Napa Valley, CA, is one of those places that you visit and then leave scratching your head, wondering why you don’t live there. The Mediterranean climate, sunshine 300 days a year, and some of the most premier vineyards in the world make this place a quasi paradise.
We enjoy a good glass of wine just as much as the next guy, but we aren’t well-versed in wino lingo or familiar with the “proper” way to do everything wine related. That being said, I was a little intimated to be in the wine capital of North America at first, but I got over that real quickly and ended up having a blast for the few days we were there.
We stayed in an adorable Airstream trailer in the city of Napa, and we loved the location. I had a difficult time choosing between Napa, Yountville, St Helena, and Calistoga for our “home base,” but I don’t think it really mattered in the end because all the towns are so close to each other. You can easily drive between them and not even realize you’ve left one town and entered another. Highway 29 is the main highway and runs through all the major towns in Napa Valley. Silverado Trail runs parallel to Highway 29 and is unbelievably gorgeous with rolling hills, lush vineyards, and pristine wineries in all directions. There are more of the big wineries Highway 29 but more specatular views on Silverado Trail. The scenery is free, so eat it up! We opted out of creating an itinerary and decided to just drive around exploring whatever winery or shop that looked interesting at the time. We also opted out of any guided tours because we wanted to go at our own pace, but I’ve heard they can be wonderful.
Here are a few of our favorite spots:
St. Supéry – Very friendly and laid back winery in Napa. This was our first stop, and they made us feel right at home. This is also the first time I very hesitantly asked if we could split our tasting. Did you know you can do that at any of the wineries?! This was the most helpful tip I received before going to Napa. Our tasting costs were cut in half, and we still got to try plenty of wine. They give you two separate glasses, but they just pour a little less in each one if you want to share with a friend. Why didn’t I know this before?
Long Meadow Ranch – Beautiful farmhouse-chic winery with a restaurant and olive oil tastings (separate from the restaurant) in St Helena. Warning: olive oil tasting is not what you think! At least, it wasn’t what we thought it would be. Apparently, you are supposed to drink the olive oil. Now, unless you really love olive oil, I would recommend that you avoid paying for a tasting only to be surprised when they hand you a cup of olive oil to try by gulping it down (bread dipping not allowed). The grounds and restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch are wonderful, but if you still want to do an olive oil tasting, you’ve been warned.
V. Sattui – Perfect spot for a picnic in St Helena. This winery also has a deli and small market (with free cheese samplings) where you can buy all the fixins for a picnic, grab a bottle of wine, and head outside for a true Italian style picnic. They even have picnic packs you can buy for around $1 that include plates, utensils, and napkins. Note that when we checked out, our bill was almost $50 for the picnic. All those gourmet cheeses add up real quickly! Outside, there are tables and lush grass everywhere, so you’ll have no problem finding a spot, although it does get very busy.
Domaine Chandon – Champagne in Yountville. The grounds here are very pretty with sprawling hills and even a pond. Inside has much more of a modern club feel, but you can enjoy your tastings outside if you want some of that famous California sun. I know Napa Valley is famous for wine, but we wanted to do a champagne tasting too.
Dean & Deluca store – Big gourmet grocery store in St Helena. This is a must-see if you love chocolates and cheeses and cured meats and gourmet food items and basically if you like eating. There are only a few in the US, so if you have the chance, I highly recommend stopping here. They have a deli, gelato, cheeses, and all kinds of delicious gourmet goodness.
Oxbow Market – Co-op of artisan restaurants, bakeries, and shops in Napa. We loved this place. We came here for several meals because there is such a wide range of options all under one roof. Everything is farm-to-market-chic and well designed. It’s a hipster’s food and coffee paradise. Our favorite restaurant was Kitchen Door, delicious but pricey.
Bistro Don Giovanni – modern Italian restaurant in Napa. We’ve heard this is hit or miss, but it was definitely a hit for us. We intentionally went at lunch so it would be less expensive, but the dinner menu can get pricey.
Overall, we had a great time in Napa Valley and would love to go back some day. We give it two thumbs up. After all, it’s a food and wine lover’s paradise for a reason.