Add some sparkle to your next trip to California.
The Napa Valley, long known for its bold cabernets and big, oaky chardonnays, has a lot to offer fans of bubblies, with several wineries making sparklers in the traditional method of champagne, but without all the pretense.
Depending on your interest level, you can geek out about how the process works in Napa, going behind the scenes to production, or just grab a group of friends and plot a trip where you tour wine caves, plan a picnic with lush vineyard views and unwind with some spa time.
Sparkling wine tour
Napa Valley is about 30 miles long and five miles across at its widest point. Many tourists start at the bottom of the valley in Napa and drive north, so to avoid crowds, try going in the opposite direction: Start in Calistoga in the morning and drive south.
Stop 1: Schramsberg Vineyards
Plan ahead and book a tour at Schramsberg Vineyards, which takes visitors down into champagne-style caves where 2.7 million bottles are aging, naturally kept at 55 degrees all year long. The well-regarded sparklers produced here have been served at the White House by every U.S. president since Richard Nixon. The tour ends with a tasting of several varieties, illuminated by candelabras. Reservations required; 1400 Schramsberg Road, Calistoga, 707-942-4558, schramsberg.com
Stop 2: Mumm Napa
Next, drive down to Mumm Napa and stop in the tasting room, which has beautiful sweeping views of vineyards. Grab a seat on the patio or in the salon and let a staffer guide you through the wines (which include a collaboration with guitarist Carlos Santana). Tastings range from $18 to $25. Reservations required for groups larger than six; 8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford, 707 967-7700, mummnapa.com
Stop 3: Lunch in Yountville
For lunch, stop in Yountville, which has a large concentration of restaurants in the charming downtown area. If it’s a nice day to eat outside, wait in line and pick up a pastry and sandwich at Thomas Keller’s renowned Bouchon Bakery (6528 Washington St., Yountville, 707-944-2253, thomaskeller.com), or head over to Redd Wood (6755 Washington St., Yountville, 707-299-5030, redd-wood.com), a casual Italian restaurant that serves up wood-fired pizza, pasta and charcuterie, all made in-house.
Stop 4: Domaine Chandon
After lunch, head over to Domaine Chandon, which was the first French-owned winery to open in Napa Valley back in the early 1970s. Head winemaker Pauline Lhote grew up in Champagne, where she focused on making sparkling rose. Grab a bottle and head out for the Adirondack chairs on the grounds with great views of the surrounding hills. To learn more about the winemaking process, there are behind-the-scenes tours and in-depth tastings offered twice daily (10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., $40). Reservations required for groups of 10 or more; 1 California Drive, Yountville, 888-242-6366, chandon.com
Stop 5: Domaine Carneros
For the final wine stop of the day, head south to Domaine Carneros, which has a tasting salon and terrace at an impressive chateau modeled after the 18th-century home of Champagne Taittinger in France. Try a wine flight ($30 to $40) paired with cheese, charcuterie or caviar. Reservations required; 1240 Duhig Road, Napa, 707-257-0101, domainecarneros.com