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Napa Valley Guide

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I lived in Northern California for three years in my adult life, so Napa Valley was a frequent weekend getaway for my husband and me. Napa Valley isn’t a place that you can just see in one weekend, which makes it a fun place to return. In our great big California adventure, Cori Sue and I traveled from the Sonoma Valley wine region to Napa Valley to finish off our trip, and we made sure to seize every moment. From hot air balloon rides, to taking an air tram up a mountain at Sterling Vineyards for some of the best wine, we made the most of California wine country. Here, we happily share the highlights and must-dos with you. (A big thanks to Molly and the team over at Visit California for helping us plan our trip!)

Where to Stay

Meritage Resort and Spa
The Meritage Resort and Spa is where adults come to play! We stayed at this resort and loved the first-class accommodations and friendly  hotel staff, as well as comfy rooms that provided us with much-needed sleep after drinking the day away at wineries. This resort is vast, boasting more than 300 rooms, plus a number of private ballrooms for events. Beneath the beautiful, on-site vineyard is a cave where the Trinitas Cellars Tasting Room is located. They even having a bowling alley. We loved the Tuscan-inspired design of the resort. While looking out at the large vineyard in the back of the property, you really do feel as if you have been transported to Italy.

The rooms are lovely, with large windows and floor-to-ceiling curtains. It’s the ideal place to retreat and relax during your time in wine country. This is a good spot for adults to leave the kids at home and enjoy a getaway. We loved seeing ladies lounging at the pool enjoying their girls weekend, and couples roaming the halls in bathrobes after finishing a treatment at the luxurious spa. But fear not, those who plan on taking the kids with them to wine country; this resort is totally kid-friendly and it’s easy to keep an eye on the kiddos at this resort. You never have to leave, it simply has it all.  Meritage Resort and Spa, 875 Bordeaux Way, Napa, California

The White House Inn
This is where my husband and I have stayed on our past weekend getaways to Napa, and I could not recommend this inn enough. Couples or girlfriends visiting Napa: if huge resorts aren’t your thing, and you prefer boutique hotel accommodations and a cozy retreat, then the White House Inn and Spa is the perfect place for you. Featuring 17 rooms, this inn is the definition of charming. The gorgeous white-columned facade is cute enough, but equally awe-inspiring is the chic, modern decor inside. Warm fireplaces welcome you, as do the stunning, lush gardens that surround the inn. Accommodations include a pool, a hot tub, a luxury in-house spa, in addition to daily tapas-style breakfast offerings featuring culinary delights created by the staff. The staff are welcoming; the rooms are wonderful; and the memories to be made are sure to be unforgettable— I can speak from experience! The White House Inn, 443 Brown Street, Napa, CA 

Where to Brunch

Goose and Gander
Goose and Gander is the perfect spot to gather for a relaxed brunch, in a beautiful setting, with culinary creations that are even more beautiful than the surrounding scenery. Located in a 1920s farmhouse, the restaurant spot boasts rich leather booths, warm fireplaces, a picturesque garden and patio, as well as a basement cocktail bar specializing in unique and classic libations. We would recommend this place to anyone looking to have the perfect weekend brunch. Right in the heart of the small town of St. Helena, you are within walking distance to some of the best wine rooms, vineyards, and Napa Valley hotspots. Read our full review hereGoose and Gander, 1245 Spring Street, St. Helena, CA

Alexis Baking Company
I might be biased, but I bet Alexis Baking Company is just the best. Hey! Alexis’ have to stick together! Alexis Baking Company, or ABC as it is often affectionately called, is a common recommendation from locals, and is the sole café in what is referred to as the “West End” of Napa. Known for its sweets, especially cakes, the café serves breakfast daily. Alexis Baking Company and Cafe, 1517 Third Street, Napa, CA

Grace’s Table
Grace’s Table is a corner spot on Second Street in downtown Napa that serves food representing France, Italy, and the Americas. What we love about their brunch is that while the restaurant offers a few classic dishes, it also boasts a fresh take on brunch dishes such as iron skillet cornbread with lavender honey butter,  southwest tamales, Argentinian empanadas, a seared ahi tuna Niçoise salad with a crispy egg, and house-cured salmon gravlax, among other savory dishes. Grace’s Table, 1400 Second Street, Napa, CA

