Wine and dine in the jewel of the Napa Valley.
You’ll get a personalized experience at each of the tasting rooms in this easy-to-follow St. Helena wine tasting day trip that begins downtown and ends just south of it. Often called the jewel of the Napa Valley, St. Helena has excellent restaurants, so you can get your three squares within city limits, too.
Pre-trip To-do List
1) The day’s three winery stops—Chateau Potelle, Ehlers Estate, and Tres Sabores—all require reservations. In summer it’s wise to make them at least a few days ahead.
2) For lunch and dinner, with the exception of the Clif Family Bruschetteria food truck it’s wise to make a reservation, though with lunch not on the schedule until 1:30, you’d probably get away without doing so.
Have a light breakfast at your lodging or grab a coffee and croissant or English muffin Oprah loves them) at the beloved Model Bakery in downtown St. Helena. If you’re staying in the southern Napa Valley, you can visit the bakery’s Oxbow Public Market location or the Mini Model in Yountville before venturing north.
Tip: You’ll be having small gourmet bites at your first winery stop, so don’t fill yourself up.
VGS Chateau Potelle
Michelin-starred bites elevate outstanding wines.
VGS Chateau Potelle‘s tasting room in a whimsically decorated bungalow benefits from its French-born owner’s impeccable taste. The carefully chosen small bites by the Michelin-starred La Toque restaurant elevate vintner Jean-Noel Fourmeaux’s outstanding wines.
Why go: whimsical sensibility; Cabernets from mountain fruit; small bites elevate wines and vice versa
Lush yet subtly powerful wines served in a historic stone barn
The lush yet subtly powerful wines at Ehlers Estate are served in or just outside a sturdy 1886 stone barn whose contemporary-rustic decor hints at the modern sensibility informing the winemaking here. The focus at this winery with a captivating history is on Bordeaux varietals grown on 42 acres of organically and biodynamically farmed vineyards. The stars include the J. Leducq Cabernet Sauvignon, made entirely of the varietal, along with Cabernet blends and Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. On the lighter side are a Sauvignon Blanc and a rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Directions: From Chateau Potelle, head north up Highway 29 (Main Street) past downtown to Ehlers Lane. Though the distance is only 3.5 miles, allow 15 or 20 minutes in case traffic is congested. If you’re running ahead of schedule, park near Main Street’s 1200 and 1300 blocks and explore the shops a bit.
Why go: organic and biodynamic farming practices; 19th-century stone building; captivating history; winery profits benefit heart research
Backtrack on Highway 29 to downtown St. Helena for lunch at Cook St. Helena (Italian) or continue past downtown (almost to Chateau Potelle) for a farm-to-table lunch at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. For something quicker and more casual, head across the street from Farmstead to the Clif Family Bruschetteria truck.
Tres Sabores Winery
Look and feel of a working farm
Glamour is in short supply at the last stop, but that only adds to its charm. Earthy Tres Sabores Winery has the look and feel of exactly what it is—a working farm. On the tour and at the seated tasting that concludes it you’ll sample some of owner-winemaker Julie Johnson’s single-vineyard wines and get a sense of her passion for organic farming and her benchland terrain.
Directions: Tres Sabores is about 4 miles south of Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. Head south 2¼ miles on Highway 29, turn right (west) at Whitehall Lane, bearing left at the sign for South Whitehall Lane.
Why go: passionate owner-winemaker; chance to see organic farming up close; single-vineyard reds
Browse the Shops
Downtown St. Helena Shopping
If you don’t head back to your lodging to rest before dinner, slip back downtown and browse the shops, galleries, and boutiques in the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Main Street. (The Model Bakery is in the 1300 block.)
Cocktails and Dinner
There’s a speakeasy feel to the basement bar at Goose & Gander, which occupies a Prohibition-era bungalow a block off Main Street. The mixologists here turn out the classics plus more than a dozen specialty cocktails (the Angry Moscow Mule, with ginger, lime, bitters, and ginger beer) is a regulars’ favorite. If the weather’s nice, have your cocktail in the garden patio, but still check out the bar.
For dinner you can stay at Goose & Gander (salads, burgers, steaks, and chops), drop by Cook St. Helena or Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch (whichever you didn’t lunch at), or dine at Press (Modern American with French flourishes plus steaks). Market (seasonal American cuisine) is the locals’ standby for a well-made meal; those with kids in tow often head to Tra Vigne Pizzeria.
Additional Wine Tasting Options
St. Helena contains dozens more wineries should any of the three on this itinerary be full up on the day you want to visit. Corison Winery, not far from Chateau Potelle and Tres Sabores, is a fine choice among the smaller wineries. Charles Krug, HALL St. Helena, and Joseph Phelps Vineyards are good bets among the larger ones. To check out wines from the Napa Valley and beyond, drop by The Saint wine lounge on Main Street. It’s open well into the evening.
This story first appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in 2021.