4 Vineyards to Visit

Karen MacNeil California boasts nearly 3,000 wineries, many open to wine lovers who want to see firsthand how their favorites are made. Here, four wineries where a visit is as good as the grapes. Rubicon Estate
The most dashing vintner in Napa's early history was the Finnish sea captain and fur trader Gustave Niebaum, who created one of California's first chateau-style wineries, the grand Inglenook estate, in 1880. A century later, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola began buying up Inglenook's dispersed parcels and piecing the estate back together. The result is the majestic Rutherford spread, where visitors soak up history-Niebaum's, Coppola's, and Napa's-told through museum-like exhibits, browse the crystal glassware in the winery shop, and sample the Cask and eponymous Rubicon, both stellar, cabernets. rubiconestate.com.
© Cephas Picture Library/Alamy
There's something life-affirming about the sight of 2.7 million bottles of sparkling wine resting in dark silence in Schramsberg's lichen-laced caves. The underground aging rooms for this 148-year-old sparkling wine producer (the second oldest in Napa) were dug into Diamond Mountain by hand, by Chinese immigrants who also helped build the transcontinental railroad. A meander through them is best followed up by a visit to the tasting salon for a pour of the chardonnay-based J. Schram. A tribute from Jack and Jamie Davies, who bought the winery in 1965, to its founder, it tastes deliciously of toasted brioche, roasted nuts, and baked apricots. Visit schramsberg.com.
Courtesy of Schramsberg Vineyards
California's Central Coast is both a new wine region and a very old one. Spanish mission vineyards were strung like beads on a necklace here in the 18th century. The two main valleys, Santa Ynez and Santa Maria, are pastoral landscapes, dotted with horse farms as well as wineries. Foxen is a family operation specializing in pinot noir, chardonnay, and syrah, found in two tasting rooms: the old, original wooden shack where Foxen's Bordeaux-style wines and its sangiovese are on offer and, down the road, a solar-powered barn pouring the winery's seamless pinots. Visit foxenvineyard.com.
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Pride Mountain
Spring Mountain Road climbs more than 2,000 feet through a forest graced with winter waterfalls. At its pinnacle is Pride Mountain Vineyards. The 235-acre estate undulates along the ridgeline of the Mayacamas Mountains that separate Napa and Sonoma; Pride makes wines from both appellations. A stroll through its 23,000 square feet of caves, with stops along the way to taste its impressive cabernet, earthy syrah, and elegant viognier, eventually leads to a sunlit terrace with views of the vineyards, the forest, and the 120-year-old ruins of the property's original winery below. Visit pridewines.com.
Flickr member Navin75, CC licensed