Our wine tasting tours provide visitors to Napa Valley wine country with the best and the brightest. For some, that means strolling famous winery estates and tasting from the most well-known Napa Valley labels. But for returning guests or those who simply want to try something they’ve never seen -or tasted! – before, we love to share destinations that are off the beaten track.
The boutique shopping and fine dining of St. Helena’s quaint Main Street give way north and south to vibrant rolling vineyards and tasting experiences you can’t get anywhere else. Below, you’ll find just a few of our favorite “hidden” wineries in and around Napa Valley’s St. Helena, Napa Valley’s Main Street:
3291 St Helena Hwy N
St Helena CA 94574
David and Susan Sabin established Sabina Vineyards with respect for the land and for Old World winemaking traditions. With both in mind, they established a vineyard and estate nicknamed “the Quiet Winery” for its reverence to the earth, and their soft-spoken winemaker, Alejandro Alfaro. The Sabins write, “He has helped to preserve the quiet and spiritual side of Sabina Vineyards so that every bottle develops as if it was the only bottle ever produced.” The estate vineyard focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon, grown at the foot of the Mayacamas in highly-sought after red volcanic soils.
But Alfaro and the Sabins also collaborate to produce a Sauvignon Blanc as well as an understated Pinot Noir, the latter from fruit grown in Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley. We call Sabina Vineyards a “hidden winery” because since the winery is also the Sabin’s home, they do not open the estate to the public. But they do allow private tours by advance arrangement, as well as an annual open house limited to their wine club members. (To receive an invitation, join their mailing list.) These exclusive wines are worth the extra effort to include on your wine tasting tour in Napa Valley: the rich, concentrated Cabernet offers flavors of plum and currants, while the Pinot Noir offers cranberry, leather, and green tea on the palate. To learn more about the Sabin’s current releases, visit their online store.
200 Long Ranch Rd
St Helena CA 94574
Named by the owners to reflect a traditional Chinese tale, NINE SUNS strives to live up to its namesake: integrity in the pursuit of balance. In the myth, archer Houyi uses his magic bow to shoot down nine of the ten sun birds whose daily trip through the sky threatened to scorch all the land’s crops. The importance of land in the production of NINE SUNS wines cannot be overstated. Their estate vineyard HOUYI is on famed Pritchard Hill, where all five Bordeaux varietals are grown at an elevation of almost 1,400 feet. The farming isn’t easy, and not just due to the hillside’s height and slope. The red volcanic soil, while perfect for producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, is rocky, which makes it challenging to farm. The twenty-two acres, farmed by a member of famed viticulturalist David Abreu’s team, include small plantings of Syrah and Grenache. This highly sought fruit goes both to bottlings for NINE SUNS as well as wines from such high-profile Napa Valley wineries as Sire Estate, Fairchild, Realm Cellars, and Rudius.
Visitors to NINE SUNS are treated to the spectacular view from the eastern end of the HOUYI Vineyard, where sweeping architecture is informed by the landscape. The tasting room incorporates unique design elements, including art and luxe furniture, that remind visitors how the tasting and sharing of wine is just as integral to the winemaking process as tending the vines, harvesting the fruit, and carefully, patiently, turning the fruit into the final product. Join the mailing list to acquire these gorgeous wines, and to support this winery that gives back. For the last several years, NINE SUNS has hosted a dinner benefit for the local Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch. See some adorable photos here!
1501 Big Rock Rd
St Helena CA 94574
Forman Vineyard offers visitors a truly Bordelaise experience. Sole proprietor Ric Forman founded the winery with an eye toward classic winemaking and traditional practices. Of his process, Forman writes, “I would say that a familiarity with European tradition has seriously influenced my style and hence the fashion with which I designed and built my winery.” This includes a classic vertical trellis system in his vineyards and a commitment to “Old World”-style wines. His Chardonnay does not go through the malolactic fermentation that characterizes the “New World” buttery style of white wine, and all Forman wines age in a stone cellar built right into the Howell Mountain property where the winery and vineyards sit—as is often seen in European vineyards. The vines are split into three parcels at different elevations with different soil types. Every parcel is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc to bring out a range of unique characteristics in each varietal. Their meticulous placement and care relies on both terroir and vineyard maintenance: throughout the growing season, each vine is tended to at least sixteen times!
