Napa Valley Wine Tasting Day Trip Itinerary (2024)

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Want to know the perfect Napa Valley wine tasting day trip itinerary? We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know!

The perfect Napa Valley wine tasting day trip itinerary is a mix of world-class wine tasting, stunning scenery, and delicious food.

Here’s a sample itinerary to help you plan your perfect day in Napa Valley.

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The Perfect Napa Valley Wine Tasting Day Trip Itinerary

As a first timer in Napa, there are some popular wineries that should be at the top of your list.

I recommend choosing 3 wineries at the very most because that’s all that you’ll be able to fit into one day.

1. Domaine Carneros Winery

Our first stop we decided on was Domaine Carneros and it was amazing!

We arrived at 11 am and left around 1 pm.

We sampled whites and reds and then chose our favorite to take home.

Domaine Carneros is known more for its bubbly drinks (which I don’t care for), but our favorite was a Pinot Noir, which just so happens to be JP’s favorite kind of wine.

2. Castello di Amorosa

Just like the name says, this is a CASTLE!

What better place to do a wine tasting than in a castle?!

This was one of my favorite finds on any trip we’ve ever done because it was so unique from any winery we had ever been to.

You get to do a self-guided tour of the castle and then as you make your way to the cellars you can choose an area to do your wine tasting.

They had a big open room, a couple smaller nooks, and some private wine tasting rooms.

We once again sampled some reds and whites and then took home a bottle of our favorite wine.

This wine was definitely the most unique of all the wines we’ve ever purchased.

It was called La Fantasia, but I don’t recall what kind of wine it was.

It was very pink though, kind of like the Barefoot Pink Moscato.

We arrived just before 3 pm and stayed until a little after 4 pm.

3. Spire Collection

This one we actually did the following day because we ran out of time on the first day.

We did a private wine tasting and actually picked out a few bottles of wine to bring home.

A couple we bought as gifts though, so we still just had our one favorite from this tasting.

This place had the best Chardonnay I have ever tasted in my life.

It was a more buttery texture than others I’ve tried and that’s what made it stand out.

It was Wind Racer 2015 Russian River Valley Chardonnay if you want to try it out!

During our tasting we were able to pick out our own music to listen to and we took a tour around the vineyards.

It was such a nice day out, so it was good to get out and walk around.

In addition to the regular 5-6 wines you normally get at a tasting, we were able to sample a few more once we narrowed down our favorites.

It was a great experience and I highly recommend doing a wine tasting like this some time if you’re able.

We visited the Spire Collection in Calistoga which was about an hour from our hotel, but there is another location in Alexander Valley which is about 20 minutes farther out.

Spire Collection

4. Ledson Winery

They open at 10 AM for their first tastings.

We went on a Friday in December and we were the only ones there at opening.

Here there are 2 options for the standard tasting – the Winemakers’ Selection for $45 and the Classic Selection for $35.

These are much more expensive than wine tastings in other areas of California like Solvang or Temecula, but it is very on brand for the Napa and Sonoma Wine Valley region.

Since we like to try as much as possible, we decided to do one of each. 

There was a 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon not on the tasting list that we also tried that was part of a more exclusive selection.

It was our favorite wine there and also the most expensive, by a lot.

But we bought it as a gift, so it’s okay that it was more expensive.

I want to say it was something like $160 or so.

At every tasting if there is a stand out wine to us, we like to buy at least one bottle.

I think maybe 60%-75% of the time we walk away with one bottle.

The rest is pretty even split with not buying any bottles OR sometimes we’ll buy like 3 different bottles!

The gift shop area also had some homemade wine brownies, so I bought one of those.

Some to-go charcuterie boards, lots of wines, and wine accessories were available as well.

The Classic Selection

  • 2017 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc (a $24 bottle)
  • 2019 Sonoma Valley ‘Estate Vineyard’ Chardonnay (a $32 bottle)
  • 2017 Mendocino Ridge ‘Ciapusci Old Vine’ Zinfandel (a $32 bottle)
  • 2017 Sonoma County Merlot (a $36 bottle)
  • 2017 Dry Creek Valley ‘October Moon Vineyard’ Malbec (a $42 bottle)

The Winemakers’ Selection

  • 2018 Sonoma Coast ‘Grove Vineyard’ Viognier (a $40 bottle) (94 pts)
  • 2017 Russian River Valley ‘Dutton Ranch’ Chardonnay (a $44 bottle) (94 pts)
  • 2017 Anderson Valley ‘Adeline’s Vineyard’ Pinot Noir (a $48 bottle)
  • 2017 Dry Creek Valley ‘Estate Old Vine’ Zinfandel (a $40 bottle)
  • 2017 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon (a $48 bottle)
Ledson Winery in Sonoma

5. Chateau Montelena

Our next stop was also solely chosen due to the iconic building.

How could you not visit a place that looks like this?

We booked this tasting for around noon.

There are a few different levels of tastings you can do, but we just did the standard tasting.

