By Courtney Cochran
Wine may be what brings us to wine country, but it’s not the only show going on when it comes to things to do among the vines. Read on for an itinerary focused on activities in and around St. Helena that promises more than your average swirling and sipping experience.
History Lesson: Beringer
Beringer Winery, St. Helena CA
Start you day north of St. Helena at Napa Valley’s oldest continuously operating winery, Beringer. Designated a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, the 19th Century Rhine House (fashioned after the family’s impressive old German home at Mainz-on-the-Rhine, natch) encompasses the tasting room and is a marvel of ornate Victorian architecture. Choose one of two tours offered (the 30-minute Introduction to Beringer Tour or the 1-hour Taste of Beringer Tour) to learn more about the spot’s vibrant winemaking history, or explore the estate’s beautifully landscaped grounds on your own with a glass of wine in hand. We recommend getting an early start at Beringer (circa 10AM, when doors open) to make the most of your day and arrive at your lunch spot, detailed below, at an ideal hour.
(707) 963-4812 * 2000 Main Street St. Helena, CA 94574 * Hours: 10am-5pm * Fees: $5-$20
Seminar Studies: Merryvale
After your history lesson at Beringer, hop in your car for the brief drive through town to Merryvale, another historic spot that was the first winery built in Napa after Prohibition. Sip award-winning wines amidst the splendid surroundings, or splurge for the Sommelier Reserve Tasting for an off-the-beaten-path experience. Comprising a private one-hour session with charming on-site sommelier Shawn Dougherty, this by-reservation affair is the Napa equivalent of a backstage pass at a sold-out rock show. If you’re traveling on a Friday or Saturday, you won’t want to miss the spot’s popular Wine & Cheese Experience.
P.S. Consult the winery’s Calendar of Events for not-to-be-missed quarterly Barrel Tastings, which feature food pairings and live entertainment throughout the afternoon matched with Merryvale wines ‘thieved’ from barrel.
(707) 963-7777 * 1000 Main Street St. Helena, CA 94574 * Hours: 10am-6:30pm * Fee: $15
Picnic Chic: V. Sattui
Picnic at V.Sattui Winery
Once you’ve sampled at Merryvale, head just a few minutes further south to enjoy an alfresco lunch at Napa Valley favorite V. Sattui. Encompassing an impressive Italian marketplace and deli alongside its tasting room, V. Sattui pairs superb wines with 2 ½ acres of tree-shaded grounds for picnicking. Visitors in the spring, summer and fall can look forward to the likes of wood-fired pizzas, BBQ fare and a mozzarella bar on-site, as well as specialty oil, vinegar and mustard sampling on weekends and holidays. Bonus après-lunch activity: Work off your meal with a gratis self-guided tour of the winery’s stone buildings, underground cellars and museum. The ultimate wine country digestif?
(707) 963-7774 * 1111 White Lane St. Helena, CA 94574 * Hours: 9am-6pm * Fee: $5
Ghost Tour: Hall Winery
A short drive back towards town takes you to your final destination of the day, Hall Winery. A St. Helena powerhouse gaining renown for its rich, complex Cabernets as well as its LEED® Gold-Certified winery (one of the first in the world to snag this sustainable status), Hall scores high marks for its hospitality. Even better: the grounds gracefully incorporate the site’s historic 1885 winery, founded by a New England sea captain. Known as a “ghost winery” because of this colorful pre-Prohibition past, Hall offers a popular “ghost tour” consisting of barrel tasting in its 19th-Century winery followed by a guided tasting of current releases. Spooky cool, and just the thing to keep you on your toes after a day of tasting.
(707) 967-2620 * 401 St. Helena Highway South St. Helena, CA 94574 * Hours: 10am-5:30pm *Fees: $15-$25