In 1839, George Yount became the first to plant a consignment of grapes in the fertile Napa Valley soil. Now the town named after him, Yountville, is completely surrounded by vineyards, which contribute the fruit to one of the world’s most celebrated wine regions. While cabernet sauvignon is considered grape royalty in Napa Valley, pinot noir (made more famous by the soliloquy in Sideways), chardonnay and merlot are all planted in the region.
At least 400 different wineries fill the gorgeous Napa Valley in California’s central northern region. To work your way round all of them would require quitting your job and taking up the pursuit full time. However, a saner, more liver-friendly alternative is to hop on a private winery tour. Tastings, cooking classes and winery estate tours are commonplace here, but knowing which to visit is something best undertaken with the assistance of locals in the know, so that you can dedicate more time to sampling wine. Here are three of the best private Napa Valley wine tours based on factors like itinerary, duration, value for money, and of course, winery pedigree.
FROM: $130/per person
This excellent, extensive private tour is designed to give you complete freedom when roaming the Napa Valley. Choose from between 19 different wineries to build your own perfect day out in North America’s premier wine destination. At each one, a guided tour is available, although tastings are generally an additional expense. Like all tours on this list, you get to enjoy the experience in private, aside from your friendly driver. Tours depart daily, with pickup from any hotel or home in the San Francisco Bay area. Larger groups will get the SUV, while a Lincoln Sedan is often the vehicle of choice for couples and smaller groups.
From $182/ per person
Do you have a favourite tipple? Perhaps a delicate pinot noir or a citrus-infused sauvignon blanc? Either way, this private tour allows you to cater your itinerary to your preferences and move along at your own pace, so that you can focus on, and more importantly sample, the wines you love the most. Some excellent options include Castello di Amorosa (cabernet sauvignon) and Domaine Chandon (chardonnay). Some entry tickets and tastings cost extra. If you are already staying in Sonoma or Napa Valley, then this tour offers free pickup and drop-off across the region. Collection from San Francisco is available for an additional fee.
From $1,065/ per group
Choose up to three wineries to visit and let somebody else do all the driving while you do the sampling on this excellent private tour. In fact, your driver also acts as your private tour guide as you take in some of the major sights between San Francisco and Napa Valley, including a stop at the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. This tour allows for one winery stop and tasting (entry fees cost extra) before lunch, then two more afterwards. The entire trip starts at 9am and lasts for around eight hours. Given that the price listed here is for the entire group, rather than per person, it better suits larger private groups of up to 12 people.