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Tour Napa Valley’s sparkling wine makers

Sip on some sparkling rosé at Chandon's outdoor

Sip on some sparkling rosé at Chandon's outdoor gardens. Photo Credit: Chandon

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

Plan your trip

How to get there: After flying into San Francisco International Airport, you can rent a car and drive to the Napa Valley (about 1 hour and 15 minutes, depending on time of day and traffic). Another option is to book with a shuttle company, such as Evans (evanstransportation.com) or California Wine Tours (californiawinetours.com).

Where to stay: If you’re splurging, try Auberge du Soleil (rates start at $675; 180 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford, 707-963-1211, aubergedusoleil.com), which is centrally located in Rutherford. The adults-only property is built into a hillside, with sweeping views of the valley, a serene sculpture garden and a hot springs and spa open only to resort guests.

At La Belle Epoque (rates start at $229; 1386 Calistoga Ave., Napa, 707-257-2161, napaboutiqueinn.com), a Queen Anne Victorian bed and breakfast in Napa, inn keeper Tracy Mahr has added special touches, like an afternoon tea service with homemade gluten-free pastries.

Where to eat: One of the best fine-dining deals in the area is at the Michelin-starred La Toque in the Westin Verasa Napa (1314 McKinstry St., Napa, 707-257-1800, latoque.com), where a four-course tasting menu is $80. For a more casual option, stop by Oxbow Public Market (610 and 644 First St., Napa, 707-226-6529, oxbowpublicmarket.com), which is similar to New York City’s Chelsea Market, with a variety of specialty food vendors.

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