Sterling Vinyards is one of the more popular vinyards in the Napa Valley Area, particularly in Calistoga. The Main Draw of this huge wine estate is that they offer the only Aerial Tram service to the Napa Valley Area to and from their estate in the hills. They have the mandatory wine tours like in any big wineries but the wine tour and tasting here is self guided and you can do your own pace and there are assorted wine tasting spots along the estate where you can taste their different wines like Reserve Merlot or Chardonnay or Reisling or Sauvignon Blanc and more. The ambiance in their estate is greek inspired and the architecture of their Estate is Greek Mykonos Island style with a large patio/veranda outside, perfect for picture taking and al fresco wine tasting or Dining.
Wine Tasting Tour Prices:
TASTING AND TOUR EXPERIENCES
General Admission: $25
Visitor fee includes aerial tram, self-guided tour, complimentary tasting of five wines and a souvenir wine glass.
Under 21 General Admission: $10
3 and Under: Free
Reserve Wine Tasting Upgrade: $30
Includes additional tasting of a selected Reserve Wine, plus all of the General Admission features.
Sterling Silver VIP Experience: $35
Customized tasting of Single-Vineyard and Limited Release Wines.
Sterling Gold VIP Experience: $40
A three-wine flight of our "Best of the Best" Reserve wines!
Open M-F 10:30am - 4:30pm Open Sat-Sun 10am - 5pm
According to their website:
About Our Winery
Perched 300 feet above the town of Calistoga, Sterling Vineyards offers panoramic views of Napa Valley. An aerial tram carries visitors up the hill to the winery, whose architecture was modeled after that of the Greek island of Mykonos, where Sterling founder Peter Newton once lived. The brilliant white stucco stands out dramatically against the rugged Mayacamas and Vaca mountain ranges that flank each side of Napa Valley. Mount Saint Helena makes a lovely distant backdrop. The winery’s towers house eight bells from London’s Church of St. Dunstans-in-the-East, originally founded in the 10th century. The church was destroyed by fire in 1666, rebuilt, then destroyed again during the bombing of WWII. Each time, new bells were recast from the old metal to give them superior tonal quality. The rich tolling of these ancient bells sounds down through the valley on the quarter hour. Walkways, balconies, and motion-sensitive DVD screens allow guests to take a self-guided tour of Sterling Vineyards’ winemaking facilities. Beautiful outdoor terraces and elegant tasting rooms provide the perfect environment to enjoy exceptional wines while taking in the view. The extraordinary Mediterranean-style architecture, unique aerial tramway, stunning location, historic bells, and attention to visitors make Sterling Vineyards a top destination in Napa Valley.
Book your tram
Book through Vino Visit and we will automatically apply a $5 discount. Your tickets will be held for you at Will Call in our Wine Shop at the lower tram station. Club members: please call the Club office for reservations (800) 726-6136.
Reservations are not required. Sterling Vineyards does not make Same-Day Reservations. You are welcome to visit us any time during our normal operating hours.
Monday - Friday
10:30 am to 4:30 pm
Saturday - Sunday
10 am to 5 pm
while the Napa Valley Wine Worker Mural Tribute along CA Route 29 along the entrance to Napa Valley is a popular stop. This other sign called " Welcome to Napa Valley" is located up north of Napa at the Boundary of Saint Helena and Calistoga towns in the Northern Napa Valley Area. Most Wine Bus Tours don't come near this sign since most of these bus tours only tour wineries near the Napa Valley and Yountville and sometimes in Saint Helena areas and rarely in Calistoga so that they don't see this sign. That is the advantage of using a car to go to Napa Valley and Sonoma and Carneros Areas as you can have your own pace and you can visit all the wineries you like.
This welcome to Napa Valley Sign as just after the Castello Di Amarosa Winery along CA Route 29 and between the streets Larkmead Lane and Maple Lane. If you see the Sterling Vineyards Winery, this you are past this sign.
So finally we get down into the the lower levels. The tour takes you through two of the lower levels. It can be a bit cold below so be prepared. The passage ways of the basements are lined with kegs of wine as well as individual bottles stacked everywhere.
Our tour guide, Pat, was very knowledgeable and friendly The basement tour winds through many different areas. There is a torture chamber and also a gift shop. The wine tasting is great. We tried at least 10 different wines and this is one reason I joined their wine club. The other reason is their wine is very good and the castle is the only place to purchase it. The wine is not distributed!
So we returned the next, first thing in the morning to avoid the heat and the crowds. We opted for the full tour and wine tasting. It cost $33.00 per person and takes about two hours.
The tour is amazing. An incredible amount of work went into constructing this castle with nearly all the material being shipping from Italy or forged here by Italian craftsman that trained the local workers. The detail is wonderful. You really feel like you are in a castle in Europe.
