As we move into fall it might be time to take a little girl’s trip. Even in the current state of the world Napa’s world-class wineries and restaurants have adapted to the times with tons of outdoor seating and take-out options. And Napa’s wonderful climate makes fall the best time to sit outside (socially distanced of course) and try some wine.
I technically took this trip last fall but have included any updates to my recommended spots to visit so all the info is current.
Let’s talk a little bit about Napa real quick. Napa Valley is located just a few hours northeast of San Francisco, making it an easy day trip from the Bay Area. It’s also great for weekend trips from pretty much anywhere in the state. Napa is also the quintessential wine country here in California and made a name for itself in the 70’s when Chateau Montelena, a Napa winery, was rated best in Chardonnay at a wine competition in Paris. If you haven’t seen the movie “Bottle Shock” definitely check it out. Maybe watch it one night on your girl’s trip!
Wineries to Taste
You come to Napa to drink wine, and my goodness do they have some wine! There are so many wineries it can be a little overwhelming so I’ve listed some of my favorite wineries here. Some are more traditional while others are a bit off the beaten path, but all have amazing wine.
Domaine Carneros is one of the first wineries you come upon on your way into Napa from the Bay Area. It’s known for its bubbly wine and I always think it’s the perfect way to start out your Napa trip. The winery looks like a chateau right out fo France, sitting upon a hill surrounded by vineyards and an elegant garden in front. I’d recommend going early in the day because the front patio ends up in the shade in the afternoon and can get chilly. They also have food to snack on that will compliment your tasting experience. Tastings are by appointment only so make sure to make a reservation.
Pride Mountain Vineyards
Pride Mountain offers a full experience. You’ll taste the wines, yes, but you’ll also get a tour of the winery, some history, and all info about each wine you try. There are a few levels of tasting experience from the Standard “Estate Experience” to the more private “Summit Experience”. All appointments are for up to six guests, and reservations are a must. The wine here was awesome as was the tour of the vineyard and the beautiful scenery.
Freemark Abbey Winery
Freemark Abbey is one of the oldest wineries in Napa, and fun fact, the first winery founded by a woman in Napa. They were also one of the California wineries to win awards at that competition in Paris back in the 70’s. Their wine is outstanding which makes sense since they’ve been around so long. Reservations are required so make sure to call ahead or use their online reservation system.
Spring Mountain Vineyard
Spring Mountain is one of the prettiest wineries around, from the gardens to the victorian buildings to the rolling hills of vines, sitting outside with a glass of wine has never been more enjoyable. They have several levels of tastings depending on your budget and interest in wine, but all of them include descriptions and some history. Again reservations are required so make sure to make that appointment on their website.
Tank Garage Winery
If you are looking for something a little more rock and roll than the traditional Napa wineries, Tank Garage is your spot. The tasting room is a renovated gas station and garage, hence the name. Their mission is “to do cool shit”, and they do it well! You can do a guided tasting or pick one-offs to try, but all the wine is good so you can’t go wrong. You can make a reservation for a tasting or arrange to make a to-go order which is pretty rad, just give them a call or use their website reservation system.
Where to Eat
Napa is also known for its fine dining, places like the French Laundry really put in on the culinary map. But you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars for a good meal in Napa, there are tons of restaurants both high-end and casual that are amazing. These are my favorites.
Oxbow Public Market
I love the public market style, tons of places to eat, unique local vendors, artisan everything! Oxbow Public Market is in downtown Napa and has everything from local produce to dine in restaurants. They’ve got a large outdoor patio so you can order food and sit outside. It’s also a great option for groups that all want to try something a little different, choose from Italian, Mexican, seafood, “new” American, to pretty much anything.
We went to Hydro Grill for drinks and appetizers one night, but they have a full menu of “new” American style food that looks amazing. The service was awesome and the whole vibe of the place was welcoming and familiar. They also do brunch so it’s a pre-wine tasting or recovery option as well.
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch
Long Meadow Ranch is all about that farm to table life, they are an organic and sustainable farm growing everything from wine grapes to heirloom vegetables and pasture-raised livestock. Their restaurant Farmstead is located on the property and serves up fresh California cuisine. They also have a cafe which is a great stop for coffee and pastries in the morning.
Tra Vigne Pizzaria
There’s nothing like a delicious bowl of pasta with some red wine and Tra Vigne’s got it. We had amazing food and service and since it was our last night, we went all out with wine and dessert! The Creme Brûlée was on point! It’s one of those places that manages to balance casual dining with an upscale vibe, so you’ll have a really great meal but won’t break the bank.
Where to Stay
If you’re feeling fancy St Helena is the fanciest. Get all the luxury at Harvest Inn, I stayed here once before (on a work trip) and it is so plush! For something a little more quaint the Inn St Helena is a super cute bed and breakfast right in town. And if you want to go the Air BNB route this restored barn is beautiful!
My Wine Tasting Outfit
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