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Seven Wine Caves Where You Can Beat the Indian Summer Heat

Stop roasting in that tasting tent and head underground.

SLIDESHOW

The wine cave at Italics in Napa.

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Barrels line the cave at Italics.

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Down below at Deerfield Ranch in Sonoma.

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Inside the cave at Far Niente. 

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With temperatures spiking to 100 and above in the wine country, even the shade is unbearable, and the most avid of red wine drinkers are begrudgingly turning to chilled whites, rosé, and beer. Sure, you could just hunker down at home in front of a fan and binge-watch the Great British Baking Show with your favorite bottle of sauvignon blanc. But then you’d be missing one of the best parts of wine country in summer: the glorious, cool wine caves, where vineyards store barrels of wine and host tours and tastings, all at the glorious temperature of around 55 degrees. From the cathedral-like caves at Far Niente in Napa to the laid-back cave tasting room at Deerfireld Ranch, here are six spots where you can sip and still stay cool.  

NAPA

Italics is one of the hottest new spots in Napa and is already attracting very high scores for its wines, especially the reds, from the wine press and private collectors. One of the reasons Italics is getting so much attention is its posh wine cave, which features a large glass wall overlooking the vineyards in Coombsville. Most of the winery’s 75-minute tasting appointments (by reservation only, $50) are conducted in a semiprivate area of the cave, where you can lounge in comfy patio-style furniture. For the thirstiest of tasters, there’s a 90-minute version of the tour ($75) that includes an educational spin around the cave while you sip new wines from the barrels, along with a sampling of five wines in the VIP area. Or make a party of it and try the two-hour cave tour ($125), which ends with a 4x4 vineyard excursion and picnic. 
Top summer sipper: Rosé, $35

Pine Ridge Vineyards is the place to really nerd out on cabernet. Want to know how different vineyards’ locations alter flavor? Hit the 11 a.m. cave tasting, aka Savor Pine Ridge ($125 per person), to sample five estate cabernet sauvignons from different appellations, or geographic areas. More interested in how how the passage of time changes the wine? Book the Legacy Tasting, where you’ll try multiple vintages from the same appellation ($85 per person, 2 p.m.). This is an educational way to experience wine and learn about your palate: You’ll try different cabs made by the same hands, but with completely different flavors. Both tastings come with seasonal bites to tide you over. Either way, you’ll walk away knowing more about what you like and why place and time matter so much in wine. 
Top summer sipper: Chenin blanc, $38

Far Niente is better known for the expansive lawns and gardens that surround the historic three-level winery than for its underground digs. But it was the first winery to build caves after Prohibition, and all the white stone and chandeliers create an impressive cathedral-like vibe. The 90-minute tour ($75) includes a trip around the estate for up to eight people, a dip into the cool caves, a seated tasting of the current vintage, and a splash of Dolce, the winery’s celebrated late-harvest white dessert wine. The wines here are tasty (and pricey) no matter what you choose. If you spend a bit more on something from the cave collection, you’ll get a taste of the complexity and subtlety that come with age. 
Top summer sipper: 2010 Cave Collection Chardonnay, $75

Located just outside St. Helena, Beringer sometimes gets overlooked because the brand is well distributed. But ubiquity is not a good reason to avoid this historic winery and its caves, which were dug by hand over 140 years ago. The 30-minute tour ($30 per adult) is family friendly and includes a trip back in time aided by old, dusty bottles from Prohibition. Of-age visitors get barrel tastings of the young reds that are on deck to go into the bottle. It’s fun to sip straight from the barrel, and you’ll get a sense of what oak does to a wine as you take in the tight, acidic and lively flavors of a young wine. You’ll also get try the current release of that same wine later in the tasting, so you’ll be able to taste how time and barrel aging change it.
Top summer sipper: Napa Valley Chardonnay, $24

SONOMA 

Deerfield Ranch Winery has a whopping 23,000 square feet of wine caves with a tasting room smack dab in the middle of it all. It’s a great place to go on the fly for a nonfussy tasting at a bargain price. You don’t have to make a reservation to hang out at the flower-topped tables and bars, cushy couches, and intimate new VIP room. (The VIP room is often used for wine club members, but if it’s empty there’s no additional charge to be there.) Tastings run either $15 or $20 per person depending on the wines you choose. Plus, if you’ve been wondering if there’s something to this clean wine thing—wines made to be low in histamines and sulfites to lessen hangovers—Deerfield is the place to test it out. 
Top summer sipper: Estate Rosé of Syrah, $24

Roth requires a reservation to visit its elegant and warmly lit caves, but you get a bunch more than just a cave hang. The tour (90 minutes, $45 per person) starts with a private drive to a vineyard with expansive views of Sonoma County and a jaunt through the prairie before you enter the caves. Once you’re underground, you’ll have a relaxed tasting of four reserve-tier wines paired with local cheeses. Roth is best known for its slew of affordable but very tasty and powerful reds. The reserve zinfandel from Smokey Ridge ($32) is sure to impress anyone who likes a big red. Or try the silky and balanced cabernet sauvignon ($28) or the blackberry-laden merlot ($22). 
Top summer sipper: Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, $15

Bella Winery is family owned and operated, and you’ll likely find the owners, Scott and Lynn Adams, hanging out and talking wine in the cave, where the tastings take place (no reservations required, $15 per person). The spacious cave runs deep into the mountain and is primarily used for barrel storage and aging; you’ll find the tasting room, like the owners, welcoming and relaxed. Bella is well known for its zinfandels, so dig in and try some older vintages while you’re there. Don't forget to take some home for grilling—zinfandel is a natural pairing with barbecue. 
Top summer sipper: 2013 Dry Creek Zin, $28 

 

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