With nearly 300 large and small wineries to choose from, selecting one to tour and taste wasn't easy. What was interesting for us certainly may not be on the priority list for some one else. But if you really wanted to experience the wine-making process, the tasting as well as the most extensive cave system for cooling and ageing...then I think Rutherford Hill is your best bet.
As the name suggests, it is located on a hill, and commands spectacular views of the valley.The whole place has such an "italian" look and feel (and I have never visited Italy...but want to now). They run hour long tours 2 times a day and 4 times on the weekends.
Founded in 1976, Rutherford Hill Winery is one of the leading Merlot producers in the United States.They believed that the Valley's climate and soil, were well suited to Merlot and were among the first to pioneer what has become one of Napa's premier varietals.
The tour is a very informative one, taking you through all the different stages of wine-making such as harvesting, crushing, fermenting, barreling and ageing. What is unique and distinctive about it, is that it includes a walk through the extensive cave system where you get to taste one of their fine Merlots taken directly from the barrel.
Rutherford Hill was one of the first to recommence the construction of barrel-ageing caves in this century. Rutherford Hills caves extend nine-tenths of a mile into the volcanic ash behind the winery. These caves contain over 8,000 French and American oak barrels in which all of the winery's harvests are matured. This unique, natural environment enhances the wine-ageing process and produces wines of consistent, notable character.
And not to mention on a hot scorching 85 degree day...the caves were natural airconditioners and gave a much needed respite from the heat and exhaustion. The tour ends in a special cave-dining room which is beautifully decorated with white-linen tables, vine-trellises and exudes a magical V.I.P appeal!
With 5 top varieties of wine to taste from...a informative wine-making tour, a unique cave experience and olive-grove orchards(see TIP)....you wonder how can a vineyard have it all??? You have to visit it to believe it.
TIP: Surrounding the perimeter of the vineyard are picnic-perfect olive groves that are absolutely a delight to sit and enjoy an afternoon lunch. Just make sure, that if wine is part of your bread basket, that you buy it from Rutherford Hill. It comes highly recommended and certainly makes the visit worth it.