The Top 10 Classic Napa Valley Wineries You Should Know About

Tom Wark
Napa Valley Wineries
Even with its glitz, its glamour, and its three (and even four) figure wines, Napa Valley is still home to a collection of classic wineries that represent a time when Napa’s wine industry was a collection of hard-working farmers whose aspirations were to make good wine and prove the region’s worth.

A whole host of the classic Napa Valley wineries are still open for business, making great wines and welcoming visitors. If you can’t make it yourself to these stunning wineries, the next best thing is subscribing to one of the top wine club subscription services where you can discover a wide range of wineries, all from the comfort of your own home. 

This is your guide to the top 10 classic Napa Valley wineries:

  1. Charles Krug Family Estate
  2. Chateau Montelena Winery
  3. Smith-Madrone
  4. Freemark Abbey
  5. Beringer Vineyards
  6. Nichelini Family Winery
  7. Beaulieu Vineyards 
  8. Inglenook 
  9. Louis Martini Winery 
  10. Mayacamas Vineyards

Here’s all you need to know about these classic Napa wineries, whether you want to visit them, or look out for the names when you’re ordering online. 

1. Charles Krug Family Estate (Est. 1861)

Located in the middle of the valley, Charles Krug Winery has been at it for over 150 years. Today, Krug is owned by the Mondavi family, who took control of the historic property in 1943. Charles Krug has a selection of wines for nearly every budget, something unusual for a Napa winery. Additionally, the winery is open to the public without any appointment needed. Charles Krug Winery is easily one of the most historic wineries in America, and is a true Napa Valley classic.

2. Chateau Montelena Winery (Est. 1882)

Chateau Montelena Winery is another of the few Napa Valley wineries founded in the 19th century that is still operating. Unique at the time, the thick stone with which the winery was built gives the winery its iconic look, complete with ivy growing up the walls. Operated by the Barrett family since the early 1970s, Chateau Montelena became famous in the modern era when its Chardonnay took first place at the famed 1976 Tasting of Paris—helping put the winery and Napa Valley on the international wine map. 

White Wine Tasting

3. Smith-Madrone (Est. 1971)

Carved out of trees and boulders high up on the side of Spring Mountain on the west side of the Napa Valley, Smith-Madrone has become a “modern classic” of Napa Valley winemaking. The Smith brothers (Stuart and Charlie) founded the mountain winery in 1971. Fifty years later, Smith-Madrone is recognized as producing world-class Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet. Still possessing its rustic allure, Smith-Madrone is a destination for wine lovers seeking great wine, a taste of old Napa, and perhaps the best winery view in the Valley.

4. Freemark Abbey (Est. 1886)

In 1886, when Josephine Tychson established the winery that would later become known as Freemark Abbey under later owners, she became Napa Valley’s first female winemaker. But it was the 1967 purchase of the Tychson Cellars property by seven partners — and the subsequent name change — that would lead to Freemark Abbey becoming a symbol of Napa wine greatness. This happened when they released the still coveted Cabernet Bosche. The stone winery originally built in 1898 still remains on the property.

5. Beringer Vineyards (Est. 1875)

Napa Valley’s longest continually operating winery (it didn’t close during Prohibition) was founded by Jacob and Frederick Beringer in 1875. Always innovative and long a source of award-winning and highly praised wines, Beringer Vineyards is an instantly recognizable spot in the valley, due primarily to the stunning Rhine House, built in 1884 on its Saint Helena property. Today, Beringer is a star attraction in the Valley, providing visitors with an array of tasting and touring experiences. 

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6. Nichelini Family Winery (Est. 1884)

Located in the Chiles Valley section of the Napa Valley well up in the eastern hills, Nichelini is the longest continually owned family winery in Napa. Today, the fifth generation of Nichelinis still operates the winery, which was founded by Swiss settlers in 1884. Compared to so many other glitzy Napa Valley wineries, Nichelini is a rustic affair, with its original stone winery still standing. However, its wines are modern artifacts of the origin story of the Napa Valley.

Wine Barrels in Stone

7. Beaulieu Vineyards (Est. 1900)

Perhaps no other winery has played a more important role in the ongoing development of Napa Valley winemaking and its stellar reputation. Founded in 1900 by the great Georges de Latour, some of Napa’s greatest and most influential winemakers would go on to work at Beaulieu, including André Tchelestcheff, who modernized American winemaking. Today, guests can visit the winery to taste some of the best wines made in the entire Valley. Plus, it also has an intact winemaking building that was originally constructed in 1885. 

8. Inglenook (Est. 1879)

Founded by Gustave Niebaum in 1879, Inglenook has one of the most storied histories in Napa. Its early wines helped draw attention to the Napa Valley. Later, Director Francis Ford Coppola would purchase the property after the Inglenook name had been allowed to go into decline. Coppola refurbished the historic property and its vineyards under the Niebaum-Coppola name, before changing the name back to its historic and original Inglenook moniker. A must-visit.

9. Louis Martini Winery (Est. 1933)

Directly after the repeal of Prohibition, Louis Martini winery was up, running and set to sell wine to a thirsty nation. Over the years, Martini would become one of the most recognizable wine brands in America. Purchased by the Gallo family (long-time friends of the Martini family) in 2002, today the winery is a modern jewel located in the middle of Napa Valley.

Napa Valley Hills in Autumn

10. Mayacamas Vineyards (Est. 1889)

Founded in 1889 on Mount Veeder in the western hills of Napa Valley, Mayacamas has a checkered history of opening, closing, opening, being sold and being bought and sold again. However, this winery has been the source of the finest Cabernet and Chardonnays ever produced in the Valley, particularly those produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s that proved to age tremendously for many years.

Tom Wark
Tom Wark has worked in the wine industry for 30 years and has become a go-to source for wine information via his blog, “Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog”. Wark’s blog has won multiple “Best Wine Blog” and “Best Wine Business Blog” awards at the American Wine Blog Awards. He has written for numerous publications and has been a featured speaker at wine industry events.