In the center of Napa Valley, the Oakville and Rutherford appellations are moderately warm areas that are still partially influenced by morning fog. Oakville is just south of Rutherford, but both areas are well known for the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals. Oakville also has Sauvignon Blanc as a primary varietal, while Rutherford is also known for its Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel grapes.
Favorite Tasting Rooms in Oakville and Rutherford
Cakebread Cellars – This has been a Napa premium winery since 1973 with a worldwide distribution in many restaurants and retail stores. You’ll find a large focus on both food and wine here, as evidenced by their wine-and-food pairing seminars, wine blending sessions, and hands-on cooking classes, not to mention the online recipes and the winery’s cookbook. We recommend the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the winery produces a wide portfolio of wines. There are also a wide range of tour and tasting options for guests including experiences focused on white wine, red wine, current releases or reserve wines. 8300 St. Helena Highway (Highway 29), Rutherford (800) 588-0298 [reservation required]
Chappellet – Since 1967, the Chappellet family has been crafting world class wines from their Pritchard Hill estate vineyards focusing on high-quality age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignons. The family, now involving a second generation, has been dedicated stewards of Pritchard Hill as demonstrated by their extensive sustainable and organic practices. Tastings here may include a tour of their iconic pyramid-shaped winery, a walking tour through the estate vineyards, and/or a tasting in the winery barrel room. Our favorites are their Chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignons and the Mountain Cuvée. 1581 Sage Canyon Road, St. Helena (707) 286-4219 [reservation required]
Inglenook – In 1880, Gustave Niebaum founded Inglenook winery with the intention of making it a world-class winery. Now owned by Francis Ford Coppola, the property that started as Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery, then became Rubicon Estate, now proudly bears the original Inglenook name. The Coppolas have spent over 40 years reuniting the original vineyards and returning winemaking operations to the Chateau. The grounds and chateau here are gorgeous and include a Bistro offering wine, soft drinks, coffee drinks, bistro bites, cheese, charcuterie and cigars. Winemaking operations are been headed by renowned French winemaker Philippe Bascuales (of Château Margaux fame) who now serves as the winery’s General Manager. Our favorite wines are the Blancaneaux, Edizione Pennino Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and the Rubicon. 1991 St. Helena Highway (Highway 29), Rutherford (707) 968-1161 [advance reservations strongly encouraged, elevated experiences including customized experiences require reservations]
Mumm Napa – The sparkling wines here are made using the Méthode Traditionnelle process, the same time-honored approach used to make French Champagnes. If you want more details, the winery’s website has a video of head winemaker (since 2002) Ludovic Dervin explaining the 13 steps of the winemaking process. The patio and tasting salon experiences here do not require reservations. The winery tour includes a souvenir flute, but is only offered 4 times per day so reservations are suggested. The Oak Terrace tasting (and optional Artisan Cheese Tray) requires a reservation. Our favorites are the Blanc de Blancs Reserve, Brut Reserve and Brut Reserve Rosé. 445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford (707) 967-7700
Nickel & Nickel – Established in 1997 by the owners of Far Niente, this winery is committed to producing 100% varietal single-vineyard wines crafted to express the personality of each vineyard. The focus here is on Cabernet Sauvignon, but Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah round out the portfolio. Your tour should start at the site’s original Queen Anne-style home and include the restored barns on the 42-acre property. Interestingly, the winery’s 30,000 square foot barrel cellar is actually underground, beneath the fermentation barns. Our favorite wines here have included the Medina and Truchard Chardonnays, as well as the Beatty Ranch and Sori Bricco Cabernet Sauvignons. 8164 St. Helena Highway (Highway 29), Oakville (707) 967-9600 [reservation required]
