Wine Country Blog

Wine Country Blog


Just what does it take for a grape to become wine that lives up to Napa Valley’s reputation for quality? Follow the story below to understand the life cycle of the grape from vine to wine.

Winter Pruning Winter Pruning

More wine grape varieties grow in Napa Valley than in any other region of comparable size in California. As a result, our winter pruning season takes place over an extended period of time. Pruning is a highly skilled vineyard practice. The purpose is to guide the vine in certain directions and for particular purposes. In Napa Valley, much of this work is done by vineyard workers who are year-round employees. Here’s one example of the precision with which winter pruning decisions in Napa Valley are made: some vintners may prune their Merlot vines a full two weeks later [...]

As with anything agriculture, the timeline below is a general reference as to when certain grape varieties are picked in the Napa Valley. There are many factors that determine when the grapes are harvested: the grape variety itself; where in the Napa Valley the vineyard is situated; the influence of microclimates throughout the valley (fog, San Pablo Bay influence, hillside vs. valley floor, aspect and exposure, etc.); winemaking styles; soil types (looser, gravelly soils tend to ripen grapes early; heavier, clay soil, later); and in the end, how Mother Nature plays her cards. Harvest can stretch from late July and into November. There are overlaps and sometimes block by block picking, but below will give you a general sense of what comes in when and why.

Sparkling Wine

Grapes for sparkling wine are usually the first to be picked, heralding [...]

The Napa Valley is home to more than 500 wineries and countless wine experiences. So we have gathered some of our more unique tours and experiences that you won’t want to miss. Ride through the valley on a vintage railcar, explore deep into a 107 room castle, sip bubbles with caviar or explore modern art paired perfectly with wines.

Unless otherwise stated, reservations are required for these unique experiences.

Cave Tour & Barrel Tasting at Rutherford Hill
Explore the property and go deep into the caves to sample wines along the way and end with a tasting right out of the barrel.

Rutherford Hill Winery

Wine & Art Exploration Tour at HALL Wines
Taste through HALL wines and tour the property that [...]

Of all the towns that dot the Napa Valley, Calistoga has the most laid-back vibe. It’s at the northernmost end of the valley, the farthest from the hustle of the Bay Area. It’s got a wealth of good food and wine, so there’s no need to travel far. But probably the biggest reason for the town’s reputation for relaxation is the centuries-old geothermal activity that makes it the valley’s spa headquarters.The native Wappo people were the first to discover this area’s natural hot springs and use them for healing. They called the place Nilektsonoma (“Chicken Hawk Place”) and built several villages here before the Mexican government divided it into rancheros in the mid-1800s. Soon after that, entrepreneur-publisher Samuel Brannan purchased more than 2,000 acres and built a hot springs resort around Mt. Lincoln on the site of what is now Indian Springs Resort. It’s been a spa destination ever since, [...]


Beginning in historic Vallejo’s Ferry Terminal (thus linking with the greater Bay Area), the Vine Trail will continue north for 47 miles, through the world-renowned vineyards and towns of Napa Valley, to its northern gateway in Calistoga at the Oat Hill Mine Trail (Hwy29/ Silverado Trail) at the foot of Mount St. Helena.



The Napa Valley is world-famous, above all, for its vineyards and their appellations. To reflect this unique sense of place, we have organized the Vine Trail route into 10 SECTIONS:, each named for the city or vineyard AVA (American Viticultural Area) the trail passes through. From north to south, these are: Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville, Oak Knoll District, City of Napa, Vista Carneros, American Canyon, and Vallejo. The 47-mile Vine Trail route has been mapped and its ten sections are in various [...]

Sonoma County is home to more than 50 regional parks and 11 state parks, from Gualala in the north to Bodega Bay in the south, and from the Pacific Ocean in the west to Sonoma Valley in the east. They’re all exceptionally beautiful and most offer plenty to do, so it’s often difficult to choose one park to visit.

But ask yourself this: Do you prefer a dirt trail to a paved path, and an isolated cove to a groomed beach? Do you smile rather than scowl when a wave crashing on a nearby rock covers you with salt spray? Does your heart leap at the sight of nature untrammeled?

If so, you’d probably be happiest visiting one of the county’s “wild parks,” where the land has been barely — or even never — touched. In alpha order, a few of our favorite wild parks are:

The winners of the 2016 San Francisco Wine Competition (SFCWC) were announced on Friday, after receiving a record 7,162 entries this year – the highest number of wine entries to date. For four days, 65 judges from around the nation and world met in Sonoma County to deliberate and choose the best from the entries.

The winners of the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (SFCWC) were announced on Friday, after receiving a record 7,162 entries this year — the highest number of wine entries to date. For four days, 65 judges from around the nation and world met in Sonoma County to deliberate and choose the best wines from the entries.

Submissions came in from across the country, from the smaller, independent winemakers and boutique wineries to the large scale producers.

The competition this year expanded to include five new categories of ciders: Heritage ciders, fruit ciders, culinary ciders, wood-aged [...]

Each year, Wine Spectator editors select the most exciting wines we’ve reviewed for our Top 100 wines–based on quality, value, availability and an X-factor. Our interactive archives contain every Top 100 list back to the debut year, 1988, with rank, score ratings and release prices.

RANK WINE VINTAGE SCORE PRICE 1 Peter Michael Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Au Paradis + 2012 96 $195 2 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley + 2012 96 $140 3 Evening Land Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills Seven Springs Vineyard La Source + 2012 98 $70 4 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino + 2010 95 $85 5 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains + 2012 95 $60 6 Bodegas Aalto Ribera del Duero + 2012 94 $54 7 Escarpment Pinot Noir Martinborough Kupe Single Vineyard + 2013 95 $69 8 Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Serègo Alighieri Vaio Armaron + 2008 95 $85 9 Clos [...]

Wine labels provide useful information to assist in the selection and appreciation of wine. Different countries have different standards for what information is required on a wine label. In the United States, wine labels are regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department (often referred to as the TTB). Some states such as California have adopted supplemental labeling laws. Napa Valley wineries have historically provided more information than the minimum amount required by law.

This infographic and guide will help you understand a wine label like a pro, so you can buy with confidence.

Infographic on How to Read a US Wine Label Brand Name

Mandatory. If no brand name is on the label, the bottler’s name is considered the brand. It is also useful to refer to the bottler’s name if a winery has several brands.

Wine Type

Mandatory. A wine may be labeled [...]

Napa Valley winemakers use a combination of tried-and-true methods and cutting edge techniques.

Innovation and a curious spirit guide many different approaches to winemaking, but for the Napa winemaker, the goal is always quality over quantity.

For a winemaker, blending grapes from different vineyards means being able to make a wine of greater complexity. Another way to create a unique, distinctive wine is to focus on a single place or single vineyard. Winemakers in Napa Valley have become famous for doing both — creating beautifully blended wines from many sources, and creating distinctive wines from a single grape source: think Martha’s Vineyard or To Kalon.

Napa Valley winemakers use a combination of the latest research and equipment, intuition and practical experience to make distinctive wines from our small but diverse winegrowing region. Given the wide range of wines produced here, our winemaking methods have had to evolve throughout [...]

Back to top