Culture: A 24-Hour Wine Tasting Guide to Downtown Napa
Napa Valley is the second oldest AVA in the U.S. and the first AVA to be recognized in California in 1981. It’s known as one of the most prestigious wine-producing regions in the world and is home to almost 500 wineries. Within the 50-mile span of the valley, guests and locals alike can visit Calistoga, Yountville, St. Helena, American Canyon and Napa to taste some of the best wines the U.S. has to offer.
But navigating the various wineries across the valley can be time-consuming, costly and confusing—especially if you don’t have a full day to spend touring vineyards or access to a car. Although some of the best Napa Valley wineries are certainly worth a visit, downtown Napa has recently emerged as a destination for food, lodging, art, culture and, as expected, wine.
Indeed, the self-proclaimed “wine tasting capital of the world” boasts more than 55 tasting rooms concentrated in a 1.5-square-mile radius. While you certainly can’t hit them all in one day, 24 hours is just enough to hit four excellent spots for a fantastic sense of the area’s rich wine-drinking culture.
As a journalist who tells stories about wine, food and travel—and a local to the area—I’ve tasted my way through many of these downtown spots. Here are some personal favorites that reflect the quality and variety of wines across the valley and beyond.
710 First Street
Located in the Oxbow District, the Mark Herold Wines tasting lounge sets a playful tone with a bright neon sign that reads “UPROAR,” which hangs on the back wall. Proprietor Mark Herold grew up in Panama, where he developed a love for food and exploration. While in school at UC Davis, Herold was invited by a professor to a harvest at a vineyard in the Sierra Foothills. He caught the winemaking bug, and a few years later developed his first wine—the critically acclaimed Merus label—in his downtown Napa garage.
After selling Merus in 2008 and experimenting with Spanish varietals, Herold decided to get back to what he does best—making structured, elegant Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2010, Herold opened the Mark Herold Wines tasting room in downtown Napa with the intention of creating a space where locals and visitors could feel comfortable sipping wines in a lively, educational and lighthearted setting.
Visitors can choose from three flight options. The first is Herold Highlights ($35), which introduces tasters to a broad range of wines in the portfolio including the Sauvignon Blanc and Napa Valley Cabernets. Also, for diehard Cab lobers, there’s also the Appellation Series Flight ($55), which allows tasters to compare and contrast the distinct terroirs of Coombsville, Oakville and Atlas Peak as you move from glass to glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Open to walk-ins and by appointment.
Sunday-Thursday : 11 am—6 pm
Friday-Saturday : 11 am—7 pm
1407 Second St
Be Bubbly is the first and only wine lounge dedicated to Champagne and sparkling wine in Napa Valley, featuring local and imported selections. The name originated when owner Erin Riley was at a conference discussing potential names for the lounge when a friend said, matter of factly, “Sounds like you want to be happy… Why don’t you just be bubbly?”
The menu guides breaks offerings by various categories, including local picks, global selections, magnum bottles, bright French wines and more. Since opening its doors in August 2020, Be Bubbly has hand-selected over 100 sparkling and still wines from California and abroad, making for an eclectic mix. Multiple flight options are available; don’t miss the French Sampling Experience, which includes four 2.5oz pours of various sparklers.
Beyond drinks, Be Bubbly’s food menu offers traditional pairings, like the Be Fancy offering, which includes Regis Ova Caviar and Mt. Tam cheeses. There’s also more playful options, like Be Playful, which features air-fried tater tots tossed in truffle salt, pepper and paprika and topped with grated Parmesan.
Open to walk-ins and for reservations.
Monday-Thursday: 10 am—8 pm
Friday-Saturday: 10 am—10 pm
Sunday: 10 am—6 pm
1245 First Street
Alpha Omega Collective joined the downtown Napa scene in 2019 and is a collaboration between St. Helena’s Alpha Omega, San Luis Obispo’s Tolosa and Spain’s Perinet wineries. The warm and welcoming interior features rustic wood floors, high ceilings and a dark cherrywood bar where visitors can partake in premium wines. There, vintners Robin and Michelle Baggett offer tastings of the Bordeaux-inspired wines from Alpha Omega, Burgundian varietals from Tolosa and Mediterranean reds from Perinet.
There are three tasting options: The Signature Flight ($50) is an introduction to current releases and wines that highlights the terroir of their respective regions. Meanwhile, the Single Vineyard Flight ($75) allows tasters to dive into one specific vineyard with limited-production wines. Finally, the Flagship Flight ($100) offers distinguished flagship wines Alpha Omega ERA, Tolosa Primera and Perinet 1194.
In addition to flights and indoor/outdoor bottle service, patrons are encouraged to take advantage of bites from The Dutch Door. This spot slings locally sourced and sustainable fare like fried chicken tenders, plant-based burgers, kale bowls and Thai chicken wraps.
By appointment only.
Daily: 12—7 pm
714 First Street
Krupp Brothers was built on the dream of two siblings, Jan and Bart Krupp, who share a passion for wine. Jan, whose first career was in medicine, settled down in the San Francisco Bay Area and pursued winemaking as a hobby. His first step was to plant a vineyard surrounding his family’s house. Bart soon joined in, and together they developed one of Napa’s most iconic vineyards—Stagecoach Vineyards. A few years later, they founded Krupp Brothers and produced their first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The modern and inviting tasting room offers a choice of three flights, with the option to waive the fee if $100 of wine per person is purchased. The Signature Tasting ($45) is an introduction to Krupp Brothers wines that includes one white and three red wines, paired with chocolate truffles. Then there’s the Reserve Tasting ($65), which explores four limited-production red wines and is also paired with chocolate truffles. Finally, the Library Tasting ($100) is essential for a lover of aged wine. It features samples of four bottles that have cellared to reach their peak, including Rhône-style Syrah and Tempranillo-based reds.
Enjoy your flight, glass or bottle inside or on the patio. Don’t forget to stop by for lunch at the adjacent Oxbow Market, which houses multiple vendors selling everything from oysters and pizza to coffee and deli staples.
Open to walk-ins and by appointment.
Daily: 12—8 pm