Looking For Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in all the right places, Part One
Why take the tourist route? Here is a backroad gem of a tour where you can see some fantastic views of Carneros and the Napa Valley and avoid busloads of tourists. This trip starts by heading across the Golden Gate Bridge but one can certainly come from other directions, just use the Google map below or your car’s GPS. We are going to begin this trip in Carneros on the Sonoma County side, where Ramal Road on the north meets Highway 121. Coming west on Highway 121, drive about 3.5 miles from the main intersection of Arnold and Highway 121. If you do come from the other direction take good care when you make a left turn onto Ramal Road; Highway 121 is busy and many drive way too fast on this road.
Take Ramal Road and this will lead you through the backroad vineyards of Carneros Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It will give you an insider’s view of the terroir and the climatic factors that make Carneros ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In the spring and summer, it can be cool, foggy, breezy, and ten degrees or so cooler than the Valley. If you spot an interesting side road, take it and see where it leads.
Continue on Ramal Road until you get to the intersection of Duhig and Las Amigos Road. Head down Las Amigos Road to the Bouchaine winery on Buchi Station Road. This is a pretty spot and a favorite stop for the bicycle touring companies because of the quiet country roads.
Here you have the option of heading north on the backroads to Ceja, Acacia, Etude, or Saintsbury. All of these wineries require appointments for tasting and touring. For this trip, we recommend heading back on Las Amigas Road and taking a right on Duhig Road. On Duhig, and just before you get to Highway 121, on the right is the entrance for Cuvaison Winery. Cuvaison has a beautiful new tasting room and some of the best views of Carneros. Enjoy a sit-down tasting of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Opposite Cuvaison is the very stunning Chateau of Domaine Carneros. You can sit on the terrace and enjoy some fabulous views and of course taste some of the best sparkling wines in California.
Unfortunately only Ceja Vineyards is the only winery to have a picnic area, so your next best option is to hit the Boon Fly Cafe in the Carneros Inn or you can continue into the town of Napa and eat at one of the many restaurants in the downtown area. We recommend the Bounty Hunter at 975 First Street in Napa.
In Part Two, we will head over to Old Sonoma Road and discover the upper portions of the great Carneros vineyards.
View Carneros Napa in a larger map