Opus One – Historic joint venture started by Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild producing a single proprietary Bordeaux-style blend which was America’s first ultra-premium wine. The property has very interesting architecture which joins New World and Old World aesthetics surrounded by beautiful landscaping. The winery features a stunning Grand Chai which houses one thousand barrels in a semi-circular formation. You must make a reservation over the phone for a Tour and Tasting experience, or to enjoy a glass of the current vintage in the Partners’ Room. 7900 St. Helena Highway (Highway 29), Oakville (800) 292-6787 [reservation required]
Paraduxx – The namesake wine here is a proprietary red blend usually comprised primarily of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon but the blend varies from year to year. Completed in the fall of 2005, the Paraduxx winery property includes the Vineyard House, where wine tasting and retail sales are based, and a ten-sided fermentation building. The visitor’s center has places for both inside and outside tableside service tastings, depending on the weather. Tasting experiences here include tableside service, stemless Riedel ‘O’ glassware, cheese to accompany your wine, and there is also an optional charcuterie pairing plate addition. Private tastings, and Blending Experience tastings are also available. Our favorites here include the Rosé and the wine that started it all, Paraduxx. 7257 Silverado Trail, Yountville (866) 367-9943 [reservations required]
Piña Napa Valley – The Piña family, an 8 generation Napa Valley farming family, runs a well-respected vineyard management business. Now, four Piña brothers (Larry, John, Ranndy and Davie) have branched out into making wine under their own name. The specialty here is single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from vineyards which are farmed by the family and our favorites are the Buckeye Vineyard (Howell Mountain), D’Adamo Vineyard (Atlas Peak) and Wolff Vineyard (Yountville) versions. 8060 Silverado Trail, Rutherford (707) 738-9328
Provenance Vineyards – In the heart of the Rutherford appellation, Provenance Vineyards opened in October 2003 and specializes in Bordeaux varietals that showcase the unique character of their respective vineyards. The red “farmhouse” winery, visible from the St. Helena Highway, is surrounded by vineyards and a patio lounge. While here, check out the interesting wood floor of the tasting room made of staves from 960 of Provenance’s own oak barrels from the inaugural vintage. Our favorites are the Las Amigas Vineyard Merlot, To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Hewitt Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. 1695 St. Helena Highway (Highway 29), Rutherford (707) 968-3633 [reservation required for groups of 10 or more]
Sequoia Grove – This family-owned winery was founded in 1979 in a 110-year old barn beneath a grove of Coastal Sequoia trees (hence, the name). Their winemaking philosophy is to make wines with true varietal character that are reflective of the terroir the grapes grew in. The winery’s 24-acre Estate Vineyard and 50-acre Tonella Ranch Vineyard are both located in the heart of Rutherford. The Current Release and Single-Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon tasting do not require reservations, but elevated experiences such as the 2-hour food and wine pairing “Cabernet Culinary Challenge” need them. Our favorites here are the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the Rutherford Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. 8338 St. Helena Highway (Highway 29), Rutherford (800) 851-7841
Silver Oak – For over 40 years Silver Oak has been single-minded in the pursuit of exceptional Cabernet, following an extensive aging program using American Oak. All of Silver Oak’s estate vineyards are certified under California’s Sustainable Winegrowing program and the Oakville winery has received LEED Platinum certification for its green efforts. The walk-in tasting experience includes a taste of their current release Napa Valley and Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignons as well as one library wine taste. Elevated experiences including tours or vertical tastings require a reservation. Silver Oak also has a an Alexander Valley tasting room in Healdsburg. 915 Oakville Crossroad, Oakville (707) 942-7022 and 7300 Highway 128, Healdsburg (707) 942-7082 [reservation not required for Walk-in Tasting experience for parties of 6 or less, required for larger parties and for any of the more advanced tasting experiences]
The Terraces – Timm and Sharon Crull oversee a family operation on property that has been growing grapes for over 130 years and making wine for over 30. The intent here is to create wines that capture a sense of place and time, and bring joy. Your tasting experience may take place inside thier art-filled tasting room, outside on their deck, and/or you can schedule a 4-wheel drive tour around the property and view over 100 fruit trees, cork oak trees, an old ghost winery and a building where you can barrel taste balsamic winery as it is being crafted (for about 20 years so far). Our favorites are the Chardonnay, Riesling, Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc. 1450 Silverado Trail, Rutherford (707) 963-1707 [reservation required]
