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Make Sure To Visit Sterling Vineyards if Touring Napa Valley

Updated on December 3, 2012

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!


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.


Tree lined road leading to the base of the tram.
Tree lined road leading to the base of the tram.

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Newton wanted to bring something from England to finish off the building, so there are 8 bells from a church in London, originally made in the 10th century.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.

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    • travel4romantic profile image

      Ramy Saber 

      21 months ago from Egypt

      wow, Lovely hub. you make me enjoyed from your lovely style in writing. Thanks

    • kitkat1141 profile imageAUTHOR

      kitkat1141 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      That is great. I hope you enjoyed it!

    • profile image

      Sanne 

      3 years ago

      I came, I read this article, I coeurnqed.

    • kitkat1141 profile imageAUTHOR

      kitkat1141 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      It is a great destination for any wine lover! The setting is just beautiful. Thanks for looking.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      5 years ago from Iowa

      My husband and loved our stop at Sterling Vineyards. What a beautiful spot. Your photos capture it well.

    • kitkat1141 profile imageAUTHOR

      kitkat1141 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      What a wonderful place to live! Thank you for linking to your interesting article on Rock Balancing. I have never heard of that before.

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      I just linked your article with my article on Rock Balancing in San Francisco. The price for the vineyard tour seeems very reasonable for the trip!

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      Recently I moved closer to the Napa Valley area. It is about an hour drive from here. I am so blessed, right! I will take a tour of this vineyard and take the tram. Thanks so much for writing and sharing your photos too.

    • kitkat1141 profile imageAUTHOR

      kitkat1141 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you for the comments. My husband and I discovered Sterling on our 10th anniversary, and loved it so much we went back for our 15th! I have recommended it to many friends who have gone to Napa Valley, and they all thanked me for the tip.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      My husband and I have also been to Sterling Vineyards and would recommend it to others just for the unique experience and beautiful views. Good job on this hub! Up votes and will share.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Beautiful article and your photos are stunning! I have been to Sterling Vineyards, taken the tram/gondola and tasted their wine. It is a wonderful way to spend a day or afternoon. This area of the country is just gorgeous. Thanks for sharing this with us! I'm ready for another visit - very inspirational! Voted up and shared!

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