Napa Valley is a romantic vacation spot for wine lovers and gourmands, in addition to a preferred place for girlfriend getaways and complex bachelor events. There are lots of of wineries to go to in Napa, stretching from Calistoga within the north to Carneros within the south, with loads of charming small cities like St. Helena and Yountville to find alongside the best way. Whereas it is likely to be tempting to jam-pack your schedule filled with wine tastings, a leisurely tempo will enable time to understand the great thing about the valley and all the things else it has to supply.
I’ve been writing about wine for a decade now, since I used to be teenager! I fell in love with Napa Valley and its wealthy historical past after attending the Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood and have visited America’s most well-known wine area greater than two dozen instances. These are my favourite actions for first-time guests and seasoned veterans alike.
Style allocation-only Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is essentially the most prized (and costliest) grape in Napa Valley, accounting for greater than half of all winery acreage. Whereas it may be enjoyable to look out your favourite wines from residence and see the place they’re made, it’s much more thrilling to attempt one thing uncommon and unique you could’t discover at your native liquor retailer.
For instance, Memento Mori and BRION are two wineries specializing in 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines from a few of Napa Valley’s most iconic vineyards. Every will solely schedule a few one-on-one tastings a day, however you may merely request an appointment via their web sites. Be ready to spend greater than $200 a bottle – however for true Cabernet connoisseurs, it’s price it.
BRION is the latest vineyard in Napa Valley, with a stunning tasting room overlooking Sleeping Woman Winery, whereas Memento Mori hosts tastings at a discreet salon in an industrial district in Napa. Its flagship Cabernet is powerful, supple and elegant.
You’ll additionally discover the biggest assortment of Napa Valley wines on this planet at PRESS, the place you may peruse pages and pages of Cabernet Sauvignon courting again to the Nineteen Sixties to pair together with your 60-day dry-aged tomahawk chop steak.
The Inglenook chateau has a stately gravitas that appears positively European and this vineyard was a pioneer in placing Napa Valley on the map internationally amongst wine connoisseurs. Based in 1879 by Gustave Niebaum, Inglenook was Napa’s first property vineyard, and it nonetheless makes a few of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon within the nation. Proprietor Francis Ford Coppola has utterly redesigned the grand salon, which now appears like a non-public Nineteen Twenties membership. Play piano within the nook, or problem a buddy to a recreation of chess or backgammon by the fireside. There’s even a craps desk that belonged to American socialite Countess di Frasso.
Dr. Wilkinson’s Yard Resort & Mineral Springs
Calistoga’s mineral-rich muds are well-known for his or her detoxifying and therapeutic properties. The particular mud is a product of pure sizzling springs water combined with volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount St. Helena hundreds of thousands of years in the past. The Wappo tribe that initially settled Calistoga believed the mineral waters had therapeutic powers, and up to date visitors can nonetheless get pleasure from a therapeutic Calistoga mud bathtub at a number of native spas.
Among the many finest is Dr. Wilkinson’s Yard Resort & Mineral Springs, which initially opened in 1952 and underwent a large renovation via 2020. The revamped resort maintains its retro allure with a renewed concentrate on wellness. Each room has an aromatherapy diffuser and you may choose a vital oil mix at check-in whereas sipping botanical-infused spring water.
Bike the paths
Exploring the attractive trails meandering between vineyards is a good way to whet your urge for food. Napa native and winemaker Josh Phelps of Grounded Wine Co is an avid athlete and hits the paths a number of instances per week. A couple of of his favorites for climbing and mountain biking embody Moore Creek Path in St. Helena, Skyline Park within the Metropolis of Napa and Oat Hill Mine Path in Calistoga.
Dine al fresco at Brix
Take a stroll via Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards with a glass of wine in hand earlier than sitting down for a garden-to-table feast with views of the Mayacamas Mountains at Brix Napa Valley. The Kelleher Household Winery in Oakville hearkens again to the Napa Valley of many years previous, earlier than massive conglomerates wolfed up lots of the area’s small family-owned vineyards.
It’s uncommon to search out such prime quality estate-grown wines paired with a full-service restaurant in Napa. I really like having fun with a glass of Kelleher Sauvignon Blanc with dungeness crab fondue adopted by housemade pasta or hearty wood-grilled ribeye with Cabernet Sauvignon grown proper subsequent door. Linger across the fireplace pit for a nightcap earlier than heading residence.
Eat like a neighborhood
Mustards Grill in Napa is an oldie however goodie. There’s an awesome mixture of native energy lunches and vacationing vacationers, and the kitchen is so constant – slinging out lots of of ahi tuna crackers, towers of onion rings and heaping mounds of meatloaf with out lacking a beat. I really like the curried coleslaw that provides a shiny splash of taste to crispy calamari.
“I run into so a lot of my pals getting sizzling canine at The Station,” Biagi says. “They serve it on a brioche bun and it pairs completely with Sauvignon Blanc.”
Mix your individual wine at Conn Creek
Play winemaker at Conn Creek, the place you may create your individual Cabernet Sauvignon mix with barrel samples from practically all of Napa Valley’s sub-appellations. It’s a enjoyable and interactive various to the usual wine tasting, particularly when you don’t have time to go to too many wineries throughout your keep. You get to style Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap to Rutherford, and nice tune your favourite mix with different Bordeaux varietals, like Petit Verdot for extra tannins, or Merlot to melt the wine.
When you’re completely happy together with your method, bottle it and create your individual label, and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind memento to take residence and save for a special day. After I made my very own mix in 2018, I saved it for Christmas with my household three years later. Don’t fear – the entire base wines are wonderful, so you actually can’t go flawed. It’s merely a matter of private choice.
Strive a meals and wine pairing
Slightly than your commonplace wine tasting, which could embody a flight of 4 or 5 wines to pattern, contemplate reserving a meals and wine pairing. Many wineries, akin to The Prisoner Wine Firm, have culinary groups who create considerate small bites to enrich every wine, like a compressed watermelon dish that brings out the peppery cherry notes in a Saldo Zinfandel. One other of my favorites is the “Style of the Property” expertise at St. Supéry, the place you attempt 4 property wines paired with composed small bites utilizing produce from the vineyard’s culinary backyard. Priest Ranch even has a enjoyable bacon and wine tasting.
Have a picnic
Fuller Park in downtown Napa is a well-liked spot for locals to picnic, surrounded by historic properties, with a public bocce court docket, rose backyard, picnic tables, ample lawns and a playground for youths. Plus, it’s near First Road so you may load up on sandwiches from First & Franklin or sushi from Eiko’s. The Mannequin Bakery and Oakville Grocery are a few my favourite locations to fill up on picnic staples like bread, cheese and pastries.
Bouchaine Vineyards in Carneros gives a BYO picnic expertise with socially distanced picnic tables scattered all through the flower-filled backyard. Guests obtain a wine bag with a wine key, water, two brand crystal wine tumblers and a bottle every of Bouchaine’s Property Pinot Noir and Property Chardonnay, for $150 for teams of six or much less.