling wine house in the Carneros region.  Open to the public, reservations are only required for parties of 7 or larger, and they also offer three tours daily if you’re interested.  The atmosphere is a charismatic blend of vibrant Spanish tradition and casual Sonoma County elegance.  Hopefully you will visit when the weather is nice so you can sit on their vista terrace and gaze over the Carneros Valley as you sip 2 ounce pours, glasses or flights of still or sparkling wine. The Brut Rosé, Blanc de Blancs, Carneros Cuvée and a non-vintage Blanc de Noirs shine here.   23555 Arnold Drive, Sonoma  (707) 933-1917 [reservation required for groups of 7 or more]

Liana Estates – This modern winery is spearheaded by Lisa and Ariana Peju, sisters and second-generation vintners who opened their tasting room in October 2016.  Visitors receive a selection of small bites (cheese, dried fruits, nuts) to enhance their tasting experience. The focus here is not just on Carneros region classics like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but also less commonly explored varietals. There are three wine tasting series to select from in the open and airy tasting room, or you can book alternative experiences such as a Picnic of Carneros-inspired treats and a bottle of chilled Liana wine.  We recommend the Blanc de Blancs, Vintners White Blend (Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc), a dry Orange Muscat, and the Chardonnay.  2750 Las Amigas Road, Napa  (707) 302-1160  [reservation required]

McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards and Winery – Bob Mueller and Karen McKenzie lead this family operation which now produces about 3000 cases per year from grapes grown in their two estate vineyards.   Their Big Ranch Road vineyard in the Oak Knoll region is their source for Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and the Carneros region vineyard is the source for white wine grapes and some other red varietals (including Pinot Noir).  The wines are an authentic expression of the vineyard, and the fruit. Our favorite wines here are their Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.  2530 Las Amigas Road, Sonoma  (707) 252-0186 [reservation required] 

Saintsbury – Established in 1981 by David Graves and Richard Ward, Saintsbury invites their guests to sit in an English garden overlooking a portion of the estate vineyard for their tasting experience, weather permitting.  The Classic Tasting here includes 5 Single Vineyard Chardonnay or Pinot Noir tastes, while the Connoisseur’s Tasting offers a more comprehensive experience including samples from the barrel, library, and/or limited releases.  Our personal favorites here are their Sangiacomo Green Acres Chardonnay, Brown Ranch Pinot Noir, Donnely Creek Pinot Noir and Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir.  1500 Los Carneros Avenue, Napa  (707) 252-0592 [reservation required]

Schug Carneros Estate – Walter Schug, founding winemaker at Joseph Phelps Vineyards in the 1970s, started his namesake winery in 1980.  Although he passed away in 2015, Michael Cox has been in charge of winemaking duties here for over 20 years.  True to the region, the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs here stand out and of the 42 estate acres of vineyards, 24 are planted with Chardonnay and 18 with Pinot Noir.  Our favorites include the Carneros Chardonnay, the Carneros Pinot Noir, the Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir and the “Heritage Reserve” Pinot Noir.  We also like the Sauvignon Blanc.  If you’re interested, picnic tables are available for use.  602 Bonneau Road, Sonoma  (707) 939-9363 [reservation required for parties of 6 or more]

Truchard Vineyards – It all started back in 1974 when Tony and Jo Ann Truchard came to the Carneros region of the Napa Valley and purchased a 20 acre parcel of land.  Over the years, the property has grown to 400 acres, of which 290 acres are planted with 12 varietals.  They sell about 70% of their grapes but the Truchards keep some of their fruit to make outstanding, reasonably priced wines under their own label which are the epitome of balance and elegance.  We highly recommend both a visit here and purchasing their wines.  We adore a wide range here including the Roussanne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.  3234 Old Sonoma Road, Napa  (707) 253-7153  [reservation required]

 

Favorite Restaurants in the Carneros Region

Boon Fly Café – Part of the Carneros Resort and Spa, Boon Fly is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you can only make reservations at dinner.  Rustic and charming, we feel this is a particularly good choice for breakfast.  The coffee, donuts, Boon Fly Benedict, Chef’s Daily Omelet and “Green Eggs and Ham” (Poached Eggs, Ham, Lemon-Leek Cream) are worthwhile options here. Lunch includes Salads, Sandwiches, Burgers, or you can still order the Benedict (which has Jalapeño Hollandaise).  4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa  (707) 299-4870.

Fremont Diner – Smack in the middle of Los Carneros, this popular diner is known for locally sourced and seasonal country cooking. We’re talking Deviled Eggs, Pimento Cheese, Biscuits & Gravy, Shrimp & Grits, Fried Chicken, Potato Salad and Pecan Pie.  But, what also attracts the crowds are the high quality ingredients and dishes like Brioche French Toast, House Cured Pastrami, and Seasonal Salads and Pies.  We’ve recently enjoyed the Farmers Toast (Avocado, Picked Red Onion and Chili Flakes), Grilled Cheese and Ribolitta, Huevos Rancheros, Smoked Pork Nachos, and be sure to ask about the daily Pitmaster’s Special before ordering.  They also have a designated section for your dog.  2698 Fremont Drive, Sonoma  (707) 938-7370

Schellville Grill – This California roadhouse serves up BBQ with incredibly friendly hospitality and yes, this is the place that was on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Breakfast choices include plenty of egg dishes, Pancakes or Cinnamon Raisin French Toast.  At lunch, the BBQ kicks in with Prime Brisket Sandwich, Prime Tri-Tip Sandwich, BBQ Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese, Pork Ribs and Chicken that was rubbed with a Chocolate Chile Espresso Rub before smoking.  They also offer salads (to which you can add the house-smoked Tri-Tip or Chicken).  There’s even an outstanding high-quality burger here.  22900 Broadway, Sonoma  (707) 996-5151 [please note: cash only, closed on Tues and Wed]

The Shed (Stanly Lane Smokehouse) – On the Napa side of the Carneros region, this property has been known over the years as where to find a good Pumpkin Patch and Christmas Tree farm.  However, they also have a family owned and operated smokehouse where you can buy St Louis Style Ribs (full or ½ rack) or smoked meats by the pound.  You can also get Sandwiches (Pulled Pork, Brisket, Pork Loin, Portabella, etc.) or Panini (Grilled Cheese, Reuben, Cheesesteak, etc.) to eat onsite or take away.  Aim for the afternoon or early evening because they close at 5:30 pm, or 6:30 pm on weekends.  3100 Golden Gate Drive, Napa  (707) 224-2575

Southside – This community-driven cafe and coffee bar opened in May 2016 and was an instant hit.  Owners Morgan and Irma Robinson have had their catering business (Smoke Open Fire) for ten years and plans are in place to open a second Southside location in the Century Center near the movie theaters.  Popular dishes for breakfast and lunch include Grilled Strawberry Toast, Ham Breakfast Sandwich, Biscuits and Chorizo Gravy, and a Salad with Burrata, Peas and Prosciutto.  Our favorites include the Chilaquiles and Cuban Sandwich. 2770 Old Sonoma Road, Napa  (707) 492-3733 

 

Other Links for Carneros Region

Carneros Wine Alliance – Non-profit association of wineries and growers in the Carneros AVA dedicated to telling the story of the appellation, and to promote the distinction, diversity, and authenticity of the Carneros region.

 

 

Boon Fly Cafe on Urbanspoon

 


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