If you are headed to the Napa Valley during this time of the year, it is important to strategize how to avoid the crowds, otherwise your trip might end up be more stressful than relaxing. One easy way is to avoid the crowds is to visit some of the lesser-known wineries and ones that are off the beaten path. Two such wineries that fit the bill are Havens and Elyse wineries, both located near each other on Hoffman Lane in Yountville.
Take the Yountville exit from Highway 29 and head towards Domain Chandon. Domain Chandon is one of our favorite wineries but the weekend crowds here are just too much to bear. Take a left and head down Solano Ave., the road that parallels Highway 29, until you reach Hoffman Lane. Turn down Hoffman Lane. Havens is on the left and just beyond to the right is Elyse Winery. Both wineries are small and make absolutely fantastic wines.
This winery was founded by Michael and Kathryn Havens in 1984 and was acquired by Alfredo and Alex Bartholomaus, principle owners of the Billington Wines, in 2006. The winery owns estate vineyards in the Napa Valley and Carneros. The tasting room is a very small room with no tasting bar. The winery does not get many visitors, so at the present time there is no need for a fancy and lavish tasting room. On our visit, our top picks were the AlbariÃ±o, the Merlot, and the Bourriquot. Havens is one of the few California wineries that make an AlbariÃ±o, a very popular Spanish white wine. It is delicious and very different, great with seafood. The Bourriquot is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. This is a beautiful wine.
Across the road from Havens is Elyse, a very small family-run winery. Ray Coursen and his wife Nancy are the owners, and Ray does the winemaking as well. We love the homey and down-to-earth atmosphere of this winery. Everyone is friendly and very jovial. It’s a fun time in the tasting room. One interesting aspect of this winery is the number of different wines they produce. For such a small winery, we counted some 18 different labels. All the wines we tasted were well made but one wine stood out as our favorite, perhaps because it is something a little different. The wine is called Nero Misto, a red table wine and a field blend of several varietals. It is the perfect food wine.
If you have a bike, Solano Ave. is one of the safest you can ride on in the Napa Valley. It goes all the way into the Napa City Limits but you don’t need to go that far to find other wineries to visit along Solano Ave. We also recommend a visit to the Laird Family Winery, 5055 Solano Ave. You can rent bikes in Yountville at Napa Valley Bike Tours at 6795 Washington Street.