After hand-harvest, the fruit grown on Forman’s vineyards is quickly sorted and destemmed for classic winemaking accomplished through cutting-edge technology. The current release includes the 2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, awarded 96 points by wine critic Antonio Galloni, who describes it as “dense, pliant, and wonderfully expressive,” with “sweet red cherry, raspberry, sage, mint, and Rosé petal overtones.” Other bottlings include the Chardonnay, made in a Chablis style with a focus on minerality and age-ability. To visit Forman Vineyard, prior appointments are required.
771 Sage Canyon Rd
St Helena CA 94574
Founded on a piece of Napa Valley at the base of Pritchard Hill, Dakota Shy embraces the beauty of the land and its heritage. “There is so much soul here you can’t help but be moved by the beauty and history of the property,” says co-founder Todd Newman. He and Dakota Shy winemaker Tom Garrett started the winery after working together at Revana Family Vineyards under Napa Valley winemaking giants like Heidi Barrett and Thomas Rivers Brown. The fruit that goes into Dakota Shy bottlings is sourced from the finest appellations in the Napa Valley, like Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Oakville, and St. Helena. The winery is the result of their desire to showcase the world-class fruit of Napa Valley with passionate expressions of terroir and balanced flavors. They’re off to a good start! The winery’s second vintage produced a Cabernet Sauvignon that made The Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines List for 2016.
The wine portfolio at Dakota Shy includes Cabernet Sauvignons, a Sauvignon Blanc, and a Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, and you may add any of these to your own collection by joining the mailing list for annual allocations, or by joining The Shy Society wine club. Of course, you can also visit the property to taste some wines, which can be arranged by appointment. For ten lucky customers each year, Dakota Shy offers an amazing opportunity: a custom blended barrel. Due to the difficulty of creating these small quantities of wine (equivalent to 75 bottles), access is extremely limited.
1241 Adams St
St Helena CA 94574
PROMISE Wine has one of the most unique histories in the Napa Valley, and it begins with a love story. Owner and founder Stephen McPherson says he married the love of his life more than twelve years ago, but she demanded a promise from him: that one day, they would turn their shared love of wine into a career. But McPherson pursued a career in the entertainment industry until one day, burnt out, his wife Jennifer reminded him of his commitment. Since then, they’ve turned their dreams into reality–one they can’t wait to share. The bottlings made at PROMISE follow in name and spirit, with titles like “the gratitude,” and “the joy,” and include both Bordeaux and Burgundy varieties.
Of course, the namesake bottling is the PROMISE Cabernet, which is harvested from hillside Rutherford fruit, and aged in French Oak from Darjanou, Tarransaud, and Seguin Moreau, with an eye to the complex tension between structure and flavor in traditional Bordeaux wines. The Gratitude is explained by the McPhersons’ daughter, Macie: “Gratitude is thankfulness, enjoying life, and being happy with what you have.” This Meritage blend is dedicated by the McPhersons to their daughters, and was carefully modeled after the first growths of the Paulliac region.
The McPhersons are delighted to share the product, as well as “The Joy” of their Rosé—which Oprah Winfrey mentioned as her favorite in Harper’s Bazaar. This wine is crafted with its own dedicated fruit to produce bright, crisp flavors. Finally, the McPhersons bottle a Pinot Noir grown in the famous Russian River Valley appellation over the mountain in Sonoma and modeled after the rich earthy flavors of Burgundian wine. To add these wines to your collection, join the Promise allocation list or the waiting list for the highly sought Cabernets.
Let Beau Wine Tours take you off the beaten path in St Helena and show you some of the finest wines in the Napa Valley. Contact our reservations team here and let us help you. Check out some of the great restaurants in St. Helena to discover after a day of wine tastings here, and where to lay your head in a St. Helena hotel here.