Bouchon
It wouldn’t be a trip to Napa Valley without stopping at one of the many award winning restaurants run by one of the most well-known chefs in the country. Totally worth the wait, and definitely a must-visit spot, is famed chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. Located in the center of Yountville alongside Keller’s Bouchon Bistro, it is somewhere you have to go while in Napa. Don’t be discouraged by the long line, because the fresh baked offerings made daily by some of the best pastry master-minds in the world are soooo worth it. Pop in for a quick bite and enjoy croissant breakfast sandwiches, among other delectable items, to get something in your stomach before heading out and drinking copious amounts of wine. Bouchon Bakery, 6528 Washington Street, Yountville, CA

The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil
If you are looking for a fancy, but more importantly an unforgettable brunch, then be sure to make reservations at The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil in beautiful Rutherford. This enchanting restaurant offers a fine dining experience from one of the best vantage points in all of the valley, and they have 11 consecutive Michelin stars that agree. Mediterranean-inspired cuisine represents the natural diversity and rich seasonal produce available in the Napa Valley, where their ingredients are locally sourced. The restaurant is also home to one of the most extensive cellars in Napa, boasting a whopping 15,000 different varietals from all over the world. What makes this dining experience truly memorable is the breathtaking views of all of Napa Valley. The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil, 180 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford, CA

Brix
Brix Restaurant and Gardens in Napa Valley is truly a wine country classic, pairing contemporary French-inspired California cuisine with a comprehensive collection of the valley’s finest wines. Brix is designed to take full advantage of its 16 prime acres of Napa Valley gardens and vineyards with spectacular views of the Mayacamas mountains. Brix offers a Sunday brunch buffet that is definitely worth the price, thanks to the seafood bar, cheese selection, items from the wood oven and charcoal grill, as well as classic breakfast and dessert items. Just a stone’s throw from the restaurant you will find pièce de résistance of the grounds at Brix: the flower and vegetable gardens and an orchard.  Brix, 7377 St. Helena Highway, Yountville CA

Bites When You Need a Break From Wine

Clif Family Tasting Room and Bruschetteria Food Truck
We swung by the Clif Family Tasting Room for a bruschetta and wine pairing, and highly recommend people check out this unique concept. Owners of the first food truck in Napa, the Clif Family is no stranger to breaking the mold; they are the folks behind Clif Bars, the go-to energy bar found everywhere. Additionally, they produce wine, which we just loved.  The bruschettas are not your ordinary tomato-and-bread appetizer. They are huge, and are served in a variety of ways, featuring daily menu items such as a funghi bruschetta with fontina and chives, and a fresco bruschetta with roasted cauliflower, baby carrots, wilted endive, melted burrata, topped with garum vinaigrette and mint. This is one of the best things we have ever had to munch on while sipping wine. Clif Family Winery, 709 Main Street, St. Helena, CA

Gott’s Roadside
For anyone who craves delicious, high-quality fare in a welcoming, down-to-earth spot, Gott’s Roadside is a tried-and-true local favorite. You will easily pass by the Napa location or the one in St. Helena when driving through either, as Gott’s is hard to miss with its large street sign and huge patio that’s nearly always full. Come here for the freshest roadside burgers, with locally sourced ingredients, or a more upscale sandwich like the ahi tuna burger. This is not your average drive-through burger joint. Gott’s Roadside, 933 Main Street, St. Helena, CA and 644 1st Street, Napa, CA

La Luna Market & Taqueria
Fatigued by the fancy, farm-to-table Americana fare and French food offerings that seem to dominate Napa Valley? Well, we have the perfect solution for a break between wine and fine dining. La Luna Market & Taqueria has been a staple in Napa Valley for more than 40 years. A simple, yet delicious, Mexican taqueria, the spot is most known for the fully-loaded burritos, but also offers tacos, quesadillas, and for the brunching Bitch who loves burritos, fully loaded breakfast burritos are available before 11 a.m. La Luna Market & Taqueria, 1153 Rutherford Road, Rutherford, CA

