Where to Find the Best Pinots and Cabs in Napa & Sonoma

Aerial view of the rolling hills of Nicole's Vineyards a part of J's Vineyards & Winery
Nicole’s Vineyard, one of nine vineyards at J Vineyards & Winery. Photo © J Vineyards & Winery

Many wineries are particularly well known for one or two varietals. If you’re a fan of a particular type of wine, it’s worth planning a trip to the wineries—and regions—that specialize in it.

Classic Cabernets

Cabernet sauvignon is the king of California wines, and the Napa and Sonoma Valleys are where some of the best Californian cabs are made.

  • Shafer Vineyards, where you might be lucky enough to taste its Hillside Select cabernet.
  • Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, home to the vineyards that beat the best in the world in the famous Paris tasting of 1976.
  • Beaulieu Vineyard, where bold cabernets are laced with the distinct flavor of “Rutherford dust”.
  • Inglenook, one of the best shows in the valley, courtesy of owner and filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.
  • Pride Mountain Vineyards, with panoramic views of both the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
  • Silver Oak, where you can compare the Napa and Alexander vintages.

Pleasures of Pinot

The cooler parts of Northern California, particularly Sonoma, are home to arguably the best pinot noirs and pinot-based sparkling wines.

Elizabeth Linhart Veneman

About the Author

Californian Elizabeth Linhart Veneman grew in up San Francisco and Carmel, where she was lulled to sleep by the din of the cable car line and chilled to the bone at foggy 4th of July celebrations. Since then, she has explored the natural and cultural landscape of the West traveling forgotten highways and hiking backcountry trails; working in bookstores and restaurant kitchens; baking bread under Alaska’s midnight sun; and finding home in rural farmhouses, and cramped urban apartments. At UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz, she studied American history (north and south), specifically issues surrounding identity, social movements, and the history of food. Her writing has appeared in 7×7, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Alaska Magazine, and she has written and contributed to nearly a dozen books including Moon Napa & Sonoma, Moon California, and Moon Northern California.

Elizabeth Linhart Veneman now lives in San Francisco where she spends her days taming small children, big appetites, her yen for the outdoors, and a love of the written word.

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