Make Sure To Visit Sterling Vineyards if Touring Napa Valley
As you drive north from Napa along Highway 29 you almost become numbed by the sight of vineyard after vineyard, winery after winery. The first few are awe inspiring, and then it quickly becomes apparent that these views seem static, almost as if the car isn’t moving. It becomes difficult to decipher where one winery begins and one ends. Driving north, you are walled on either side by Mayacamas and Vaca mountain ranges, which themselves have sporadically been taken over by the vines. It becomes a challenge to choose where to stop and visit, and more importantly taste!
- Self Guided Driving Tour of Napa Valley Wine Country
You might be interested in this article on driving Highway 29 in Napa Valley.
As you approach the town of Calistoga, to your right, perched high up on the mountain ridge you can spot Sterling Vineyard. The bright white stucco building with the characteristic bells, which are featured on the wine label, contrasts well with the greenery. A very well marked sign encourages you to turn right and enter into the tree lined road which leads to the base of the aerial tram at the parking lot. Vines are grown right up to the edge of the parking lot, so the grapes can be seen, touched, photographed and even tasted by the approaching visitors.
The aerial tram is the only one of its kind in the Napa Valley, and makes for a unique winery experience. The visit begins in the tram, which takes visitors up to the winemaking site and tasting rooms. The structure was built in 1971 by owner Peter Newton, with inspiration coming from the Greek architecture from the Island of Mykanos, where he once lived.
Peter Newton, hailing from London England, was an Oxford Graduate and Paper Broker who once wrote for the London Financial Times. He enjoyed California wines, and started out by purchasing 50 acres to start Sterling International. Gradually he has added land near St Helena Bear Flats and Bothe Ranch to expand the varietals. He was one of the first to sell Merlot from the Napa Valley in 1969 as an individual grape variety, as it was up to that point only used as a blending grape.
Peter Newton wanted to bring something from England to finish off the building, so there are 8 bells from a church in London, originally made in the 10th century. The church was destroyed by fire in the 1600’s, and later bombed in World War II. Each time the metal was recast, to reform the bells, and they apparently have improved in sound quality with each revision. They can be heard on the quarter hour, and the sound carries across the valley.
Peter Newton solidified his presence in the wine making field over the years, and has even hosted royalty at Sterling Vineyard, with a visit from Prince Charles in 1977.
Once at the top of the tram ride, you will be greeted with a glass of wine to sip during your self guided tour. Visitors can leisurely stroll through the tour, as motion automated flat screen televisions are strategically placed along the way, to give a detailed account of the wine making process. The tour has a stop on the southern facing Sterling View Terrace, which is a great photo opportunity, weather permitting.
The culmination of the tour is in the tasting room, where you have a flight of 5 tastings included with your price of admission. A lovely fireplace creates instant ambiance if the weather is cool. The main varietals Sterling produces are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. They also have offerings of Pinot Noir, Petit Syrah, Shiraz and Sangiovese in the red, and Muscat, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling in the white. Basically something for everyone!
They are open Monday to Friday 10:30 to 4:30, and 10 to 5 on the weekends. No reservation required. The cost is $25 per person for tram ride, tour and wine tasting, but the website offers a $5 off coupon.
It is definitely worth the visit if looking for a winery to tour in Napa Valley.