Check out our favorite spots to stop, sip, and enjoy the view
– May 2, 2009
1 of7Aya Brackett
Best basic sparkling–wine tour: Mumm Napa
An articulate guide covers every aspect of the process in memorable terms; videos give you close-ups of things you otherwise can’t see, like harvesting and the madly foaming surface of a fermenting tank of wine; and cool props show up too, like a wine bottle tacked sideways to the wall that lets you peer at the yeast settled there, flavoring the wine.
Tours are $25 plus tax for adults over 21 (yes, nondrinkers too) and $10 plus tax for those under 21.
2 of7Aya Brackett
Most fabulous winery feature: Schramsberg's wine caves
Festooned with lichen and dug deep into the mountain, they evoke the ancient caves of Champagne, France―but are more gothic and mysterious. Stacks of bottles gleam in the dimness as you pass, green lanterns glow overhead, and you may even get to taste by the light of giant candelabra in a moss-perfumed cavern.
This is a place where time seems to have stopped.
More Videos From Sunset
3 of7Aya Brackett
Most knowledgeable guide: David Munksgard of Iron Horse
Munksgard, the winemaker, sometimes leads tours himself. He’ll quote Napoleon and reveal the secret to making very tiny, long-lasting bubbles. His good-natured charm and contagious love of sparkling wine come through in everything he says.
And the tour is free.
Pictured: Tanks and barrels at Mumm Napa
4 of7Aya Brackett
A three-way tie
Korbel Champagne Cellars (pictured), for its soaring redwoods and view of fields and mountains.
Iron Horse, for its rustic freestanding bar fashioned from long planks, where you taste wine under an open roof right next to undulating vineyards.
Schramsberg Vineyards, for the lush beauty of its mountain foliage and the way its dark redwood buildings disappear into the forest.
5 of7Aya Brackett
Mumm Napa A sibling to the French Mumm. Great introduction to sparkling wine, and a fine photo gallery. Free tour, tasting from $6; near Rutherford; mummnapa.com or 800/686-6272.
Schramsberg Vineyards The Davies family pioneered top- quality sparkling wine in Napa. Tour (by appointment only) from $35, including tasting; in Calistoga; schramsberg.com or 800/877-3623.
Pictured: The 2001 Schramsberg Vineyard's "J. Schram" ($100), a great special occasion wine.
6 of7Aya Brackett
Domaine Carneros A stone-and-brick château owned by the French Champagne maker Taittinger; fun guides. Tour and tasting from $25; in Napa; domainecarneros.com or 800/716-2788.
Domaine Chandon Lush grounds, noisy tasting room. A sister company to Moët & Chandon. Tour and tasting from $25; in Yountville; chandon.com or 888/242-6366. It's good practice to make a reservation ahead of time.
7 of7Margaret Sloan
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards The courtyards and red-tile roofs hint at the winery’s Spanish owner (Freixenet, the world’s largest producer of sparkling wine). Tour and tasting from $10; in Sonoma; gloriaferrer.com or 707/996-7256.
Iron Horse Vineyards Wine country at its elegant-rustic best. Free tour (by appointment only), tasting from $10; near Sebastopol; ironhorsevineyards.com or 707/887-1507.
Korbel Champagne Cellars The oldest continuously producing sparkling-wine house in California, founded in 1882 by three brothers from Bohemia. Free tour and tasting; in Guerneville; 800/656-7235.