I simply cannot choose between Napa Valley in autumn or in the springtime. Each has a unique beauty, rhythm and soul. In spring it’s the flowering brilliant yellow mustard under the bluest skies and billowy white clouds, tinged with pink in the sunset. In autumn it’s the rich, abundant golds, fiery reds, crimsons of fall leaves on the vines and the heady scent of the ‘crush’ in the air. There is a touch of chill and the fragrance of smoke from a distant fireplace.
Napa Valley~the earth, the green, the vines, the leaves, the cool blue shadows on the surrounding hillsides~is a natural beauty. Combine it with fabulous wines, ultra luxurious resort hotels, deluxe spas and the finest in award wining dining and you have the whole package.
Please….you had me at wine, and now all this?
I had the great fortune to live in the Napa Valley for four years during my college days. Later in life I lived only miles away in the North Bay area. This valley feels as much like home to me as anywhere on earth. I live in Chico now, but my husband and I travel to the wine country at least twice a year (I think that was written in our vows). I will touch on a few of our favorites and include a guest post on favorite wineries written by Scott Lindstrom, my favorite travel companion/husband.
On a recent weekend we had the pleasure of meeting dear friends for a birthday brunch at Lucy Restaurant, located at the Bardessono Hotel/Spa in Yountville. This resort has a sleek feel with natural elements, wood and water features, and naturalized landscaping. It’s relaxed but don’t let that fool you, it’s also luxurious.
Redd, Bistro Jeanty, Bouchon and now Lucy, are some of our favorite dining spots in Yountville.
Heading north on Hwy 29 you will pass the iconic Oakville Grocery, the perfect place to buy a gourmet picnic lunch of baguette, fresh cheeses, olives, fruits and a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc (maybe a mocha truffle too!).
St. Helena still retains the charm of days gone by, though many of the boutiques and restaurants have gone upscale. The autos that crowd Main Street on the weekends are definitely much more luxurious than ever before. A new find this trip was French Blue where we had a delightful early dinner on the bricked in patio with fireplace. Our service was friendly and the fare delicious.
I am always pleased to see some of the same locals, The Model Bakery, Goodman’s Clothing, Vasconi’s Pharmacy, Steve’s Hardware, are still in business since back in my college days.
The Olive Oil Company in the old bank-including a vault- is a charming stop.
As we strolled along Main Street a painting in the window captivated us at the I. Wolk Gallery .
The artist is Kate Salenfriend, a Valley local. Rob Watermeyer, a charming art consultant with the Bespoke Collection, shared more about Kate’s style of painting and her method of layering with gold for a truly mesmerizing impact. These images don’t quite do Kate’s work justice, but she is an amazing talent working in a unique style all her own.
Each view was lovelier than the next on this gorgeous day.
Patio dining at Solbar is practically poolside dining. This spot was simply begging us to linger most of the afternoon, so we did. Solage liked my Instagrams of Solage so much they invited me to come back to throw a party…..or maybe I just dreamed the invitation. They did like my photos.
No trip to the Napa Valley is complete without tasting the local bottled fruits. I suggest you not get carried away, but choose two or three wineries to taste (each day). This will leave you time to linger at a local cafe for a long lunch… with wine. You really do not want to be driving intoxicated, so you might designate a driver who tastes less, or consider splitting tastings between you and your partner. (Yes, it is totally acceptable to share a tasting, especially if you purchase a bottle or two.) We always laugh about how much more we are willing to spend for a nice bottle at the winery than we would ever consider in Safeway or BevMo, but realize it is a treasure to take home and part of the real wine country experience.
Now if you’d like to kick of your day of tasting with some bubbly as you enter the valley, make a quick stop at Domaine Carneros. This is the fabulous chateau-style building on the hill as you enter the valley from the south. They have an expansive view from their large patio, and your hard-earned relaxation can get a head-start here. If you are coming into the valley later in the afternoon, stop here before heading to your hotel.
Miner Family – is a small, family vineyard with a super friendly and informal tasting room. Here you will feel like you’re hanging out with friends. By the end, you might be! Their price points range from very affordable to pricey, so you are sure to find some to take along. I always love the big reds, but their Pinot Noir and red blends are also fab. (Don’t be afraid of a red blend! Some of the tastiest and most affordable these days are blends.) If their winemaker, Gary Brookman, is around, ask about his own Brookman Cab.
Rombauer – this just might be the sweetest tasting room in the valley. It is small, so sometimes crowded, but is nestled in the trees on a hillside surrounded with gorgeous views and beautiful gardens. Rombauer is best known for Chardonnay and Zinfandel. I’m not normally a fan of the Chard, but you have to taste this one; swirl it in your mouth, swallow and stay tuned… you’ll have a bit of pear, oak, and a long, long buttery finish. As for the zin, they are consistently great—sometimes almost too intense on the jammy fruit, almost like a port–but you must grab a bottle of this for your collection.
Stags Leap – oh my gosh!!! It’s a beautiful place with spectacular reds! Consider going for the upscale tasting (again, you can share), because their Cab is definitely worth it. We were lucky enough to taste with a great friend who is a member here, and it was probably the best tasting we’ve experienced… and I’ve tasted some wine…
Further up valley, Mumm is a treat with a tasting patio that looks across the valley just a few feet from its vineyards. Tasting is at tables, and the staff is warm, friendly, and unpretentious. You’ll love this place!
For a very different experience, check out Darioush. The exterior of the winery looks like a palace imported from the Middle East, and it has a huge, opulent tasting room. Tasting here is a real scene… if that’s what you enjoy. Last time we were there, it was like joining a party with the somewhat young and beautiful. Of course, we fit right in! Their wines are a bit pricey, but also very good.
That Scott, he’s good isn’t he? The only other post he wrote for Stylemindchic was a big favorite
on love letters here. I always love it when he stops by.
Here’s to friends, laughter, vines and wine country!
Thanks for having a Birthday, KK!
Do you have any favorite spots in Wine Country?
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