STERLING VINEYARDS, 1111 Dunaweal Lane Calistoga, CA 94515, (800) 726-6136
Hours: M-F: 10:30 – 4:30; S-S 10:00 – 5:00
Reservations not required, Self-guided tour
What to expect: Mediterranean-style architecture, a tram ride, and stunning views
Sterling Vineyards sits just south of the town of Calistoga. What is really unique about this winery is that it is not situated on the valley floor like the other wineries you’ll visit, but rather it is perched on the side of a mountain about 300 feet above Calistoga. This vantage point offers visitors a panoramic view of Napa Valley that does not disappoint! This visit is all about the views and the tastings.
The wine tour at Sterling Vineyards is self-guided and done at your own pace. You can choose to educate yourself with the self-guided tour, but honestly, I found myself taking a glance at the facilities and not really paying much attention to the wine making here. But don’t worry about it, you can get your education on wine making when you visit another winery, such as the Robert Mondavi Winery where a guide walks you through the facilities and explains everything you ever wanted to know about California wines. So, while at Sterling Vineyards, spend your time enjoying the beautiful vistas and drinking the delicious wines.
The views from Sterling Vineyards made me feel as if I were in Tuscany, if just for a minute. The views are outstanding and they, alone, make the visit worth it. But, don’t get too caught up in the scenery, there’s some wine tasting and shopping to do, too!
When you arrive at Sterling Vineyards, you’ll be greeted by a long beautiful driveway lined with trees and with vineyards on either side leading to the Visitors Center. At the Visitors Center, you’ll purchase your tasting package. You’ll have two options: General Admission for $28, which includes three tastings of current release wines, or the Sterling Silver Experience for $37, which includes the same three tastings of current release wines that you get with a General Admission ticket, but also a seated wine tasting experience featuring another three tastings of single vineyard and limited release wines in one of the exclusive Tasting Rooms or an outside terrace.
To get to the winery, you will have to ride a small tram. The tram ride is included in all admission tickets, and it takes about 10 minutes to get to the top of the winery. No need to be worry about this tram ride if you are afraid of heights, as this is not a very steep climb.
When you arrive to the top of the mountain, you’ll see the winery appear before you between the trees. It is a beautiful structure made of white stucco and modeled after Greek architecture, It really looks beautiful with the California sun beating off of it, and the greenery of the mountains and vineyards surrounding it.
You begin your tour and first tasting as soon as you exit the tram. You’ll be given a souvenir glass with the Sterling Vineyards logo on it that you will use for your three tastings in the main winery. After your first tasting, you’ll continue along well marked walkways that lead you through the winery facilities.
Your second tasting is on a lower balcony that is literally around the corner from your first tasting. This balcony offers some great unobstructed views of the valley, as well as a quiet seating area with umbrellas to shield you from the sun. At Sterling Vineyards, your tastings are healthy pours, too, not being measured to just an ounce. However, if you don’t want to drink the full tasting, you can dump it into one of the spittoons located on all the tasting bars.
Proceeding with the tour, you’ll leave the balcony and enter the facilities with the first stop being one of two gift shops at the winery. The gift shop was very nice offering some unique wine themed gifts as well as a variety of Sterling wines.
After the gift shop, you’ll have a chance to see the wine making process at Sterling Vineyards. You’ll visit the fermentation tanks and get a chance to see the barrels while learning about California winemaking via the motion-sensitive DVD screens.
Finally, you arrive at the third level balcony where you will have your third tasting. if you only bought the General Admission ticket, your wine tour ends here. However, if you bought the Sterling Silver Experience, which I highly recommend, you will continue on to the beautiful tasting rooms and have a chance to visit another larger gift shop.
The Silver Experience will take you to another building in the winery with several different tasting rooms. The rooms get filled up during the busy season, but during my visit in May, it was rather quiet. If you belong to the wine club, there is a special room reserved for you and your visitors. All wine club members and up to three guests get free admission to the winery and will have their Silver Experience wine tasting in the Sterling Club Room.
I was able to grab a table on the outdoor terrace for my additional wine tastings which provided a beautiful backdrop to enjoy my wine. If the weather is nice, you should definitely opt to sit on the terrace for your wine tasting. For the Silver Experience wine tasting, a wine educator will be serving you your three wine tastings, providing you with some information about each of the wines. Here, you’ll sample some of the wineries best wines ranging in price from $30 to $75. I was even treated to a tasting of one of their special dessert wines during my visit, a wine that is only sold at the winery.
Sterling Vineyards also offers a food pairing on their South View Terrace. You can enjoy a glass of wine that is perfectly paired with an entree or a charcuterie platter. The food pairings are prepared by Elaine Bell Catering.
Finally, the perfect way to end your visit at Sterling Vineyards is with one last chance to stop at their second gift shop to pick up some wine or other wine-themed items. I thought the lower level gift shop had more wine-themed items, while this gift shop tended to have a better wine selection. However, I have a feeling you can find the same items at both!
Sterling Vineyards … a must see winery while visiting Napa Valley. Enjoy!