The Best Things to Do in Napa Valley in the Winter
It’s no secret that I love traveling to popular destinations in the off-season. There are a lot of pros that come along with it: lower hotel rates, cheaper airfare, and fewer crowds. Sure, you might have to deal with less than ideal weather at times, but I like being able to get the most bang for my buck when I travel. You can save so much money by traveling in the off-season!
One destination you should consider in the quiet months? Napa Valley. You all have been asking for Napa content for months (honestly, maybe even years), and I’m excited to share some of the best things to do in Napa Valley during the winter today! Ultimately, now that I live in California, my goal is to visit Napa several times over the next year and create a comprehensive guide for every Napa thing imaginable — but for now, we’ll start with this quick winter weekend guide.
Just a heads up: during the first two weeks in January, some restaurants in Napa close for maintenance or employee breaks. Winter is a great time to visit, but I would avoid this two-week period so you can visit all of the restaurants and wineries on your list!
Things to Do in Napa in the Winter: Weather & Packing Tips
Even though I have East Coast roots, I was still pretty surprised at how chilly I was during our trip to Napa. Winter is rainy season in Northern California, so you’ll definitely want to pack an umbrella. It rained 3 out of 4 days we were in Napa. So it was a little dreary but still beautiful. I really can’t complain about rain in California too much: the state is prone to droughts. And it can get all of the rain that it can get.
December and January are the coldest months of the year, with an average high of 58°F and a low of 40°F. Go ahead and pack that coat and sweater! Luckily, if you end up needing to do a wine tasting outdoors, almost everywhere in Napa has heat lamps. But for the sake of this travel guide, I’ll be focusing on the places that have ample amounts of indoor seating available.
Things to Pack to Visit Napa Valley in the Winter:
If you’re heading to Napa Valley in the winter, I’d recommend packing:
- A warm jacket
- A nice outfit (or two!) for dinner
- A wine tasting journal to keep track of your favorite wineries and wines
Things to Do in Napa Valley in the Winter: The Best Wineries to Visit
Alright, alright, let’s get to the whole reason why you’re going to Napa in the first place: the wine. There’s no shortage of good wine in Napa, but here are some cozy wineries with a good amount of indoor seating that I think you’ll love.
Kick off your Napa wine tasting experience with a bit of bubbly. Domaine Carneros was founded by the family of Taittinger, one of the premier champagne houses in Reims, France. They specialize in méthode traditionelle sparkling wine and produce an incredible Pinot Noir.
The Domaine Carneros château in Napa is truly a work of art — it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been wine tasting in the entire country. You can opt for various tastings and experiences at the château, but I’d highly recommend the Art of Sabrage. With this experience, you can celebrate in style and learn how to saber a champagne bottle like a pro, as well as try wines from Domaine Carneros’ estate portfolio.
The Prisoner Wine Co’s tasting room is hip yet inviting at the same time. I loved how chic and modern this winery was, and the staff was absolutely incredible.
If you’re going to The Prisoner Wine Company, I highly recommend opting for their food and wine pairing. It was one of the best culinary experiences we had in Napa. And I’m still dreaming of the Oaxacan tetelas they served! The wine here is elevated, and some of their red blends are more complex. But it was nice to try these wines in an approachable environment.
Do you like rock and roll and exceptional wine? Cliff Lede has the ideal tasting room for you.
The wine at Cliff Lede was absolutely phenomenal. I hate to pick favorites, but they had some of the best Napa wine I’ve ever had. If you want to try some of the best wines in Cliff Lede’s portfolio with a bit of a musical twist, then you’ll want to opt for their Backstage Tasting Lounge tasting. With their Backstage Pass, you’ll get to taste wine in their special lounge with has rotating art exhibits and rock memorabilia.
Robert Mondavi is your best bet if you want an elevated, classic Napa wine tasting experience. In fact, Robert Mondavi has been producing wine in Napa for over fifty years and is home to the To Kalon Vineyard, rated #1 in North America and #5 in the world. Fine wine lovers: this should be at the top of your Napa wishlist.
Even though you’ll want to take in the gorgeous views at Robert Mondavi Winery, they have plenty of cozy indoor spaces where you can enjoy a winter wine tasting if there happens to be inclement weather.
Located in downtown Yountville, Priest Ranch’s cozy tasting room is home to some amazing food and wine pairing experiences in all of Napa Valley. We opted for the Bacon and Wine experience and loved every minute of it. Still, they also have a Caviar & Bubbles experience and an Estate Experience & Lunch if you want to head out to their vineyards in the eastern hills of Napa.
Other Places to Eat and Drink in Napa Valley in the Winter
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day when you’re wine tasting, and a visit to Napa General Store is a must. They use fresh, local ingredients and have a few Napa-inspired signature dishes you’ll want to try.
If you’re looking for a quick, cheap, delicious lunch, this is a solid bet. Here you can grab burritos, quesadillas, tacos, and tortas on the go. This made for a great pit stop in between wineries!
One great dining option is the North Block Hotel in Yountville for dinner. They offer refined California dishes made with locally grown ingredients.
If you’re a fan of Restoration Hardware or, simply, well-designed spaces, you’ll love the RH Wine Vault in downtown Yountville. They offer a carefully curated selection of wines from Napa and Sonoma — I even spotted some small-batch, sold-out wines on their menu, so if you ever want to try a Napa wine that’s hard to get, you’ll want to check out the RH Wine Vault.
For the ultimate foodie, you’ll want to visit this massive marketplace for some of the best local food. Oxbow Public Market is home to local food vendors, artisan cafes, and an organic produce outlet. If the weather’s warm enough, you can also sit outside and enjoy views of the Napa River. But there are plenty of places to dine indoors as well if you’re looking for a more cozy experience.
Hog Island Oyster Bar was one of my favorites — get the clam chowder, you won’t be disappointed!
Have you ever been to Napa Valley in the winterI Let me know in the comments below!
Photos by Tom McGovern
If you liked this travel guide, check out more of my wine travel content here!