The Napa Valley is one of California’s greatest treasures – an epicurean
epicenter where some of the finest wines, the best restaurants and the most
luxurious accommodations can be found. The Napa Valley’s proximity to the
Bay Area makes it an easy escape for a relaxing and revitalizing getaway.
The fall season is an ideal time to visit – just in time to enjoy the
cooler weather and admire the fall foliage. Tip: Visit between the last
weekend of October and the first two weeks of November, just after the
madness of the “crush rush” to avoid the crowds.
WHERE TO STAY
Napa Valley Lodge
2230 Madison Street
Yountville, CA 94599
The Napa Valley Lodge is a divine respite after a day of exploring the
pleasures of Napa Valley. The spacious rooms are elegantly furnished and
feature wood-burning fireplaces and private balconies overlooking the
courtyard, vineyard or garden.
If you can tear yourself away from the comfort of your posh accommodations,
spend some time enjoying the hotel’s courtyard which showcases a sparkling
pool surrounded by luxurious chaise lounges and shaded cabana beds. If
lounging around the pool with a cool glass of wine and a good book is too
sedate, the bocce ball court is just steps away. At sunset, find a seat at
one of the fire pits and relax with a glass of wine.
In the morning, start your day with the complimentary champagne breakfast
buffet. This high quality buffet offers a veritable feast including bagels,
breads and pastries, smoked salmon, charcuterie, cheeses, fruit and any
other breakfast delight your heart may desire – and don’t forget the
champagne and mimosas, of course.
Other amenities include complimentary bicycles, a fitness room, a
full-service spa, free parking and free Wi-Fi.
WHAT TO DO
There are so many things to see and do in Napa Valley. The region is a
nature-lover’s dream with many state parks, hiking and biking trails,
rivers, and nature preserves in the area. There are also the
surrounding small towns to explore. And of course, there are vineyards
to tour and wines to be tasted.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Napa Valley is an ideal getaway for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
There are miles and miles of hiking and biking trails throughout the valley.
For those who favor a short and easy hike or bike ride, Alston Park
in Napa has a three-mile trail encompassing scenic meadows, grasslands, an
orchard, groves, a shaded canyon and creek. Bothe State Park has
10 miles of mostly shaded trails which makes it ideal for hiking/biking on
warmer days. For a more challenging adventure, climb to the Summit of
Mt. St. Helena. Drive up to the trail head located in Robert Louis
Stevenson State Park and climb the rest of the way to the summit where
you will be rewarded with an amazing panoramic view of the valley below.
For those who love the water, kayak, canoe or paddleboard down the Napa River.
Fly-fishing is another popular pastime along the river. There are several boating and
fishing outfitters who will arrange tours and rent out equipment.
CHARMING TOWNS NEAR NAPA
If you get a chance, explore the quaint towns in and around Napa Valley. Each town
offers shops and boutiques, restaurants and eateries, art galleries, tasting rooms
and day spas.
In Downtown Napa, check out the Oxbow Public Market where you can
sample and purchase tasty treats and gourmet food items. Take a stroll down
the promenade along the Napa Riverfront and browse through the
eclectic boutiques; grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants or sweet shops.
St. Helena is one of the most charming places to visit with its historic downtown
buildings, quaint shops, upscale hotels and resorts, and some of the best restaurants
Enjoy a relaxing spa experience in the laid-back town of Calistoga, where mud baths
and the natural mineral springs draw visitors to the historic town; shop around for a
spa or resort for treatments that suit your fancy. Another big draw: Old Faithful
Geyser of California. A visit to the grounds of Old Faithful can include a soothing
stroll through the tranquil gardens, a picnic and some bocce ball, or a visit with the goats.
Yountville is another small town worth exploring. Visit V Marketplace located within
a historic building which now houses specialty shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
Don’t miss a visit to Kollar Chocolates, one of the top ten chocolatiers in North
America, also located within the marketplace.
UNIQUE WINE TASTING EXPERIENCES
Add a little something to your wine tasting experience. Often, wine
tasting rooms can be a bit crowded and sometimes mundane. Many wineries
offer more than the ordinary tasting room, so why not go where you can
add a little zip to your sip?
