Someone recently asked me if I had Flood Frustrations. Being a Napa native, I don’t. Ever since the big flood of 1986 we have experienced 100 year floods about every 10 years. We Napans are pros at handling floods. Especially now with our 9 million dollar flood control project downtown.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of all this rain is that is scares customers away. In 2014 and 2015 we had droves of people coming to wine country in January to take advantage of our drought driven sunny weather. I remember one group in particular from Minnesota. The girls all wore spaghetti strap dresses with sandals and raved about California weather. Inside I was screaming, “THIS IS NOT GOOD WEATHER!!” Our depleted reservoirs proved my point. But this year, 2017, this is GOOD January weather. Lots of rain speckled with cold hard frosts in between. This fills our lakes, builds our snow backs, and it also kills fleas.
I get that the thought of going into a vineyard in the middle of flood worthy rains doesn’t sound wonderful. Nor does traveling down the Trail and getting hit by a mud slide. But wine is not only found in vineyards and down country roads. There is a LOT of really good wines in downtown Napa and with our brand new flood gates, you can safely bet that you won’t be caught in any floods.
Here are my top picks for cozy downtown Napa tasting rooms:
- Wines on First
1463 First Street, Napa, CA
Wines on First is a co-op in downtown Napa right across the street from Andaz and sharing a courtyard with Oenotri Restaurant. The tasting flights are in the $25 range (depending on the flight you choose). For an extra $10 you can get a cheese plate to share. If you are really hungry you can order lunch from Oentri and they will delver to the tasting room. We are especially fond of Jean Edwards. The 2013 Cab is amazing!
- The Wine Thief
708 1st Street, Napa, CA
For years the guys behind the labels of G Cellars, and Solamente, have been like gypsies, doing tastings wherever they could. But a couple of years ago Garrett Ahnfeldt and his business partner, Andy Renda, were able to find a home when they opened Wine Thief. They invited some of their friends like Jason Moore of Modus Operandi to join them. This young and hip tasting room is located on the east side of downtown near the Oxbow Market.
Today Wine Thief features a total of 9 vintners, many of them owned by people under 40 years old. Tastings range from $20 to $30 depending on what flight you choose. They can provide cheese and charcuterie if requested.
- Ackerman Heritage House and Aviary
608 Randolph Street, Napa, CA
Although the Ackermans own a beautiful vineyard in the Coombsville AVA of Napa, the strict laws of Napa County prohibit them from seeing guests there. Lauren Ackerman didn’t want just a regular tasting room where she could send her guests so she bought a beautiful Victorian in downtown Napa and restored it. It was a long labor of love restoring this landmark property to its original glory. The 2014 earthquake was a major setback. But in 2016 The Aviary was officially opened in downtown Napa offering a unique one-of-a-kind experience. Lauren hopes her bold move will inspire other Napa vineyards to follow her lead and restore some of Napa’s most historic properties and make them available to the public via wine. Tastings at the Aviary are $65 per person.
- Eleven Eleven
620 Trancas Street, Napa, CA
Even though Eleven Eleven is not downtown I had to include it on this list because it’s still located within the city limits and has a cool, swanky, urban vibe. The winery offers many cozy seating areas. They have super friendly staff and delicious wines. Eleven Eleven has been a favorite amongst our guests. Tastings at Eleven Eleven are $45 each.