Organic and sustainable farming practices have long been a part of the winemaking ethos in Napa Valley, long before organics became trendy. Today, many of Napa’s organically certified wineries are gladly opening their cellar doors to provide a more in-depth look at the organic winemaking experience and invite visitors taste the difference.
This St. Helena-based winery opens to a limited number of visitors each day, so book well ahead and, more importantly, prepare to be pampered. Tour their pre-prohibition home, estate gardens and vineyards before enjoying a seated tasting. The winery has been organically farmed since 1985 and applying biodynamic philosophies since 2008. Winemaker and Vineyard Manager Aron Weinkauf said ‘The core of the Spottswoode ethos has always been respectful, environmentally sensitive stewardship of our land whilst constantly striving for excellence in all that we do.’ Weinkauf suggests tasting the 2016 Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, a prime example of nuance, elegance and balance.
- Spottswoode Estate, 1902 Madrona Avenue, St. Helena, California 94574
- Tours & seated tasting: by appointment only. Space is very limited, so please reserve 4-6 weeks in advance. Visits are available Monday–Friday at 10am. Spottswoode is closed on weekends and major holidays.
Owner and winemaker John Williams is a lifetime disciple of environmentally sound farming—threading together biodynamics, organics, and sustainability to ensure vineyard health. They have been solar-powered since 2005 and certified organic since 1988. They were also Napa valley’s first LEED certified winery. A visit here offers a thoughtful look at the role of organic farming, dry farming and the ecological practices used in making wines of balance and restraint. Says Williams ‘Visitors should never miss the chance to taste our Cabernet Sauvignon but they would be well-advised to also taste our white wines—Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc—and, of course, our remarkable Zinfandel … all delicious!’
- Frog’s Leap Winery, 8815 Conn Creek Rd. Rutherford, CA 94573
- Tours & tasting: daily from 10.00am-4.00pm by appointment only.
In keeping with their organic certification and “perfect circle” farming philosophy, a visit to Sinskey involves tastings, not only of RSV’s organically farmed wines, but of items from the vineyard kitchen created mostly from items grown in the kitchen gardens and edible landscape. Most of their land is irrigated by using reclaimed winemaking production water that has been treated in engineered wetlands. Even the winery is mostly powered by an extensive photo voltaic system. In terms of tasting, Winemaker Rob Sinskey suggests trying their Abraxas Vin De Terroir a single vineyard wine made of Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer and Orgia.
- Robert Sinskey Vineyards, 6320 Silverado Trail Napa, just south of the Yountville Cross Road
- Open daily: 10.00am to 4.30pm. Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Founded in 1879, Inglenook is celebrating its 140th Anniversary and its 25th Anniversary of organic certification. Oscar-winning filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, and his wife Eleanor, purchased the estate in 1975, and in April of 2002 all 200 acres of Inglenook vineyard were officially certified organic. The property hosts a variety of experiences but certainly the most in-depth offering is their Inglenook Experience. It features a walking tour of the estate, Chateau, vineyards, and caves. The grand finale is a seated wine and cheese tasting in one of the caves. Advance reservations strongly recommended. You can opt to taste at their European styled bistro for a more casual vibe. Be sure to try their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, Rubicon.
- Inglenook, 1991 St Helena Highway, Rutherford, CA 94573
- Heritage tasting: Daily from 11.00am-4.00pm. Reservations necessary.
Working with over 150 acres of vineyards, the team at Long Meadow Ranch has employed full-circle organic farming since their inception in 1989. Book the two-hour Mayacamas Estate Experience, a total immersion into the farming and winemaking with visits to the wine caves and mountain vineyards as well as tastings of the farm’s extra-virgin olive oil and limited-production estate wines. If time is an issue, you can taste at their General Store or walk next door and grab a table at their seasonally-inspired Farmstead Restaurant. Be sure to taste their Mayacamas EJ Church Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, a model of restraint, power and elegance. Also, their Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a signature wine that represents mountain and valley fruit from two estates.
- Long Meadow Ranch, Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, 738 Main Street, St. Helena, CA 94574
- Mayacamas Estate Experience, departs Farmstead daily at 10am, 1pm and 3.30pm.
- Anderson Valley tasting room: Thursday through Monday, 10.30am-5.00pm. If visiting Tuesday or Wednesday reservations are required.
Intimate and homey, this boutique winery crafts wines from organic grapes grown on the slopes of the Rutherford Bench. Visits to the tasting room will surely involve a meet and greet with their family of golden retrievers, after the dog party be sure to try their Provencal styled Ingrid & Julia Rosé or the Rutherford Perspective Zinfandel – a feisty rich berry-forward wine. October brings the 9th annual Pomegranate and Paella harvest party. Tasting reservations required.
- Tres Sabores, 1620 S Whitehall Ln, St Helena, CA 94574
- Wine tastings & tours: Reservations are required.
A visit here starts with a glass of the Staglin Chardonnay and a tour of the original homestead, the Steckter House – built in 1864 and renovated in 2010. You’ll get a brief walking tour through the organically certified vineyards followed by a cave visit. The whole affair ends back at the home for a tasting of their exquisite Cabernets where you will better appreciate the full breadth of winemaker David Abreu’s focus on maintaining biodiversity throughout the property.
- Staglin Family Vineyard, P.O. Box 680, Rutherford, CA 94573
- Tours & tastings: Monday-Friday between 10.30am-3.00pm. Reservations are required.
Each by-appointment visit at Vaso Cellars (sister winery to Dana Estates) starts in the winery’s historic courtyard, which dates back to 1880’s. Glass of Vaso Sauvignon Blanc in hand, guests are then led through the wineries 20,000 feet of caves where you’ll learn more about the organic practices and sustainably winemaking. A final seated tasting in the magnificent Rooster Barn features a vertical tasting (2013, ’14 and ’15) of what Vaso does best, Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Vaso Cellars, P.O. Box 153 Rutherford, CA 94573
- Experience Vaso Cellars: Private appointments, reservations only.