Merus: Best Destination Winery in California

This tiny Napa winery, offering just two Cabs, is a great alternative to the theme-park Napa experience. Plus: Where to eat and stay nearby.

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Those who lament that Napa has become an oenophiliac theme park that attracts the guzzling hordes will find this tiny winery an oasis of exclusivity. Merus makes only two Cabernet Sauvignons, the Merus and the Altus, so prized they are sold on allocation via a members’ list and at select wine shops and restaurants. The winery, whose name is Latin for “pure and undiluted,” was founded by Mark Herold and his wife, Erika Gottl, who bottled their first Cab in their garage in 1998, earning a 93 score from wine critic Robert Parker Jr. Now they ferment fruit from local vineyards in a historic St. Helena winery re-imagined in 2009 by Dutch design studio Uxus. The highlight is the events space in the winery’s original storage caves, the walls of which are painted wine red and set off by spectacular Allegro chandeliers by Foscarini. In the tasting room, oak wood has been stained black and natural to create a checkerboard pattern on the walls, which are also decorated with pieces of wine barrels.

Where To Eat
The Restaurant at Meadowood, which last year joined Napa’s French Laundry and Chicago’s Alinea as the only U.S. dining establishments outside New York to earn three Michelin stars.

Where To Stay
As above—the Meadowood estate also offers everything from cozy cottages to luxury lodges.