A cave tasting and tour is a distinctly unique experience that should not
be missed. The caves at Hall Rutherford in St. Helena are simply
stunning, with walls and ceilings of Austrian brick and handcrafted
works of art displayed throughout. The highlight of the tour is an elegant
underground dining room which features a truly magnificent Swarovski
Taste the good life where gorgeous views, beautiful surroundings, and
sumptuous gourmet food and wine pairings are part of a deluxe day of wine
tasting. Round Pond Estate in Napa offers an array of unique tasting
experiences which can include a tour of the estate aboard a vintage truck,
an olive oil, citrus syrup, and red wine vinegar tasting, cooking lessons, and
Matanzas Creek Winery in Santa Rosa, set on a hillside with
terraces overlooking amethyst fields of lavender, is like heaven on Earth. Stroll through
the estate gardens, enjoy a picnic on the grounds beneath massive ancient oaks, or shop
at the lavender market for sweetly-scented products made with the hand-cut lavender
harvested from the estate.
Get medieval and explore an authentic castle at Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga.
This authentically built 13th-century castle will make you feel like you’ve been
transported from the Napa Valley to the hillsides of Tuscany. The castle is the real
deal, complete with a moat and drawbridge, courtyards, horse stables, secret
passageways, and even a dungeon. General admission gives guests roaming
access to two levels of the Castello followed by wine tasting.
Take a scenic ride on the iconic aerial tram that transports visitors to
Sterling Vineyards which sits on a hilltop high above the town of Calistoga.
The winery – a stunning white stucco structure inspired by the Greek villages of
Mykonos – boasts balconies, walkways, and terraces which offer panoramic views
of the vineyards and valley below. At every quarter hour, hear the toll of the ancient
bells salvaged from London’s Church of St. Dunstan’s-in-the-East, which are now
housed in the winery’s towers.
COMPLIMENTARY WINE TASTING
With tasting fees ranging upwards of $30 or more per person, hitting
the wine trail can get pretty pricey. Luckily, there are still a few
wineries that offer complimentary tastings that will leave you with
enough money in your pocket to purchase a few bottles to take home.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville offers a
complimentary wine tasting at their Main Tasting Bar daily. Served in
their traditional Trattoria glassware, they offer a pour of two wines,
one white and one red.
Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville offers
complimentary tours and tastings for parties of less than 20.
Visit korbel.com to see the current tour schedule.
Alexander Valley Vineyards in Healdsburg offers two
complimentary experiences, daily, for parties of less than 10
guests; sample award-winning wines, learn about the estate,
and enjoy the views.
Adastra, located in the Sonoma Plaza, offers a complimentary
tasting of at least two wines at their tasting room daily, as well
as wines by the glass for purchase.
Sonoma Portworks in Petaluma, which specializes in ports
and after-dinner wines, offers a complimentary menu of
their single varietal ports with tastings from Thursday through
WINE & DINE
Napa Valley Wine Train
1275 McKinstry Street
Napa, CA 94599
A visit to Napa would not be complete without a dinner aboard the Napa Valley
Wine Train. The antique train runs along a 25-mile track through the Napa
Valley allowing the guests on board to enjoy bucolic views of the valley as they savor
a multi-course gourmet meal. The vintage Pullman cars are furnished with plush arm
chairs and accented with mahogany paneling and brass furnishings, so guests can ride
in style and comfort.
For optimal viewing, dine in the Vista Dome, an elevated “glass” car where
dinner is served on the second floor of the two-story car allowing
unrestricted views of the prolific vines, grand wineries, and glimpses of
small-town life outside. For an al-fresco view, enjoy the scene from the
open-air section of the car below where passers-by wave hello and good-bye
as the train passes through.
As lovely as the views are, the gourmet meal is a welcome distraction. The
menu offers tempting choices such as Rosemary Rubbed Lamb Carpaccio or
Duck Confit from the appetizer menu, Garlic and Herb Roasted Chicken or
Cabernet Braised Beef Short Ribs from the entrée menu, and a Chocolate
Ganache Tart or Brown Butter Seared Cornbread from the dessert menu.
The menu offers pairing suggestions for each course.
The wine train also hosts a variety of events including pop up performances
and winery concerts with transportation and dining options via the wine
train, murder mystery dinners, special holiday events, and more. Check the
calendar at winetrain.com for upcoming events.