Go Now | Napa Valley

WHERE TO STAY, TASTE & DINE IN CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY.

If you’ve never been to Napa Valley, planning a trip can be overwhelming– there are nearly 400 wineries with tasting rooms and unless you’re looking to stick to the typical vine trail (read Robert Mondavi, Opus One, etc.), finding the right stops for a more individual and curated experience is going to require some legwork and, almost always, a local friend. So, after a few “research” trips of our own (we know, we know; work could definitely be worse) and some requisite poking and prodding of the right Napa natives, we’re thrilled to share our exclusive guide to the Valley with all of you… that’s what friends are for, right? Cheers, kids.

Stay | The Top 5

Hotel Yountville
Petite and charming, Hotel Yountville is one of our favorite places to stay in Napa— especially when we’re visiting with someone who has never been before. The tiny property is tucked in town which means some of the area’s best meals are a mere walk’s worth away (no need to feel guilty about that daily Bouchon pastry if you put in the steps for it, are we right?). The hotel’s rooms are farmhouse-inspired “California cozy,” and many are complete with private garden patios. (MAP IT)

Meadowood
You’d be hard-pressed to find better than Meadowood— the exclusive resort is home to a superb spa, acres of private land and, if you ask us, the region’s best fine dining restaurant. As a guest, you can start your day with a beautiful brunch, hike/bike/golf before enjoying an afternoon wine tasting, unwind with a full-body massage, and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime meal, all without ever stepping foot outside of the property. If splurging isn’t an issue, Meadowood is Napa at its finest. (MAP IT)

Auberge du Soleil
With views of vines as far as the eye can see, Auberge du Soleil is wine country’s castle in the sky. The Relais & Chateaux property sits in the hills, surrounded by 33-acres of olive grove. Its tranquil and private surroundings makes it an ideal place for couples or ladies-only groups over families— make sure to take advantage of the complimentary yoga and meditation classes in its Japanese-style pavilion, La Pagode. (MAP IT)

Carneros Resort & Spa
Hands-down, the best part about the Carneros Resort & Spa is the beach cruisers they give out at check-in. Well that, and the fact that all of its rooms are set up like mini-cottages. You’ll have your very own rocking chair-clad porch– not to mention, an outdoor claw foot tub– and there’s even an organic market on-site so you can pick up a bottle of wine before biking back to your room. (MAP IT)

Thornsberry House (via Airbnb)
OK, so this 2-bedroom beauty is technically in Sonoma, but only about 45 minutes from Napa’s best vineyards (and right in the heart of Sonoma’s vines), we felt we had to include it. On the outside, the modern home features its own swimming pool, a bocce ball court, outdoor showers and plenty of sun deck; on the inside, it’s a minimalist’s paradise of white oak floors, rod iron finishings and curated coffee table books. Go in on it with another couple and each of you are paying just $200 per night– a fraction of luxe hotel costs in the area. What’s that they say about hotels in California? Oh yeah, check in and you may never leave… (MAP IT)

Taste | The Top 5

Quintessa
If words like, “Japanese minimalism” and “French Burgundies” send your heart aflutter then, boy, do we have a vineyard for you— Napa’s Quintessa just so happens to champion them both. Set atop a hill, the sleek, clean-lined winery looks more like a Far East tea salon than it does a California distillery, and coupled with its unique grounds (there’s a lake on property), it’s easily one of the most awe-inspiring tastings in the Valley. They produce one annual red blend that typically drinks nicely; however, in our opinion, their “Illumination” Sauvingnon Blanc is what makes this winemaker most special— it holds a candle to the best and butteriest of French Burgundies. (MAP IT)

Cain
Off-the-beaten-path, Cain is nothing short of spectacular— in fact, we’re almost hesitant to share it. Specializing in Bordeaux-style reds, the vineyard’s big, bold blends may be lesser known, but we happen to think that they give the much-lauded Opus One bottles a serious run for their money. Atypical to the region, Cain’s wines aren’t “fruity,” but rather they balance notes of dark fruit (cassis, plum, cherry) with earthy, smokier flavors like coffee and tobacco ending in a more complex glass. Wonderfully, the property is also extremely green: Cain irrigates 100 percent of its 90 acres via rainwater it collects in a pond. We can’t recommend it enough. (MAP IT)

Spottswoode
One of the first vineyards in the Valley to produce biodynamic and organic wine, Spottswoode is run by sisters Beth and Lindy Novak (sadly, their mother and winery founder, Mary, passed last year). Today, the girls release two whites (a Sauvignon Blanc and a limited-production Albariño) and three reds (two Cabernet Sauvignons and one limited-production Syrah) per year, out of which their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is most popular. The Provencal-like property is picturesque in its own right, though it’s the deeply-passionate Novaks that make each visit a memorable one. (MAP IT)