Dinner 

Photo courtesy of Eater SF

Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch
Cori Sue and I drove by Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch during our short visit to Napa Valley and St. Helena, and I promise you that if we had one extra day, this would have been top on our list. Farmstead is a beautiful, menu-driven restaurant serving American food and using fresh ingredients from the farm, ranch, and winery. The ranch itself is gorgeous and also home to a general store and a café, not to mention a gorgeous farm and winery that stretch as far as the eye can see. Dating back to the late 1800s, this place is rich in what makes Napa Valley so spectacular: fine cuisine, beautiful land, and great wine. Farmstead also serves brunch, and while the menu isn’t super extensive, we imagine it’s still fantastic. Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, 738 Main Street, St Helena, CA

Angèle Restaurant & Bar
Somewhat in hidden part of in downtown Napa, Angèle Restaurant & Bar is easy to spot thanks to its bright yellow exterior. Offering refined bistro fare in a French country setting, the restaurant’s dining room is housed in a 1890s ship chandlery now known as the Hatt Building. Romantic and elegant, this spot is the perfect place for an intimate dinner for two. Additionally, the outside patio offers stunning riverside views. Angèle Restaurant & Bar, 540 Main Street, Napa, CA

Ad Hoc
While it can be difficult to get reservations at other famed Thomas Keller spots (Bouchon + French Laundry), we highly recommend you attempt to get into Ad Hoc, his casual dining venue that showcases Keller’s favorite childhood comfort foods. Offering a daily-changing, four-course menu, served family style, Ad Hoc provides a unique dining experience to be shared by all.  Ad Hoc, 6476 Washington Street, Yountville, CA

The Farm at Carneros Inn
Arguably my favorite restaurant in Napa Valley, The Farm at Carneros Inn is, simply put, fantastic. Off the beaten path from downtown Napa, this restaurant is totally worth the trek. At night, the restaurant is located in darkness thanks to the vast surrounding land, but is fiercely lit as you approach the restaurant thanks to the long, expansive outdoor fireplace. After dining on exciting menu items that showcase simple yet elegant, ever-changing menu items, definitely grab a glass of wine and retreat to the outdoor area to enjoy the cool breeze and warm fire, with a delicious glass of vino. Bitch Tip: We highly recommend Ubering or taxiing, as we warn that is is very easy to order a bottle (or two!) and relax for an extended amount of time! The Farm at Carneros Inn, 4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa, CA

What about the wine?!

In my many visits to Napa, I have had the privilege of visiting all different types of wineries and vineyards, from large, well-known estates and brands like Berringer, to small, family-owned vineyards off the beaten path. There are just so many wineries to visit, that it’s impossible to list all of the great ones. Below, are some of our favorites, as well as a list of wineries that we look forward to checking out in the future, thanks to recommendation from both locals and the Visit Napa Valley team.

Bitch Tip: During our downtime between scheduled winery visits, Cori Sue and I were eager to check out other wineries. Having been to Napa, I was full of recommendations, but we soon discovered that it is nearly impossible to get same-day visits to the wineries these days. Tours or not, we highly recommend calling ahead and making a reservation, as opposed to just popping in. You can be turned away, so call in advance to secure a chance to sample the wines you really want to try!

Sterling Vineyards
First on our list is Sterling Vineyards, a winery and vineyard that offers one of the most unique ways to have a winery experience. Arrive at the winery and enter through the long driveway; you will approach an aerial tram station! From there you will step into a four person cable car that will take you up the huge hill to the top where the winery is located. With functionality and aesthetics in mind, Sterling wanted to provide visitors with an astounding view of the valley while as not to disrupt the hill. Once at the top, you will walk through the path throughout the large estate, stopping at each counter to sample some of the wines. It is by far one of the coolest ways to explore a winery.  Sterling Vineyards, 1111 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, CA

Mumm Napa 
Mumm Napa is one of my must-visit wineries when staying in Napa. Mumm is certainly my favorite California sparkling wine, as I frequently purchase magnums for special occasions! A visit to the winery is truly an experience, as Mumm marries French tradition with California style. The winery is certainly pretentious in some ways: you most definitely need a reservation, and you’re cut off after two glasses of bubbly. That said, it’s still high on our list: the terrace is stunning, the décor is wonderful, and it’s hard to find a better place to relax with a glass of sparkling wine. Mumm Napa, 8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford, CA

