8 Ways to Experience the Best in Wine and Food in Rutherford
A day spent in Rutherford is a day spent exploring some of the deepest winemaking roots in Napa Valley. And here it is all about the viticulture. Some of the wineries are more than a century old, and they’re often touted as making some of the best reds in Wine Country. Ask anyone in the know and they will mention the “Rutherford dust,” the secret sauce that makes the cabernets from this region so divine. Here is our pick of where to start your Rutherford AVA education.
1991 St. Helena Highway
Being at this historic 235-acre winery, founded in 1879, feels like you have been transported to an old European residence, complete with a grand staircase, dark wood throughout and tons of nooks and crannies for exploring. Although the estate was founded by Finnish sea captain Gustave Niebaum, Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola purchased the property in 1975 — one year before the historic Judgement of Paris. The couple has spent every moment since then restoring the fabled property to its original glory, while also making some state-of-the-art improvements, keeping their estate-grown, aged and bottled wines at the top of best-of lists for decades. Book the Estate Library Tasting and enjoy the Athenaeum, which is chock-full of the Coppolas’ books, art and other artifacts. You can even request jazz on the vintage record player — with vinyl chosen from Mr. Coppola’s personal collection.
875 Rutherford Road
You could spend an entire afternoon at this winery and olive mill — and you very well should. From the elegant estate olive oil tasting with chef-prepared bites (offered at the olive mill) to the laid-back wine experiences in the gorgeous tasting room (the Gravel Series Wine & Culinary Experience would be an excellent choice), even if it is your first visit, it feels like you are returning home. While the wine selection is top-notch and offers a varied selection of reds and whites, the cabernets, grown in the Rutherford dust, are worth asking for. Assistant winemaker Rachel Preeg says, “There is a fine tannin quality that is signature to wines from Rutherford. The soft, refined texture of a perfectly ripened tannin lends a dusty quality to the finished wine.”
8338 St. Helena Highway
Part of the original Rancho Caymus land grant given to George Yount in 1836, the winery is now owned by the Kopf family, who have invested more than $25 million since 2016 upgrading the centuries-old winemaking property. Not to worry, though: the iconic 100-year-old barn that sits beneath the grove of sequoia trees — home to the tasting room — has retained its rustic charm. Book a tasting (try the food-and-wine-pairing experience created by winery chef Britny Maureze) and savor the cabernet sauvignon in all its glory. “These wines often exhibit a deep and complex flavor profile with a combination of earthy and mineral flavors with notes of rich blackberry, dark currant, tobacco and spices. They often have a high mineral content and a long finish. These flavors result from the unique soil composition of a type of soil called loam, a combination of the sand, silt and clay of the area, making the wines distinct and unforgettable,” says winemaker Jesse Fox.
1090 Galleron Road
If an elegant, intimate wine tasting experience is what you are looking for, then look no further than the Sullivan Rutherford Estate. The property lies on the historic dividing line between Rancho Caymus and Rancho Carne Humana, and the estate celebrated 50 years of winemaking in 2022. The jewel in the property’s crown is former owner James O’Neil Sullivan’s family residence, which is where tastings take place, overlooking the estate’s vines. Sullivan worked with renowned architect John Marsh Davis (known for his Frank Lloyd Wright aesthetic) to create a one-of-a-kind property, and devoted Davis follower architect Hans R. Balduf has been tapped to design the new winery, which will break ground in a few months. In the meantime, a Founder’s Tasting will give you a proper introduction to what will surely be one of your new favorite spots in Napa.
Where to Grab a Bite Close By
Touted as the first fine dining restaurant in Napa, the culinary destination has recently undergone a big renovation. Executive chef Robert Curry is still cooking up some of the best cuisine in the area, just in a more contemporary setting.
A favorite for locals and visitors alike, this St. Helena restaurant is opening its Courtyard for the summer months on April 29. Enjoy seasonal favorites outdoors underneath a shady canopy of mature mulberry trees and twinkling lights.
Located a stone’s throw away from Rutherford in St. Helena, this eatery is always a good idea. Cigar lovers won’t want to miss the monthly One Main Cigar dinners (held on the third Thursday of the month, March through November) featuring live music, farm-to-table eats and cigar and wine tastings.
The roadside gourmet deli is more than a tradition, it’s an institution. Situated about 10 minutes from Rutherford in Oakville, it is ideal for a bite between tastings or to pick up pantry staples on the way home.