The castle has three levels above ground and three levels below ground. During the tour you have access to two levels above the ground. They have several events through out the year including a Halloween event that must be amazing given the setting. More on the lower levels in part 3.
This winery has an exact replica of a Tuscan castle on the grounds where the wine is processed and stored. The grounds are beautiful and free to wander around as much as you like. We visited for the afternoon, walked through the vineyard and taking photos of the castle and grounds. They do have wine tasting as well as a tour of the castle that includes wine tasting. We were presses for time so decided to return the next day for the wine tasting.
The wine tasting alone cost $18.00 and there is a tour of the castle with wine tasting for $33.00. This tour is worth ever penny! Check out part 2 for the details.
A nice little park if you want to spend some time in nature for the day. There is a camp ground and access for campers. We only went for a day hike. Fairly average, well maintained trails. Really no views even at the highest points. There is a stand of red woods but not very big. They do have a pool as well but it was closed at the time we were there. The is an $8 day use fee payable at a kiosk when you enter and self pay if they are closed when you get there.
We hiked the Redwood trail to the Coyote Peak trail, down the south fork trail to Ritchy Canyon trail and out. Good location for getting in some exercise by hiking.
If you are visiting the Napa Valley and have been to one-too-many wine tastings, there are lots of other fun things to do. Did you know there are three "Old Faithful" geysers in the world? One of them is near Calistoga, just north of Napa and a fun side trip.
It erupts every 30 minutes on average. In reality, the few times we've visited, it seems to blow its top about every 15 minutes. There are picnic tables and benches and you are welcome to bring a picnic along and enjoy a few eruptions as you eat.
They have a small snack bar and gift shop and have a video that we've never watched. Another fun thing there is a small menagerie of exotic (or not so exotic) animals. They have a couple llamas, several kinds of goats including pygmy goats and the famous Tennessee Fainting goats and sheep set up where you can pet and feed them. There is also a bamboo maze that kids absolutely love. Dad can even disappear in this maze!
There is a discount for AAA members, seniors and a couple other categories so ask at the ticket desk. It is open 365 days a year . . . pretty comprehensive schedule.
I worked the tasting room of Chateau Montelena for a summer in the mid-80's and have tasted most of the Cabernet Sauvignon's bottled back to the 1974 vintage. The historic castle like facade was purchased and restored by James Barrett, an attorney from Southern California, beginning in 1972. The initial vintages were quite good, and Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay was one of the California winners in the famed 1972 Bordeaux competition hosted by Steven Spurrier. When I was there, Bo Barrett, his son, and a host of other talented wine crush workers produced the wine. Earlier Cabernet Sauvignon wines were 100% varietal, and while age worthy, tended to have diminished fruit after 10 years in the bottle cellar. The winery has vineyards in the Oak Knoll District, just north of the city of Napa (see Napa Tips), which produce fine Chardonay grapes, while at the estate vineyards, old head pruned Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown. The winery's best wine in my oppinion is the Chardonnay, but the both the Napa Valley and Estate Cabernet Sauvignon are great wines during certain vintages. In addition to the tasting room, the winery grounds have a pond with a Asian style setting and a pleasant picnic area.
Sterling Vineyards has changed corporate hands many times, and today is just one of the wineries in the valley owned by the Diageo holding corporation, the second largest vineyard owner in the Napa Valley. Even so, Sterling has a heritage of accessible well built wines. The extensive vineyard holdings also allow for the production of nicely crafted vineyard designated wines, which one can taste on top the knoll with a great view of the valley below. The gondola ride to the top stops many for the price--$15 on weekdays, $20- on the weekends, but the deal is actually pretty good. Besides the Disneyland like quality of the ride up to the whitewashed monastic style winery building, the tastings are generous glasses of wine served at the table by waiters. I worked for a summer here in the 1980's, as a I did in many other wineries, and because the personnel are paid fairly well, the service is quite professional. Skip the self-guided tour though, as the history of the winery is pretty fake. But, because the winery is located near the top of the valley, and the gondola ride is pricey, the winery tasting experience is very pleasant. The gift shop sells all sorts of interesting things, but I'd take away only the reserve and vineyard designated wines. The regular bottles can be purchased cheaper at the local grocery store. I have been particulary fond of the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. These are nicely refined wines of good character that don't have to be cellared for long. The hours are from 10:30 to 4:30, except on major holidays, and so a good strategy would be to visit, and leave in time to visit Clos Pegase across the street, which closes at 5pm. Take the gondola ride line-up into consideration though.
At about 3:30 p.m. as we winded our way down the valley toward our evening dinner reservation it was time for our first wine tasting of the day. Now, some people will say, what only 1 tasting per day, but again as I've mentioned in some other missives we are not big wine drinkers and since we wanted to take lots of pictures and I was driving this was the best approach for us. We had planned to visit Sterling Vineyards for a couple of reasons. First, was that it was close to where we were going to have dinner a little later and second, that the views shown on their website looked very nice.