I was very tempted to do the next level semi-private tasting of their library wines, but we were splurging on so many other things throughout the trip, that I didn’t feel like we also needed to splurge more on this.

Maybe next visit though! 

Chateau Montelena is VERY popular and you’ll definitely need a reservation in advance.

Their tastings are all done at the bar in small groups.

We had maybe 8-10 people in our group for this tasting.

Here everyone does the same tasting.

We usually like to share one tasting if we can (unless they have multiple tasting options), but everything here is done per person, so we each did our own tasting. 

The wines here are done European Style as opposed to how most California wineries make their wines.

So I think the problem we had here was that our palettes aren’t really accustomed to those wines as much, so they didn’t stand out to us as much as strong flavors that we like.

I think if we try more European wines, we’ll enjoy these selections more in the future, but at the time of this tasting, they weren’t our favorites.

So we unfortunately didn’t buy any wines at this wine tasting. 

A Taste of Montelena

  • 2019 Chardonnay, Napa Valley (a $70 bottle)
  • 2018 Zinfandel, Montelena Estate (a $40 bottle)
  • 2016 Zinfandel, Napa Valley (a $45 bottle)

In addition to the above wines, they have a rotating schedule of “Featured Wine Selection of the Day”.

During our visit, it was a 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Montelena Estate (a $185 bottle).

Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley

Where to Eat During Your Napa Day Trip

An equally important aspect of your Napa Valley day trip itinerary is where you’re going to eat.

I highly recommend stopping in Yountville for either lunch or dinner.

They have so many great restaurants, including the legendary French Laundry.

On both of our previous Napa day trips, we came to Yountville for food and snacks.

Bouchon Bakery

This place is in Yountville, California and is about a 20 minute drive away from Domaine Carneros.

Bouchon Bakery is one of several dining locations by celebrity chef Thomas Keller (no relation by the way).

I used to have a Disney children’s cookbook with recipes inspired by the movie Ratatouille.

One of the signature recipes in this book was Chocolate Bouchons by Thomas Keller.

I made them a handful of times and LOVED them!

Ever since, I’ve been wanting to go to one of his places, but needed a more affordable option.

This is how we decided my birthday treat would be Bouchon Bakery.

We picked a few things to sample that looked good and then enjoyed them out on a picnic table.

The chocolate bouchons are below if you’re curious what they look like.

Bouchon means “cork” in French, so they’re made to resemble corks like you’d see in wine bottles.

This place gets very busy, so be prepared to wait in line or go right as they open.

I’m not sure what time we arrived but I know by 2 pm we had our food and we sat for about 15 minutes or so.

RH Yountville

It’s sort of half indoors / half outdoors in a greenhouse type atmosphere that was just really pleasant for dining.

We started off with some Garlic Aioli French Fries (they also have Truffled Fries).

Garlic Aioli French Fries - RH Yountville

For my meal, I had the Fusilli Pasta, which I didn’t realize was a pesto based dish, but I still enjoyed it for what it was (pesto is not my fave).

Fusilli Pasta - RH Yountville

JP had the Shaved Ribeye on Charred Garlic Bread.

His was very nice and melty, and even better when dipped in the Au Jus.

Shaved Ribeye on Charred Garlic Bread from RH Yountville

Another dish I would’ve loved to try is the Truffled Grilled Cheese and even the Lobster Roll.

Most of the entrees here are in the $20-$30 range, with the exception of the Ribeye Steak which is like $60.

Sides are all $9-$12, except for the Truffle Fries, which are about double.

The salads are all $15-$20 and the appetizers are about $20-$25, but they are all supposed to be portions “for the table”.

The exception is Prosciutto and Delice Board, which is a whopping $43!

We didn’t get dessert here, so I can’t say much about that, but just up the street is an iconic bakery, so I recommend waiting to get dessert there!

✅ Pizza in Calistoga

Calistoga is only about 5-10 minutes up the road from Castello di Amorosa.

For the life of me I cannot find what place we ate at for lunch in Calistoga even though there aren’t that many pizza to choose from.

All I know is that it was on the main street and it was yummy.

I tried looking it up on Google Maps and can’t find anything!

I have a bunch of photos from this place though because the walls made the photos look like Renaissance paintings!

JP didn’t know I was taking these photos until he looked over.

We were only here from about 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm.

pizza from Calistoga

Get Your Photo With The Napa Valley Welcome Sign

The last important piece of your Napa Valley day trip itinerary is this sign.

This sign is so iconic, so make sure you set aside some time to get some photos here.

This was the last thing we did before going back to our hotel at the end of the day.

If you’re an early riser, it might be better to do this before the wineries start to open at 10 am.

Napa Valley Welcome Sign

You may also be wondering, is Napa or Sonoma better to visit?

We have a full blog post comparing the two, evaluating the pros and cons, so you can decide based on your preferences!

Additionally, Calistoga is a small town in California’s wine country with a historic downtown with plenty of wineries, but also a ton of other activities.

