Napa is basically what happens when you blend a bit of Tuscany, with a dash of the scenery and overall loveliness from “The Sound of Music,” and mix in a healthy dose of every fairy tale land you’ve ever read about. Except the castles in this fantastical kingdom are surrounded by vineyards, and the gold at the end of the rainbow is this magical thing called wine. Now let’s get to it.
…where to crash and get some R&R
I stayed here in its previous life as the Avia Napa Hotel and I have an inkling this iteration is even better. What’s best about this hotel is the location in the heart of downtown Napa, which means easy access to local tasting rooms and brunch spots when you just want to walk somewhere. Plus, there’s a huge bathtub in the middle of the room – perfect for my girls trip. ☺
This 12 room, upscale B&B oozes country charm and coziness. Nestled against a tranquil river, you might just have serious issues if you can’t learn to chill out at this comfy inn. Don’t miss their organic spa and hydrotherapy tubs.
If eco-chic luxury calls your name, Bardessono is right up your alley. Touted as one of the world’s premiere green boutique hotels, this swanky, but accessible spot offers on-site dining using ingredients from their own organic garden, a roof-top pool, private balconies, and convenient access (you can walk!) to 10 wineries.
North Block Hotel offers casual, but modern and elegant accommodations in Yountville — one of Napa’s most prized areas for culinary indulgence. Located on the main strip, this hotel is an ideal location for anyone hoping to wine and dine their way through Yountville. Their restaurant, Redd Wood, is a local favorite.
One of the world’s best according to Travel + Leisure, Meadowood Napa is where coziness meets chic. There’s a fireplace and terrace in almost every guest room, each with its own unique and tranquil enclave. The grounds are impeccable, the service is top-notch and the spa recently had a makeover … just in time for you. The overall experience is nothing short of amazing and in between the wine and the dine, there’s great hiking nearby for sweating off calories.
…where to chow down and then unbutton the top button
This is where you want to pit stop for some grub in the midst of wine tasting. Trust me, you’re going to need some sustenance … but be careful not to spoil your dinner. This darling little market delivers sandwiches made to order and I’m not talking Subway. I’m talking prosciutto, olive tapenade, gouda and other gourmet goodness, but even their turkey + provolone is on another level. And if you’re not into sammies, grab some picnic snacks (cheese, olives) to satiate your appetite.
I have long been a fan of Michael Chiarello, as I’m a follower of Top Chef, so hitting up his restaurant in Yountville was a must. Not disappointed – I spied him in the kitchen! Unfortunately, my girlfriends and I arrived rather full (heed my note about not spoiling your dinner) so we noshed on appetizers of burrata before it was the “it” item on every menu and a to-die-for broccolini, perfectly flash fried with a decadent balsamic. If the apps were any indication of the menu as a whole, this will be one of your favorite experiences.
With bragging rights that come with a Michelin Star, this romantic restaurant has a breathtaking view of the Napa vineyards and is perfect for a special occasion … or if you just feel like splurging. (Be sure to request a table on the patio.) Every detail was meticulous – from the amuse-bouche to the exquisitely packaged candies to take home at the end of the meal. We opted for the tasting menu – the Foie Gras was positively sinful if you’re into that sort of thing. Which I am.
Serving modern rustic cuisine in a contemporary roadhouse setting that looks like a cute red barn, Boon Fly Café is part of Gavin Newsome’s PlumpJack Group (which basically means it’s awesome). Start your wine tasting day with their famous donuts or chicken and waffles, or end it with their smoked salmon flatbread. Bonus: They have porch swings.
Gott’s is like a cooler, gourmet version of In-N-Out with all locally sourced ingredients and much more inventive burgers. Still down to earth and casual, Gott’s is an ideal place to grab a Point Reyes Blue Cheese Burger or Ahi Poke Crispy Tacos after a day of over-imbibing…i.e. this is your hangover stop.
We all love southern cooking and good BBQ is often hard to come by in these parts. Located in St. Helena, Farmstead is a cozy space that was formerly a nursery barn and is now home to some of the best cooking in the land. The chef is a Kentucky-native who brings his cast-iron skillet and smokehouse flavors to wine country. The organic produce and grass-fed beef are all raised on property – as is the honey from the restaurants’ own beehives. Bonus: Live music on Friday nights at the outdoor bar.
Thomas Keller is a regular at this industrial-chic, downtown Napa mainstay where the Southern Italian cuisine is simply divine. With a pizza oven imported from Naples, fresh pastas, creative salads, and amazing desserts, it’s impossible not to walk out with a very full and satisfied stomach. Highlights include the Chocolate Torta with pistachios and sea salt, and the Margherita pizza.
… where to drink up and get down
Break open the bubbly! I recommend hitting this place early to snag a seat on the veranda, which offers all of the spectacular views you were hoping to find in Napa … while drinking a variety of Bubbles and Rosé. Does it really get any better than that? Don’t worry about standing in line at a tasting room – instead, they serve flights at your table. I was so enchanted with this place that I bought a $100 bottle of champagne … but it was worth it when I broke it out the day of my sister’s wedding. Mazel tov!
Stylish and whimsical, The Sip Shoppe is referred to as a “candy shop for adults” with red and white striped walls and wine served in little Dixie cups. The tastings at the Shoppe – which is reminiscent of the French Quarter – are cleverly named and paired with fun treats like cheeses, nuts, chocolates, and caviar. It’s all very Marie Antoinette, and we love it.
Fairly new to Napa, Odette sits on 45 majestic acres in the Stags Leap District. The tasting experience here is modern and unique – the winery boasts contemporary architecture with lots of white and clean lines. Odette takes an environmentally responsible stance on winemaking, and their passion for producing full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon is abundantly clear.
You have arrived if you’ve made it into The Napa Valley Reserve, an uber-chic, ultra exclusive members only club. Member names are not disclosed, but word is celebrities like The Beckham’s, Robert Redford and Tom Cruise are all on the list. If you are lucky enough to get in, well, consider yourself lucky. With acres of olive trees and lush vegetable gardens, this gorgeous winery is where the crème-de-la-crème come to enjoy wine lectures, cooking classes, and celebrate all things wine.
This Yountville standout is a wine collective where tasting and art unite. Housed in a stone building circa 1904, Maisonry features a “living gallery” where guests are encouraged to explore artwork and furnishing collections while trying wines from their portfolio of boutique wine labels. The grounds are exquisite and the backyard sculpture garden is a favorite. Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Reese Witherspoon are fans of this unique spot.
ANTS IN YOUR PANTS
…what to do when you can’t sit still
If you’re feeling like you’ve overdosed on wine tasting a bit and are looking for some respite, why not overdose on food instead at the world-renowned Culinary Institute of America? Take a tour and attend a live cooking demo taught by the school’s celebrated chef-instructors. These one hour events feature recipes focused on seasonal ingredients from Napa, and are often paired with, you guessed it, wine.
While this activity still technically involves wine tasting, it also involves touring the ranch with the vineyard proprietor/winemaker and his dog in their sky blue vintage military jeep named after a Grateful Dead song (“Sugar Magnolia”). Don’t ask questions. Just. Do. It.
Wine + Music + Food = the best weekend ever. Taking place on Memorial Day, this festival features over 70 bands that lure droves of fans to ascend on wine country for a weekend of shows – Stevie Wonder, Florence + The Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers are headlining this year. What’s more, there’s a culinary stage where star chefs pair with musicians to create fantastic food and you better believe this isn’t your “house wine” kinda show – in this event, the wine is just as good as the music, if not better.