Rudd Oakville
A father-daughter winery, Rudd is the handiwork of founder, Leslie Rudd, and his now-vintner daughter, Samantha, and as soon as you arrive at their intimate vineyard, you get the sense that it’s an absolute labor of love. Here, no detail is overlooked– from the ivy-covered walls and manicured gardens to the well-balanced selection of wine: two reds and two whites– but then again, Rudd is also the founder of carefully-curated market, Dean & DeLuca. Of the property’s wines, our favorite is the sweetly-named “Samantha’s Cabernet Sauvignon,” Rudd’s love letter to Napa Valley’s most cherished red. (MAP IT)

Gargiulo
The crème de la crème of Napa, Gargiulo is our all-time favorite stop in the Valley. Firstly, it’s the antithesis to the bachelorette party bus-laden tastings nearby— the boutique vineyard only allows for two bookings at any one time meaning its tours and tastings are uniquely customized.  Secondly, its wines represent the world’s most exclusive winemaking regions: Napa Valley, Bordeaux and Tuscany. A bouquet of dark berries, slate and mocha, the property’s Money Road Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like California at its best, while its Aprile “Super” Oakville features Sangiovese in a lovely ode to Italy’s Super Tuscans and Brunellos. Gargiulo’s G Major 7 Study Cabernet Sauvignon, named after the classic guitar chord, celebrates France’s Bordeaux. Reservations are hard to come by, but not to be missed. (MAP IT)

Dine | The Top 5

Meadowood
We were told by several friends to go to Meadowood over French Laundry and oh, how glad we were to have listened— it was easily one of the top five meals of our lifetime. In contrast to other prized tasting menus around the world, Meadowood doesn’t sacrifice taste for theatrics; the restaurant simply serves extraordinary plates that are beautifully presented. Here, the focus is on unique flavor combinations rather than fine dining cookie-cutter trends (think sunchoke beignets over beets and yogurt) and while specific dishes change with the seasons, the menu is almost always seafood-centric. For comparison’s sake, we found the meal to be better than one of our favorite farm-to-table tasting menus, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and much better than a set meal at Eleven Madison Park. If you indulge in one tasting menu, make it this one. (MAP IT)

La Taberna
After a full day of wine tasting, we can’t say we’re always in the mood for a big meal. That’s where La Taberna comes in: the Spanish tapas bar situated on Main Street. Inspired by the Pintxo bars of northern Spain, the cozy spot celebrates Latin flavors and Californian cuisine so its small plates range from traditional bites like jamon iberico and patatas bravas to local fare like hamachi crudo and carrots with brussels sprouts. Dimly lit with a great bar, it’s a lovely place to end the day. (MAP IT)

Bouchon
Thomas Keller’s Bouchon has long been Yountville’s crown jewel and for good reason— it is the perfect expression of a traditional French brasserie. Most of its plates are kitchen classics (think French onion soup, steak-frites, roast chicken), but Bouchon’s versions taste like you wish they always would: familiar, but not boring; comforting, but elegant. We’re partial to the café’s bacon-frisée salad and aforementioned onion soup and steak-frites, though we’ve never had a bad plate. Its neighboring bakery is also worthy of a visit to sample some freshly-baked bread and tiny treats. (MAP IT)

Redd Wood
When we imagine Californian cuisine, we picture Redd Wood, a rustic kitchen where tables seem to be perpetually decorated with warm olives, burrata, wood-fired pizzas, charcuterie and cheese. It’s the kind of fare we could eat for the rest of our days and never tire of. Pro-move: order one of their seasonally-topped pies— think mixed mushroom with kale or white anchovy with romanesco— and a smattering of small appetizers to share, then finish with an amaro affogato nightcap. (MAP IT)

Ad Hoc
Originally the answer to a much-needed “for the locals” standby, Ad Hoc is another stake in the Keller empire. Open for dinner five days-a-week and brunch, two, the comfort food spot serves just one thing: a four-course, $55 menu that changes daily. On the savory side, the first course almost always features a seasonal salad— at the moment, it’s a cauliflower-chickpea mix with cerignola olives and a curry vinaigrette— while the second is made up of a BBQ-inspired plate— be it Keller’s signature buttermilk fried chicken or a slow-cooked brisket. Sweet notes follow with a cheese course, and a final dessert (typically, a riff on an old-school classic like strawberry shortcake or the current pineapple upside cake). Ad Hoc’s bar program is also quite good with an emphasis on craft cocktails. A stop-in is a fun way to enjoy a different side of the Valley’s celebrity restauranteur. (MAP IT)

*Honorable mentions: Boon Fly Café for weekend brunch, Robert Sinskey for the surprisingly superb and gourmet wine-and-food tasting, Farmstead at Long Meadow Wood Ranch for a casual lunch or meal, Gott’s Roadside for excellent diner fare. CP

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