Frog’s Leap Winery
With a slogan of “Time’s fun when you are having flies,” Frog’s Leap is a place you will go to stay awhile, play multiple games of cornhole in the back yard and sip its delicious sauvignon blanc, my personal favorite. From the open-air tasting room and estate house with its beautiful interior, to the wrap-around porch overlooking the vineyard, Frog’s Leap is a perfect place to relax. Frog’s Leap offers loads of spots for the perfect Insta-shot: fields of yellow mustard flowers, a cute red barn in the distance, and a peach orchard that fruits in the summer months. My favorite, of course, is the chicken coop with lots of feathered friends. Frog’s Leap Winery, 8815 Conn Creek Road, Rutherford, CA

Provenance
Provenance was a winery that I fit in as our last winery visit on our way back to San Francisco as our Napa Valley adventure came to a close; I am a fan of their wines. Provenance has a lovely tasting room and a huge patio with an outdoor fireplace, perfect for gathering with friends. We sampled loads of their red wines, and were even given a fresh taste using the wine thief from a barrel of their most recently barreled wines; very cool. Provenance, 1695 St. Helena Highway South, Rutherford, CA

The Hess Collection
One of the most intriguing wineries I have ever visited, The Hess Collection is another place we recommend visiting. While Napa Valley is home to great food and great wine, it is also home to great art. The Hess Collection is a wine tasting room and an art museum, featuring works from the private collection of founder Donald Hess. The art in the museum is absolutely incredible, featuring works from 20 living artists whom Hess carefully limits his focus on and faithfully supports long term. This is truly a unique winery visit that is a must for art enthusiasts. The Hess Collection, 4411 Redwood Road, Napa, CA

Artesa Vineyards and Winery
While on the subject of art and wine, I cannot go without mentioning another fabulous winery home to some beautiful works of art. Called the “Jewel of Carneros,” Artesa Vineyards and Winery is truly breathtaking. You never forget your first Napa Valley winery, and therefore Artesa will always hold a special place in my heart! Set high on a hilltop overlooking its own estate vineyards while offering panoramic views of Napa Valley and the San Francisco Bay, Artesa is vast and a wonderful place to explore. It is a complete interplay of art and wine, from the many sculptures and flowing water works that are found throughout the estate, to the wonderful architecture and design of the building itself. Artesa Vineyards and Winery, 1345 Henry Road, Napa CA

Things to Do:

Sure, drinking wine all day is fine and dandy. But, while it’s easy to get drunk all day, every day in Napa, we suggest you spend time taking in some activities and seeing the sights offered. Napa Valley offers absolutely breathtaking nature,  so we encourage seeing all that the region has to offer.

Napa Valley Aloft Hot Air Ballooning
At the very, very, very, top of our list (like way up in the air!) is the Napa Valley Aloft hot air ballooning experience.  This is honestly the most spectacular and inspiring way to see Napa Valley, or earth for that matter! The weather called for rain, so we were nervous it might be canceled, which would have meant we would have been able to sleep in past 6:00 in the morning, but still bummed us out. We called the weather line, and thankfully we were clear for take off! We arrived, and watched as the team of hot air ballooning experts blew up the massive hot air balloons, and before we knew it, we were hoping in the basket and rapidly approaching the clouds. Totally worth getting up exceptionally early, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Bitch Tip: Head across the street to Bouchon Bakery afterwards! Napa Valley Aloft Hot Air Ballooning, 6525 Washington Street, Yountville, CA

Napa Valley Bike Tours & Rentals
Talk about “will bike for wine,” While you don’t have to be an avid cyclist like many Napa residents, you can still pedal your way through the valley! Napa Valley Bike Tours & Rentals offers one of the best ways to see wine country. They provide an array of experiences to suit every visitor regardless of biking experience and desired length of bike ride. As long as you can pedal on two wheels, you’re good to go! Napa Valley Bike Tours & Rentals, 6500 Washington Street, Yountville, CA and 3259 California Blvd. Napa, CA 

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  1. Hi, This was super helpful. I am considering adding Mumm Napa to our itinerary for a Bachelorette trip in August. Is a group of 10 too much for Mumm’s atmosphere or do you think they would be able to accomodate? Thanks!

  2. Hi Kaleigh! We love Mumm! We highly recommend, though, calling ahead in the weeks before to make a reservation. The Patio and Oak Terrance are perfect for groups, but you must call ahead to make a reservation! They should have the group reservation line on their site. Cheers and enjoy Napa!

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