POSTED ON September 18, 2013 | IN Wine News | BY Joe Becerra

One of the featured articles in the October 2013 Food & Wine Magazine’s annual “Wine Issue” is their “75 Best Wineries to Visit in California.” Now, granted, the choices of wineries are subjective and most of the 75 wineries on the list are certainly worthy of a wine country visit. According to Food & Wine, the wineries were selected because they have something novel or unique to offer wine country travelers.

We are experienced wine travelers and consider ourselves experts in California wine country travel. Just take a look at the articles on this blog, The Napa Valley Wine Blog, or on our Wine Travelers blog to get a perspective of how often we visit the wine country of California. Check out our carefully-designed wine country trails and videos. Being the seasoned wine travelers we think we are, we offer these opinions and comments on Food & Wine’s “Best 75 Wineries to Visit.”

Some wineries listed are tasting rooms only. Our feeling is if you are going to make a trip to the wine country, for heaven’s sake visit a complete winery. One where you can see wine barrels, fermenting tanks and vineyards. A place where you can actually smell wine being made. Orin Swift and the like make terrific wines, but why just sit in a tasting room? Visitors to a winery should have a full experience.

Barrel Room at Corison

Barrel Room at Corison

In the Sonoma Valley heading, some of the wineries listed are not actually in Sonoma Valley but in Sonoma County. Sonoma Valley is only one small area of Sonoma County, and is a completely different geographic region from wineries in Sonoma County that are in the Dry Creek Valley or Russian River Valley. I see that in the Food & Wine online version, it has been changed to read Sonoma County.

Speaking of the Russian River Valley, one of the most beautiful backroads in all of wine country, Westside Road that runs through the Russian River Valley AVA, has no wineries on the list. Many on this trail offer unique and wonderful experiences for the wine traveler. For example, John Taylor Wines. Here you can view the Chardonnay block of grapes that went into making Chateau Montelena’s winning 1973 Chardonnay at the famed Paris tasting.

Paso Robles has only two wineries listed. You mean, that’s about it for Paso Robles with over 200 wineries, many of which are new and producing exciting Rhone-style wines?

In the Napa Valley listings, my recommendation would be to include the Round Pond Winery. I do not believe that any other winery in the Napa Valley offers as many food and tasting options, and includes an olive oil tasting as well. Round Pond has a full-time chef and a full-time gardener for its vegetable garden. Round Pond serves up the best in wine and food pairing all year long. As the season changes, so does the food menu.

Round Pond in Rutherford

Round Pond in Rutherford

In the Sonoma suggestions, Copain’s description says that they have a fantastic view of vineyards: “Look out over the gorgeous Russian River Valley, which produces the grapes for their superb Pinot Noir.” But the last time I was there, not a single one of the Copain wines was made from Russian River Valley vineyards. Go figure!

Medlock Ames tasting room in the Alexander Valley is an inviting tasting room. But why not visit the Medlock Ames winery off Chalk Hill Road in Sonoma? We visited just a few months ago and the tour and food pairings were wonderful. The walk through the veggie garden and vineyards is spectacular to say the least.

In Mendocino, how could one leave out a visit to pioneering woman winemaker’s Milla Handley’s winery? This is a great spot and the wines like Navarro are terrific values.

In our opinion another omission is wineries is the Sierra Foothills. Perhaps none of the authors of the article have ventured to Amador, Calaveras or El Dorado County. I can name at least five that have something to offer visitors that is unique, interesting and compelling. Oh well, maybe next year’s list will hit the 100 mark and include some of the very fantastic wineries not on this year’s list.


  1. Julie says

    My friend and I are heading that way in mid-December to watch our daughters play in a soccer tournament south of Napa. We figured that we would sneak away for the day and night to visit Napa for the very first time as a Christmas present to ourselves. Which tour would you suggest as “must do/see/taste” that is beautiful, relaxing and also reasonably priced(not cheap…reasonable) I like just about any wine except Zinfandels and chardonnays. Thanks Joe