Top 10 North American Wine Destinations
#1 – Rutherford, California
It would have been way too easy – not to mention extremely lazy – to award the No. 1 position in our countdown of the top 10 wine destinations in North America simply to the Napa Valley.
That said, there was no question that some area of Napa Valley had to top our list. The challenging question was: Which one?
Frankly, we could easily have included five or six Napa sub-appellations among our top 10. But that, too, would have been taking an easy way out.
Ultimately, we decided to include two Napa districts on our list: St. Helena in the No. 4 position, and Rutherford at No. 1.
Why Rutherford? Because, quite simply, its vineyards produce grapes that are transformed into some of the greatest red wines in the world.
The climate is warm.
The soils are well drained.
The vintners (many of them graduates of the renowned wine program at the University of California at Davis) are passionate.
Rutherford has everything it takes to produce amazing wines, particularly those varieties that trace their history to the Bordeaux region of France: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
Of the 6,840 acres planted to vineyards in the Rutherford district, 71 percent are devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon.
And just look at some of the famous names that call Rutherford home:
There are several excellent restaurants in Rutherford, but we always find ourselves returning to an old favorite: the Rutherford Grill.
While it’s part of a national restaurant company, the Rutherford Grill manages to exude wine country atmosphere. It’s a favorite among Napa Valley vintners because it charges no corkage fee – even though it has a fabulous wine list, heavy on local bottlings. As a result of that generous policy, the restaurant is the go-to choice when vintners are entertaining guests.
The Rutherford Grill’s signature dish is Rotisserie Chicken, seasoned and slow roasted in its own juices. A personal favorite is the Prime Rib French Dip sandwich – sublime with one of the numerous selections of Pinot Noir on the wine list.
For a fun starter, share an order of fresh-baked Cornbread in the Skillet or the tasty Spinach and Artichoke Dip.
And for the designated driver in your party, the restaurant offers either Gewurztraminer or Pinot Noir grape juice from Anderson Valley’s Navarro winery – a really nice (not to mention tasty) touch.
Where to stay? If your goal is to “do Rutherford right,” there’s only one choice: Auberge du Soleil.
The resort’s spacious rooms dot a terraced hillside and provide sweeping views of the Napa Valley. Prepare to be spoiled by the Italian linens, down bedding, plush robes and custom-made bath amenities.
But, hey, you deserve it. After all, you’re in town to explore the No. 1 wine destination in all of North America.