Tres Sabores – The winery’s name means “Three Flavors” in Spanish, referring to the impacts of the Vine (the grapes), the Artisan (the winemaker) and the Terroir (the land) on a wine’s resulting taste. Julie Johnson and Jon Engelskirger own and run this small 35-acre ranch which sits near the top of the Rutherford Bench. The rustic setting, giant Coast Live Oak and 4-legged residents here will help you forget you are anywhere near Highway 29. The grapes grown on the ranch are organically certified. Our favorite wines are the Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Por Qué No (Zinfandel-based blend) but we also highly recommend trying the “Ingrid & Julia” Rosé and Rutherford Perspective Cabernet Sauvignon. 1620 South Whitehall Lane, St. Helena (707) 967-8027 [reservation required]
ZD Estate – Founded in 1969, ZD Wines is family owned and operated by three generations of the deLeuze family who will celebrate 50 years of winemaking in 2018. Their estate vineyards in both Rutherford (Cabernet Sauvignon) and Carneros (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir) are organically farmed and certified by the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers). When you come for a tasting, you’ll be greeted with a taste of Chardonnay and escorted to a seated tasting experience with views of the property’s vineyards (and for a sneak preview, check out their virtual tours on their website). Our favorites include the California Chardonnay, Reserve Chardonnay, Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. 8383 Silverado Trail, Napa (800) 487-7757 [reservation preferred but not required]
Favorite Restaurants in Oakville and Rutherford
Auberge du Soleil – Napa’s first fine dining restaurant, the Michelin-starred (for over 10 years) Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil also has stunning vistas from the outside patios. For a fun and glamorous time you may want to dress up a little and come here in time to see the sunset while you dine. The extensive Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch and Dinner menus from Executive Chef Robert Curry showcase fresh and seasonal ingredients that are sourced locally. Dinner items include Red Snapper, Veal Sweetbreads, Liberty Farm Duck, Paine Farm Squab and Japanese Wagyu A5. The separate Bistro & Bar offers lighter fare, a selection of over 40 wines by the glass, and its own wraparound deck. The restaurant accepts reservations, the bistro area does not. 180 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford (707) 963-1211
Rutherford Grill – There’s frequently a crowd at this local outlet of the Hillstone Restaurant group so you can order a drink or even try to get a seat at the bar (same menu, great service). In nice weather, the outside patio is relaxing and fun. There are many outstanding dishes on the menu here but our personal favorites include the Grilled Artichokes, Kale and Rotisserie Chicken Salad, Cheeseburger, Prime Rib French Dip and Barbecue Pork Ribs. You should also order the Iron Skillet Cornbread. 1180 Rutherford Road, Rutherford (707) 963-1792
Oakville Grocery – Gourmet country store with pantry items and local handmade specialty foods, including local artisans such as Lala’s Urban Farmstand and Stolen Fruit. There are tables to eat at on the property, or you can easily take your meals to go. In the morning you can order Breakfast Burritos and Breakfast Sandwiches, and the impressive lunch Sandwich menu includes Muffaletta, Ham & Brie, Turkey Pesto, BLTA or a Veggie Wrap. Please be prepared for a line, as this place is (justifiably) very popular. 7856 St. Helena Highway, Oakville (707) 944-8802
Other Links in Oakville and Rutherford
Oakville Winegrowers – A nonprofit trade association of over 70 growers and vintners dedicated to promoting and preserving the Oakville AVA in Napa Valley.
Rutherford Dust Society – A nonprofit organization of growers and vintners whose mission is to encourage and promote the highest quality standards in grape growing and winemaking in the Rutherford AVA, and to help wine lovers and the wine trade discover Rutherford’s expression of its unique terroir.
Napa Valley Vintners – A nonprofit trade association, of over 525 members, that champions Napa Valley as the premier wine region in the world and has a mission to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley appellation.