The Napa Valley has to be my favorite place for a weekend getaway. Imagine being surrounded by a landscape of rolling hills striped with vines, the air perfumed with sun warmed grapes and feeling the crunchy graveled path below your feet that lead you to what looks like a chateau in France or a villa in Tuscany. The reward of your destination, tasting some of the best wine and cuisine in the world. Somehow it all feels nostalgic to me. As if all of these senses remind me of home. My hope is that you take the opportunity to visit. Here is an itinerary for an unforgettable trip to this world famous wine growing region.
10am Take a bike ride along the Silverado trail. Starting in Yountville, where I like to stay, there is a 18-35 mile loop that leads you up the Silverado Trail, which is a main road with a generous bike lane. After 5 miles, make a left on Oakville Cross Road. In 4 miles, stop at Oakville Grocery for a picnic and well deserved lunch break. This cute gourmet market serves delicious salads, sandwiches, baked goods and small batch sodas.
Biking along the Silverado Trail
2pm Check in, relax, you’re in Napa! Stay in my favorite town, Yountville, a small tight knit community off the St. Helena highway. Here is a cost saving secret….stay at the Napa Valley Railway Inn. The rooms are converted railcars and a caboose that are surprisingly spacious and clean. The prices in Yountville are extremely high because of the world class restaurants and because it is the cutest town to boot. The Napa Valley Railway Inn is right in the center of town starting at $175 a night compared to the $500+ nightly rate for the Vintage Inn, Bardessono Hotel & Spa and the rest.
Napa Valley Railway Inn
5pm Spend the evening in Downtown Napa. The famous Iron Chef’s Morimoto is my favorite place to have dinner. The calamari salad will melt in your mouth. The sake and tuna tartar is served in an artful presentation, too pretty to eat. Before or after dinner, check out the Oxbow Public Market which houses a variety of food stores, wine and dessert options. Stroll along the Napa River and if you are lucky, there will be a live band playing at the Veterans Memorial Park on the water.
9am Grab a quick breakfast at Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. You cannot go wrong with any of the pastries and sandwiches your mouth will salivate over. I personally like the giant sized macarons, mini lemon meringue tarts and simple ham and cheese sandwiches on a fresh baked chewy baguette. You will be glad you didn’t stop by after 11:00am when the lines form to an uncomfortable 40 minutes long.
10am Schedule a pick up time for a day of wine tasting. Hire a driver. This is worth the splurge. Miles and I enjoy getting to know the drivers because they are familiar with the wineries, will entertain you with industry gossip and have made great recommendations. One time, we had a driver that gave us his 2 prized bottles of zinfandel that were autographed by the wine purveyor, Tobin James, himself.
MUMM. This is my favorite place to kick off a day of wine tasting. Enjoy a flight of sparking wine on their large patio that overlooks miles and miles of vineyards. Try the Cuvée M Red, a sparkling red wine that is only available at the winery.
Cakebread Cellars. I enjoy this winery because the tasting takes you on a tour of the property where you can get an appreciation for the wine making process. It is a nice change of pace (pun intended) from standing at a bar or sitting. Your guide will also educate you on wine pairings and will offer recipe cards to take home.
In the vines at Cakebread
Beringer Vineyards. To me, Beringer seems like a high production, touristy wine but I really enjoy trying their tasty reserve wines in the historic Victorian mansion that serves as a tasting room.
Rhine House Mansion at Beringer
Joseph Phelps Vineyards. End your wine tour with the best panoramic views of the valley. Located on a hillside, taste their award winning Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon on the terrace overlooking the vineyards, embracing the last few hours of the warm California sun. Visit Silverado Vineyards if you want a destination with similar sweeping views, in a more convenient location and less expensive.
Silverado Vineyards for my bachelorette party
Want more? Here are a few more wineries that cap off my top ten favorites. Castello di Amorosa is a touristy but unique tasting experience because the estate is an authentically-built 13th century Tuscan castle . Caymus Vineyards was a well worth recommendation from a driver who didn’t disappoint. Try the Bella Glos Pinot Noir, let me know if you taste root beer or Dr.Pepper on your palate. Visit Stags Leap or Silver Oak if you want to experience a couple more famous Cabernets of Napa Valley. If you are a movie enthusiast, visit Inglenook and tour the estate that has 130-years of history and owned by Francis Ford Coppola since 1975. Check out some of his movie mementos and an Oscar on display. Did I mention the Rubicon wine is delish and tastings are paired with artisan cheeses? Yes please!
8pm Dinner at Bouchon Bistro in Yountville is a must. This is 2 starred Michelin restaurant owned by Chef Thomas Keller, world famous for the French Laundry, his 3 starred Michelin restaurant next door that can easily cost $1000 for two. At Bouchon, everything on the menu is lovingly prepared with style. Make sure you come with an appetite because the complementary leaf inspired bread is to die for, and that is not even the first course.
1pm Before heading home, take time to brunch at Farmstead at Longmeadow Ranch. More than a restaurant, this ranch offers a General Store where you can taste and shop for wine, honey, olive oils, vinegars and organic produce that the farm provisions.
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch
Alternatively, If you don’t have the time, eat at Gott’s Roadside across the street for a casual old fashion burger, shake and fries.
More time? If you have the time and energy to sweat and detox, I suggest a 3 miles hike to the Bale Grist Mill where you tour a water-powered mill that was built in 1846 and in use today for demonstration.
Bale Grist Mill
Please share your experiences. Let me know your favorite places and things to do in Napa.
Have fun exploring!