Where to Stay When Visiting Napa

There are lots of options for every type of budget.

Generally the hotels and resorts in the area are hundreds of dollars a night.

I would think the average is $400 a night or more and it’s hard to find anything less than $250 unless it’s a weekday or off season.

We personally couldn’t afford the hotels in Napa during this first visit, so we used our Hilton Honors discount and points to stay at a Hampton Inn in Suisun City.

It was only about 25 minutes from Napa.

On our second visit, we were actually staying in San Francisco for the week and just drove up to Napa for the day.

We stayed at Club Quarters San Francisco.

If you’re traveling on a budget, I recommend looking into staying about 20-30 minutes outside of Napa, looking into Bed and Breakfast options, or even camping.

It’s really hard to narrow down just a few recommendations because Napa really has some phenomenal, highly rated hotels, resorts, and inns all over.

So I suggest checking them all out and filtering by your budget, the type of accommodation you want, and the location, and you’ll find the perfect place for you.

? Click Here To Browse The Best Napa Accommodations Today!

If you use any hotel loyalty rewards programs, cashing in those points or rewards is also a good option to save some cash.

Marriott and Hilton both have plenty of resorts in this area and those are generally the two most popular hotel loyalty rewards programs.

Planning Your Napa Valley Day Trip Transportation

Planning your Napa Valley day trip can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

With a little planning, you can easily create a day that’s full of wine tasting, beautiful views, and the best foods.

Here are a few tips to help you get started.

First you’ll need to decide if you’re flying in or if you’re driving.

Another option is to book a tour if you’re coming from an area like San Francisco where they will drive you round trip and take you to a set list of wineries.

➡ Flying to Napa

If you’re flying into Napa, you have quite a few options.

The closest airport is Napa County Airport.

It’s not the largest airport though, so it may not be the cheapest option for you.

You could also fly into Oakland International Airport, which is about 50 miles south of Napa.

I personally would look into flying into San Francisco International Airport.

With it being such a major airport, it will probably be the cheapest option for you and it will probably have the most time options.

It’s about 55 miles south of Napa, so it’s not too far out of your way.

Lastly, another possible option is Sacramento International Airport, which is about 60 miles northeast of Napa.

Where you’re flying from, your budget, and your available times to fly will determine the best option for you.

So it’s best to research them all.

➡ Driving to Napa

We were coming from Cupertino, so it was about an hour and a half drive to get to the Napa area on our first trip.

We had to drive up through the middle of San Francisco along Highway 101, which includes driving across the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was very foggy that morning and we couldn’t even see the Golden Gate Bridge until we were already on it!

You can see a short clip of this part of our drive in this video on our YouTube Channel.

I would say the only thing to consider about driving north into Napa is the traffic in and around San Francisco.

So when you’re checking how long it will take, make sure you’re searching according to the time you’ll be driving because you could have backups with rush hour traffic in the morning.

➡ Taking Roundtrip Transportation To Napa

There are quite a few tour companies that will take you around Napa for the day from San Francisco if you’re not already in the Napa area.

One tour company allows you to book one way transportation from and/or to San Francisco if you’re staying in the Napa area but flying in or out of San Francisco.

So you won’t need a rental car at all during your day trip to Napa if you book this transportation and then have a tour that takes you around.

➡ Transportation Once You’re In Napa

If you’re looking for transportation once you’re in Napa there are quite a few options.

One tour company allows you to hire a private SUV for up to 6 passengers for 6 hours where you can go all around Napa or even Sonoma.

? Click Here To Book Your 6 Hour Napa Wine Tour With Private SUV For Up To 6 Passengers Today!

How To Choose Which Wineries To Visit

This will be the most important part of your Napa Valley day trip itinerary.

I spent a lot of time researching the wineries in Napa to find our top 3-5 wineries.

Since we only had 1 day for wine tasting it was hard to narrow down the choices to just a few.

I started by just looking at TripAdvisor and other blogs for the best wineries in the region.

From there I picked places that just had amazing looking properties.

There were more on our list to do, but since wineries are typically only open until about 5 or 6 pm, we didn’t get through as many as we would have liked.

I recommend choosing 2-3 wineries per day because it will be hard to squeeze in anything more than that unless you’re picking all wineries that are next to each other.

Most wineries in Napa will require reservations, so you will definitely want to choose your wineries ahead of time.

Many have a time limit of 1 1/2 to 2 hours, so you can use that as a guide for what times to book your wine tastings for.

Then you’ll have to factor in driving time from place to place and when and where you’ll want to each lunch and dinner.

Now that you have a good idea of the planning involved for this day trip, let’s look at some of the best wineries and restaurants you’ll want

Conclusion: Napa Valley Wine Tasting Day Trip Itinerary

Ultimately these were the 3 wines we brought home with us.

They were our favorites from each of the places we did our wine tastings and we saved them all for special occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and our birthdays throughout the following year.

3 Wines from Napa Valley

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Napa Valley Wine Tasting Day Trip Itinerary