Napa Insider Sips: Under-the-Radar Tasting Experiences

As the “Wine Tasting Room Capital of the World,” Downtown Napa has a lot to live up to. Fortunately, our 50-plus area wine tasting rooms excel in sharing the fruit of their labor with visitors and locals alike, creating the perfect sips for every taste.

While of course Napa is well-known for wine, it’s also home to a slew of hidden gem sipping experiences ranging from cocktails infused with garden-grown ingredients to pour-over coffees rivaling Seattle’s best. Lucky for you, we’ve got the inside track on where to go for under-the-radar sipping experiences, and we’re serving up a new “Insider Sip” every Sunday on our Instagram- be sure to follow along and save these Insider Sips to help plan your next Napa trip!


Few things are better together than great wine and music. At Benevolent Neglect, you can sit back, relax and enjoy delicious California wine while grooving to the vinyl albums available, or BYOV (Bring Your Own Vinyl) and share your favorites with the room.

With excellent wine from Napa vineyards and abroad, Frontier Wine Co. truly has a worldly tasting room. In addition to varietals from Argentina, Australia and France, Frontier boasts single-vineyard Napa Cabernet Sauvignons, Bordeaux blends, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and more, all available to taste in a casual living space located in a turn-of-the-century building on Main Street.

An out-of-this-world wine bar (and shop) is Outer Space on Franklin Street in Downtown Napa. Although there are daily tastings, the weekly events held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday evenings are truly special. Participants can have a great time, enjoy some wine-friendly snacks and get an informative wine education.

Test your wine knowledge during “Sunday Blinds” at Compline Restaurant and Wine Shop. Starting at 5:30 p.m. on Sundays, you’ll be served four different 2-ounce pours. The challenge is to figure out what you are drinking. The cost is $25. While there, enjoy dinner from Compline’s ever-changing menu.

As the name implies, Shadowbox Cellars’ “Salt & Acid” experience is a tasting of at least five limited-production, acid-driven wines with gourmet potato chips. Winemaker/co-owner Justin Preiser will lead you through the unique experience. The potato chips feature exotic flavors such as Hawaiian Red Sea Salt, Smoked Gouda and Dry-Aged Rib Eye. The cost is $65 per person.

Photo Credit: @wilfredslounge


Combine the best of Napa Valley with a bit of Hawaiian culture and you’ve got Wilfred’s Lounge. Using fruit juice that is pressed fresh daily and syrups made from scratch, the cocktails at Wilfred’s are among the best in Downtown Napa. There’s a wide selection to choose from, but should you wish to try the Manta Ray – gin, pineapple, Jamaican rum and a whole lot more – or the Batten Down the Hatches – exotic rum blend, pineapple and more – be warned: They’re so strong, Wilfred’s insists on a limit of two per person.

Made with fresh juice, the margaritas at C Casa are among the best in town. This summer, however, C Casa has introduced three new drinks: the Mango CASArita, the Cucumber-Jalapeño CASArita and El Verano, a cucumber-infused St. George gin, St. Germaine, fresh watermelon and more. Any of these delicious drinks pair well with the restaurant’s new summer fare.

Enjoy a cocktail with a view of Napa River at Napa Yard. The spacious and beautiful property, across from the Oxbow Public Market, offers several places to sit and enjoy a craft cocktail. Napa Yard features garden-to-plate menu items and garden-to-glass drinks sure to please, so if you’re in the mood for a laid-back atmosphere, this is the place.

John Anthony Vineyards invites guests for Truffles + Tannins, where truffle chips and excellent wine make for a great pairing. Or you can turn it up a bit and combine caviar and sparkling wine. You can also splurge on John Anthony’s varied selection of artisan cheeses and charcuterie. The choices are endless, but the quality is high.

Photo: @Gamling-McDuck


When the temperature rises, Gamling & McDuck breaks out the frosé machine. Frosé – a frozen, blended rosé – is a cocktail that can include frozen fruit, sugar and your favorite rosé, in addition to other spirits like vodka. The sweet, adult beverage is great on a warm day, so head to this hidden gem in the heart of Downtown Napa when the sun is beating you down for a refreshing frosé. And you may get to meet the resident kitty, Theodora Purr.

Another excellent spot to cool off is The Q Restaurant & Bar. In addition to having some of the best Memphis-style barbecue around, they also own a frozen mai tai machine. While enjoying the cold goodness of this drink – or one of their wonderful cocktails or wines – pair it with selections from The Q’s menu for an enjoyable, refreshing lunch or dinner.

Photo: @californiabrandyhouse


Whiskey lovers who visit Downtown Napa will be thrilled to know about the Whiskey Bar at Sky & Vine, located atop the beautiful Archer Hotel. Enjoy an amazing view of Napa Valley as you choose from the 150-plus list of whiskeys, including unique and rare versions. A perfect complement to your drink is shareable fare such as baked oysters and smoked pork ribs. If you’re planning to visit Downtown Napa, make sure to stop at this reservation-only venue.

You’ll find some of the freshest, all-organic fruits and vegetables at Hudson Greens & Goods, a family grocery store in Oxbow Public Market. But the grocer is also known for its Juicy Juice organic juice bar, the only one of its kind in Napa Valley. And if you drop by in the morning, you can start your day off with a delicious green juice or a nutritious breakfast smoothie.


Downtown Napa may be known for its wine tasting venues, but the area’s craft breweries offer an excellent alternative. Fieldwork Brewing Company, located within the Oxbow Public Market, is a perfect example. Featuring a rotating tap list of fresh releases, Fieldwork offers seasonal selections such as Blackberry Parfait, described by the brewery as “relaxing on the Gulf Coast in the salty, summer air, and smashing a bowl of blackberry cobbler covered in vanilla bean ice cream.


Barnhouse Napa Brews offers locally roasted coffees and a lot more. An English coffee pub, Barnhouse benefits small farms and farmers from every coffee region in California. They are also one of the only local coffee shops that offer coffee flights, which consist of four seasonal espresso drinks. Barnhouse is also known for their tea, cider, beer, seltzer and wine and a great menu of pub grub.

Ritual Coffee Roasters in the Oxbow Public Market sources its coffees from small farmers who they are familiar with, and they’re proud to do so. They also excel in pour-overs, a special manual drip brewing method that allows for a high level of control over the results. If you’re short on time, order ahead and get your morning started right.

Photo by: The Meritage


The Meritage Resort & Spa will host the Taste of Napa, a celebration of the bounty of Napa Valley, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 15. More than 70 wineries, restaurants and culinary artisans will be represented. Guests can sample delicious fare, listen to music, play life-size games and enter to win special prizes during the one-day event.

Downtown Napa draws visitors from all over the world to experience its bounty of wine tasting rooms and vineyards. But there’s so much more to do and tours that will provide a close-up look of this beautiful part of California. When you’re planning your vacation, make sure to see all that Downtown Napa has to offer. Book a few extra days at one of the nearly three-dozen hotels and inns to see as much as you can of this amazing area.

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