Fact: it is impossible to fully explore and enjoy Napa in one weekend.
That is because across its 35 miles, there are more than a dozen distinct regions, notably Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Stag’s Leap, Carneros, Napa Valley, American Canyon, Lake Berryessa and Yountville. Each region has its own activities and attractions, not to mention its own personality and vibe.
But, fear not. You can, in fact, explore one region pretty well over a (long) weekend.
If you want to go big, go Yountville.
Notably home to some of the top culinary “musts” in the country and ground zero for the best hot air balloon rides in Northern California, Yountville – just south of Rutherford and Oakville and north of Carneros – is considered by most as the poshest of Napa viticulture areas. It also happens to be the site of Napa Valley’s first known planted grapevines.
So, let’s get you started in planning!
First, let’s talk resorts, because Yountville has some doozies. A personal favorite is Hotel Yountville.
Located walking distance from a dozen tasting rooms, boutiques and restaurants, Hotel Yountville is in the middle of all the area’s best action. It also happens to be breathtakingly beautiful with elegance to spare. The actual hotel is built using river rocks from the nearby Napa River as well as heavy timber beams and copper accents. It makes for a statement upon arrival. The grandeur, however, is tempered by the intimacy of the hotel. With just 80 rooms and suites, every single guest feels like a VIP. Planning an extra special weekend? Splurging on the Yountville Suite – the hotel’s largest room – is well worth it. At 1,100 square feet, it feels like a palace. Of particular note is the two-person spa tub, freestanding rainfall and steam shower and full living room with its own fireplace. There is also a private patio with its own Zen garden.
Speaking of Zen, even if not staying in the Yountville Suite, blissing out is a snap, thanks in great part to the fountains and gardens that cover the property as well as the pool pavilion and its connected spa. The Spa at Hotel Yountville is a haven that encourages rest and rejuvenation. A full-service spa with six treatment rooms, a relaxation room and boutique store, The Spa offers treatments that include full-body massages, couples’ massages, facials, wraps and body polishes. Specialty features of The Spa include two couple’s spa suites, which feature Swiss showers, luxurious double hydrotherapy tubs and fireplaces. Again, well worth the splurge!
Sip and Savor
The Hotel at Yountville also has a culinary program that stands up to the fellow award-winning eateries in the area in its Heritage Oak. There, for both breakfast and lunch, expect a seasonally conscious menu inspired by a bounty of fresh produce and ingredients. Beyond Hotel Yountville, dining in the region is on pretty much every foodie’s bucket list, thanks in great part to its most famous eatery, French Laundry.
And yes, French Laundry is THAT good. However, given reservations for the restaurant can take months, I most often opt for a handful of other hot spots that will tickle your taste buds just a thoroughly.
I especially love RH Yountville. What does the Rh stand for, you ask? Wait for it…Restaurant Hardware. Flashy, splashy and nearly a full block long, the Restoration Hardware-owned property is a wine, food and shopping mecca comprised of five separate experiences: an indoor/outdoor restaurant with a glass roof surrounded by trees and adorned with eye-poppingly beautiful chandeliers; a two-story wine tasting space; a limited production wine tasting center that looks like Lisa Vanderpump’s Villa Rosa (and we mean that in a good way!); an espresso bar; and a boutique design gallery bigger and better than the biggest and best you’ve ever seen.
Lucy Restaurant & Bar at Bardessono Resort is also a must. Sustainable both in its design and its dishes, Lucy is NorCal fine dining at its best. Goodies from the certified organic garden? Check! Mind-bending wine list? Check! Mad mixologists and liquid artists behind the bar? Check. Dog-friendly? Check!
Finally, since we only have the weekend (though I could go on forever), also hit up North Block. The restaurant takes advantage of the proximity to the nearby Pacific Ocean, dishing up both raw and cooked delicacies from the sea including oysters, halibut and black cod. Don’t sleep on the pizza here, either.
In line with the entire culinary vibe of the region, of course many of the tasting rooms and wineries have amazing food and wine tastings as well, like Silver Trident.
Beyond Silver Trident, I am a huge fan of the butter tasting at Handwritten Wines. It slays. During the 90-minute experience, you have the opportunity to taste five wines paired with a bevy of artisan butters. And yes, of course there are vessels and complements with the butter, including white truffle potato chips, Jamón, P’tite Basque cheese and all sorts of breads.
At Priest Ranch, in place of butter is…bacon. So.Much.Bacon. Over the course of tasting, you will sample four distinct cuts of locally raised heritage Berkshire (Kurobuta) pork belly, each with a wine paired to enhance its taste.
And how about this – Silver Trident, Handwritten and Priest Ranch are walking distance from each other, Hotel Yountville and many of the restaurants above, so you can enjoy the entire day sans car (and sans designated driver).
As for other “must” wineries in the area, don’t sleep on Frog’s Leap, Bell Wine Cellars, Cliff Lede and Chandon are also well worth making reservations to enjoy.
Finally, no weekend in Yountville is complete without a hot air balloon ride. Napa Valley Aloft has been offering Yountville take-offs since the 1970’s and is also walking distance from Hotel Yountville. Several of its flights can be made private or semi-private and most offer champagne in the sky as an enhancement. Most flights are three-to-four hours, and all offer a 360-degree view of all of Napa Valley like you’ve never seen before.
For more information on Yountville, click www.yountville.com.