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The Five Best Wineries You’ve Never Heard of in St. Helena

 Go to Napa for the first time all over again.

At Newton Vineyard, the parterre garden sits above the chardonnay cellars.

 

St. Helena is best known for its historic and walkable downtown, restaurants, boutiques, wineries, and, of course, Gott’s Roadside burgers and shakes. With all of the big-name wineries—V. Sattui, Beringer, Trinchero, Merryvale—holding down this corner of Napa Valley, visitors often overlook the premier vintners scattered all over St. Helena. Here are five of those hidden hotspots. 

Vineyard 29 was acquired by philanthropists Chuck and Anne McMinn and molded into a palatial winery of caves and cabernet. Everything here is done with great care, from the gentle and labor-intensive hand-picking and sorting of grapes to the use of gravity-flow winemaking, cave storage, and high-tech quality control. This vineyard is best known for its cabernet sauvignon, but don’t overlook their sauvignon blanc or cabernet franc. 

Easily visible from Highway 29 and anything but a boutique winery, Cairdean Estates is brand new and bold but still flying under the radar. Equipped with a tasting room, multiple caves, a restaurant, a bakery, and a culinary shop, this place has everything from a wedding venue to a sultry scotch bar. And while it’s often difficult to be everything to everyone, Cairdean seems to do it with ease. 

The family behind Spottswoode has been growing grapes at their historic 1882 estate since 1972. The tour takes you through the solar-powered winery and estate home, which illustrate the balance of farming, family, grandeur, and precision that makes Napa famous. Like Vineyard 29, Spottswoode is best known for its cabernets, but the sauvignon blanc is minerally, crisp, and a top pick for a warm day.

To get to Newton Vineyard, pass Spottswoode and continue beyond the vines and homes of residential St. Helena. Soon you’ll find yourself on a backcountry road, winding your way up a densely forested hill. Without much else around, you’ll feel like you’re far away from everything, and may wonder if you made a wrong turn. But stay the course just a bit longer and a sophisticated, historic winery with manicured English gardens will appear. You will be welcomed with complex wines that Robert Parker Jr. called “among the most natural made in the world.”

Prager Winery and Port Works is tucked down a dirt road just off Highway 29. Family owned and operated, this small winery has money from countries all over the world pinned to the walls, and has the vibe of a place where you could idly chat and sip the day away. Prager is best known for port, but they make some nice wine as well, and whether you like sweet wines or not, you’ll love Aria, a chardonnay port that tastes like buttered popcorn and hazelnuts—which makes it the best wine on the planet to sneak into a movie theater.   

  

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