With many of us looking forward to traveling again, I wanted to write about one of my favorite destinations. The Napa Valley wine region is home to some of the country’s most stunning wineries and world-renowned wines. It is also a travelers paradise, filled with Michelin-starred restaurants, luxurious spa resorts, charming inns, and breathtaking views.
I love wine, so it remains high on my list of vacation destinations. Napa was my choice for a girl’s getaway to celebrate a pre-COVID milestone birthday. I had the opportunity to check an experience off my bucket list when I soared high above the vineyards enjoying a spectacular sunrise from the basket of a hot air balloon. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life and a highlight of the trip. It’s definitely one of the most unique ways to appreciate the lush valley and rolling hills of Napa. While a trip to Napa can put a dent in your wallet, it is a once in a lifetime experience that any wine lover would truly enjoy.
There are several wineries in Napa that are favorites of mine. I’ve done many tours and tastings and have enjoyed most. Top on my list is HALL Winery Rutherford. This is a stunning winery and home of critically acclaimed HALL wines. The Chandelier tasting room located in the cave below the main level is dramatic, complete with a sparkling chandelier adorned with 1,500 Swarovski crystals that hangs from the ceiling in the shape of grape roots. Below the chandelier is a massive cherry wood table with inlaid white onyx. While the wines can be pricey, a tasting at HALL is a memorable event.
Chappellet Winery is another of my favorites. Located off the beaten path, the sprawling views from Chappellet are gorgeous. It’s also home to one of my favorite wine bargains – a red blend called Chappellet Mountain Cuvee. Peju Province, another I enjoy, is a unique winery featuring 30 sustainably farmed wines. They have an amazing art collection and beautiful gardens for visitors to enjoy. Finally, my favorite Napa cabernet is from Caymus Winery. Here you can experience wine tasting in the relaxed setting of a beautiful garden area.
Yountville Tasting Rooms
On my first trip to Napa, a friend introduced me to Yountville, a small town filled with unique tasting rooms, art galleries, shops, and amazing restaurants. Jessup Cellars has a tasting room in Yountville. It remains one of my favorites spots in Napa. Jessup has a gallery filled with beautiful artwork and some of my favorite wines. They are masters of the red blend, with a wine called Table for Four one of the best I’ve tasted.
Yountville is also home to many fine restaurants. The French Laundry, the famed Thomas Keller Restaurant, is located here. Although I’ve never been able to get reservations, it’s often listed among the best restaurants in the world. Thomas Keller owns other restaurants here as well, including Ad Hoc, where I have dined. This is a more budget-friendly restaurant with classic American dishes. He also opened Bouchon Bistro, an authentic French Bistro.
My favorite Napa restaurant is also located in Yountville. It’s Bottega, owned by Chef Michael Chiarello of Food Network fame. In Italian, Bottega means artist’s workshop, a place where a craftsman perfects his trade. The food at Bottega is artistry. I’ve dined there several times and was lucky enough to meet Chiarello. It has a beautiful rustic charm with an indoor and outdoor dining space. The highlight of the farm-to-table menu is the delicious homemade pasta. Chiarello also owns Coqueta, a tapas restaurant, and Ottimo, an Italian market/dining concept similar to Eataly in Napa.
Beyond the wine
Although wine and food are the stars of Napa, there are many other things to do and see. A hot air balloon ride like I mentioned above can give you a birds-eye view of the awe-inspiring beauty of Napa. You can also experience the tastes and sights from the elegance of the Napa Valley Wine Train, which is another experience I’m adding to my wish list. There are art galleries, museums, shops, spas, and historical sites located throughout the area. Downtown Napa is the place to find boutique shops, rooftop bars, and a year-round farmers market. Oxbow Public Market is a nice stop with food vendors to gather items for a picnic on your wine travels. You can also take a stroll along the downtown riverfront. If you’d like to get some heavier exercise, you can golf, hike or bike your way through Napa. The Napa Valley Vine Bike Trail runs from South Napa all the way to Yountville and is a great way to enjoy the beauty of nature.
Napa is a charming vacation destination any time of year. My advice if you are considering a trip, do some research and planning. It can help you tailor your trip to your budget and your interests. It’s also good to have tasting and dinner reservations if there are certain wineries or restaurants you don’t want to miss. It’s definitely a trip to add to your bucket list if you enjoy wine as much as I do.
Ruth Corcoran is a professional marketer, former restaurant owner, and community advocate. She resides in Bear Creek. Readers can reach Ruth by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.