By MICHELLE LOCKE
NAPA . (AP) — Tasting wine is fun and possibly educational. But tasting wine while gazing on a backdrop of vine-covered hills rippling toward a blue horizon? That's a fairly unbeatable pairing.
Here are some California wineries with views that will have you pulling your nose out of that glass — the better to drink in the scenery.
With its picturesque hilltop setting in the Carneros wine-growing region at the southern end of the Napa Valley, Artesa was one of the original wineries in the area, founded by the Spanish wine-making family Codorniu Raventos. Barcelona architect Domingo Triay designed the winery to blend into the highest hill of Artesa's 350-acre estate. A protective covering of natural grasses conceals the winery rooftop, accented by fountains and contemporary sculpture. On a clear day, you can see not forever but as far as the San Francisco Bay. Reservations required for parties of eight or more; advance booking for tours and tastings in general is recommended. Tastings begin at $25.
CADE ESTATE WINERY
Howell Mountain at the northern tip of the Napa Valley gives CADE its amazing vantage point. From the wide terrace, at an elevation of 1,800 feet (550 meters) that is well above the fog line, you can look out over acres of vineyards and tree-covered hills. The winery was founded in 2005 by John Conover, Gavin Newsom (currently California's lieutenant governor) and billionaire Gordon Getty. It takes its name from Shakespeare, who used cade to refer to the wine casks used to ship wine from France to England in Elizabethan times. This is a good winery to visit when temperatures start to dip; the terrace includes comfy couches set around a large fire pit. Reservations required; tastings start at $40 per person.
CASTELLO DI AMOROSA
As the Napa Valley's only 13th-century Tuscan castle (yes, it's a replica, but a very faithful one), the Castello offers sweeping views from the ramparts. But there are some indoor sights to take in as well, such as the armory, grand barrel room and a torture chamber (...though not currently in use). General admission starts at $25 and includes a tasting of five wines. Guided tours, which include tastings, start at $40. For $80, you can take a food-and-wine pairing that ends with a tasting in the elegantly decorated royal apartment. Reservations recommended for guided tours.
If rolling hills are what you're looking for, Cuvaison's got them. This winery in the Carneros region was completed in 2009 and features a wood-and-steel structure embedded into a hilltop with wraparound terraces. Native grass landscaping complements other sustainable practices including rainwater collection and solar energy. Reservations required and tastings start at $25.
If you've ever wanted to make like Cinderella, this is the winery to pick. Domaine Carneros features graceful flights of stone steps leading up to a terrace overlooking vine-covered hills where you can enjoy table service and order small plates to accompany your tasting. Wines may be tasted in flights or by the glass. Reservations are required for tastings and table service, and may be made up to 5 p.m. on the day of the visit, based on availability. Tours are available, must be booked in advance. Tastings start at $25.
The terrace at Mumm Napa is on a hillside off the Silverado Trail, the valley's lesser-traveled main thoroughfare, and has a commanding view of the Napa Valley. Open daily with three tasting experiences: outdoor patio, enclosed tasting salon or oak terrace. Tastings start at $20. Reservations required for terrace seating.
There's something about drinking wine on a terrace. And the Napa Valley's generally good weather makes the experience all the more enjoyable. The terrace at Silverado Vineyards features 180-degree views of the renowned Stags' Leap Wine district, the better to taste by. Film buffs may be interested to know the winery was founded by Lillian Disney, widow of Walt, her daughter Diane Disney Miller and son-in-law Ron Miller. Open by appointment only. Tastings start at $30.
STAGS' LEAP WINERY
The newly renovated, Victorian-era Manor House at Stags' Leap Winery has a grand wraparound porch for tastings with an expansive view of the vineyards. By appointment only; tastings start at $65.
There's a reason Sterling Vineyards tends to make a lot of "best of" lists. The view from this hilltop winery on the northern end of the Napa Valley is remarkable. The vineyard is set 300 feet (91 meters) above the town of Calistoga. An aerial tram takes you up to the winery, set in a white stucco building modeled after the architectural style of the Greek island of Mykonos. From the south terrace you look straight down the Napa Valley. Reservations not required, although a good idea at peak times such as weekends. General admission and tasting starts at $29.
AUBERGE DU SOLEIL
Not a winery, but a resort, Auberge du Soleil has two dining options, both with breathtaking views. If you're feeling flush, you can eat at the Michelin-starred restaurant with its terrace overlooking a green and verdant valley. Or, you can stop by the more casual bistro which has a wraparound deck, more than 40 wines by the glass and is a great spot for sunset watching.