The first thing we did after we drove up the tree shroaded driveway and parked the car was to make sure we had the $5 off coupon for our visit. After we verified that, we paid our $20 entrance fee and immediately hopped aboard the aerial tram for a 5 minute ride up to the winery. We took several pictures and a video going up to top and when we arrived were given our first of five tastings. The first tasting was done in an area just after you exited the tram which also included a video presentation which started talking a little bit about the process of wine making.
We sipped our wine and continued our self guided tour passing by some winery pictures and several other short video presentations. All the time the smell of fresh crushed grapes premiated the air around us. Coming out of the barrel storage area we came out upon a large patio area where we were served our 2nd and 3rd tastings. For the next 30 minutes we enjoyed sipping our wine, taking pictures of the valley of wine around us, taking other tourist pictures and having tourist taking our pictures.
At this time with 2 wine novices were getting a little tipsy, so we slowly wound our way back to the final wine tasting area, taking a long stop to view some grapes being unloaded and then going through the crushing process. When we were ready we climbed the stairs on our way up to our last stop and had our final 2 tastings of the afternoon, browsed the gift shop, got our wine glasses as a rememberance (included in that $20 price) and headed back down the arial tram, ready for the short drive to dinner.
These 6 ft in diameter trees fell and were covered in silica ash when Mt. St. Helena erupted ages ago. The ash that fell replaced the trees wood cells with silica and left these trees, some of which are over 100 feet long.
The first petrified tree was discovered in 1870 and people have been paying to see them ever since. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about them in one of his books.
You walk around a trail to see the dozen or so trunks. There are signs explaining the process and a small gift shop with geological specimens from other parts of the world as well.
It probably won't take more than an hour to make the whole tour.
Currently Admission prices are:
Seniors (over 62) $6.00
Juniors (12 to 17) $6.00
Children (6 to 11) $3.00
South of Calistoga on Hwy 128 going towards St. Helena is this historic and fully operational water-powered grist mill. Built in 1846, it highlights the fact the originally this was a valley of wheat growers, not grape growers.
The tour is short and very interesting and includes a demonstration of grain milling.
It was here that I learned the origin of a very well known American saying. Since the grinding process produces heat and the miller can control the thickness of the space between the grindstones, he had to be careful not to let too much heat build up, lest a fire start up. So it was imperative he "keep his nose to the grindstone" since the burning smell could be detected before an actual flame could be produced.
People have been paying to see this 'faithful' attraction for over 100 years. It is one of 3 regularly and continuously erupting geysers in the world. The frequency varies over time but about every 10-20 minutes streaming hot water and vapor comes shooting out some 60 ft in the air.
Interestingly, from two days to two weeks prior to an earthquake, the geyser gives warning by delaying its regular performance from the average thirty minutes to a longer interval.
There is also a small petting zoo, snack bar, and gift shop.
Admission price is for all day and you can bring a picnic lunch.
Children 6-12: $3
Children under 6: Free
North of Calistoga, Hwy 29 turns into Hwy 128 and curves to go over a low point in the Mayacamas range to reach into Alexander Valley, one of Sonoma County's many great wine valleys. In this region, there are forests and the trappings of viticulture are out of sight off the main road. On the east side, just outside of Calistoga proprietors Jerry and Sigrid Seps have long produced small quantities of excellent Zinfandel wine. Storybook Mountain is named perhaps in part after the 19th century Grimm brothers that carved out the wine cellar caves that the Seps now use. This is one great secret for the winery tour. While the Seps have many devotees among those in the know, few tourists head for their winery and vineyards. Check the website for more details, but an appointment and visit are certainly encouraged. Visitors are likely to receive plenty of personal attention, and for red Zinfandel fans, this is a must visit winery. See the website for more details. For those planning to proceed over the mountain to Alexander Valley, find this an easy stop.
At Saint Helena, the Napa Valley narrows, particularly near Meadowood where there's an butte of obsidian where arrowheads are sometimes found. At the box end of the valley, at the foot of Mount Saint Helen there's a broad alluvial plain where the volcanic soils are deep--a great place to grow red grape varieties. At this end of the valley encroachment of San Francisco Bay fog is rare, summer day temperatures often quite hot. Winter frosts are hard, and sometimes snow caps the mountain. In this region, Robert Pecota began as a grape grower and then later became a wine maker, and the vineyards named after his daughters provide the basis for some unique wines. In addition to the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot--great wines sold at reasonable prices--Robert Pecota has also been a long time producer of an excellent Sauvignon Blanc, and a concentrated dessert wine, the Muscat d’ Andrea. This small family winery of considerable heritage deserves a visit, and unlike the winery tours at the larger upper valley wineries like Sterling or Clos Pegase, the visitor will have a chance to actually meet the winemaker and enjoy a vineyard tour. Visits are by appointment only, so call or e-mail. See the website for more details.