From its stunning views to its vast vineyards, there are many things to love about Napa Valley. At just 30 miles in length, the region has become a bucket list destination for travelers and is beloved for its big, bold wines — most notably Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. As the leader in American winemaking, there are lots of well-known brands that rose to fame for the unmistakable opulence and luxury that Napa has become known for. But with over 400 wineries, there are also many more that are overlooked.
Finding the best of Napa takes an expert palate, so we asked six wine professionals for their thoughts on the region’s most underrated wines and producers. If you’re looking to step outside the box a bit regarding Napa Valley bottlings, these suggestions are the place to start.
The Most Underrated Napa Wines, According to Sommeliers
- Trefethen Family Vineyard
- Hyde de Villaine Wines
- Tofanelli Family Vineyard Charbono
- Hudson Ranch & Vineyards Phoenix Meritage
- Sierra Trails Winery Old Vine Zinfandel
- Dough Wines Cabernet Sauvignon
- Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
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“While there are your big names in the wine world, there are also countless hidden gems. Trefethen has made a great name for themselves; I don’t see them as represented in some markets as I would expect to. They have a great history in Napa Valley and delicious wines, most of which are very approachable within the price point.” —Nicole Haarklau, director of food & beverage, Hotel Vin, Grapevine, Texas
“To me, Hyde de Villaine (HDV) is the most underrated wine in Napa. It’s a partnership between Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée Conti and Larry Hyde, who is a cornerstone of grape growing in the region. The HDV wines are fantastic yet reasonably priced by Napa’s standards!” —Megan Mina, beverage director, Zero Restaurant + Bar, Charleston, S.C.
“Tofanelli out of Calistoga makes a supremely drinkable Charbono, which was my introduction to the grape. Their Sémillon doesn’t taste like a wine-flavored candle and is also my favorite outside of Bordeaux and Australia.” —Robert Morin, sommelier, Eastern Wine Bar, Washington, D.C.
“My most underrated Napa producer is Hudson Vineyards in Carneros, a region that tends to be overlooked in favor of the warmer Napa AVAs. Their vineyards are producing some of the best Chardonnays that Napa has to offer, ranging from Burgundian to buttery. The wine that surprised and delighted me so much that I had to add it to our wine list was their Phoenix Meritage red blend, which is both powerful and elegant and has become a favorite of our guests.” —Peggy Kearns Dean, sommelier, Pacific Standard Prime, Redondo Beach, Calif.
“Some of the under-the-radar wines in California come from the smaller vineyards that use grapes unique to California that speak to their terroir without being compared to their Old World counterparts. Varietals like Charbono and Zinfandel, while not indigenous to California, have evolved and transformed their flavor profile and developed a new, distinct identity. One of my favorites is the Old Vine Zinfandel from Sierra Trails Winery. This wine’s aromas are a delightful combination of black and blue fruits, chocolate-covered berries, cappuccino, and French vanilla. The palate is rich and full-bodied. The fruit character is ripe and jammy. Acid is medium, the alcohol is moderate, and the tannins are pleasantly soft. One of the best qualities of this wine is its smoothness, which makes it easy to drink and easy to pair food with.” —Ferdinando Mucerino, sommelier, Wine Insiders, San Diego
I’ve tasted plenty of Napa Cabernets that stand up on their own, but not all truly improve when paired with food. Dough’s Napa Valley Cabernet is an exception. I recently opened a bottle with friends while sitting out and enjoying a pleasantly warm evening outdoors. We all sipped and commented on how nice it was, but when we brought out some savory charcuterie and grilled pork loin, we all did a double take. The fruit flavors bloomed, the texture snapped to focus, and some amazing notes of vanilla came to the fore. I’d also have to shout out Frank Family Vineyards. They don’t always jump out as the big name in Cabs, but most of the wine lovers I talk to will quickly bring them up when it comes to wines that people sleep on. Excellent juice and an easy choice whenever I see it on a menu.” —John Stanton, director of beverage, Sage Restaurant Concepts, Denver