Where To Play, Stay and Taste in Napa Valley
By Kimberly Wilson
For those who enjoy wine – seasoned and newbies alike – a visit to the wine-soaked and legendary Napa Valley is a rite of passage. If you’re like me however, and aren’t the biggest wine connoisseur, have no fear: there’s plenty more to do in Napa than enjoy the fruits of the vine. Here, in this gorgeous stretch of land just an hour north of San Francisco, visitors can immerse themselves in a collection of activities so fun and intriguing that by the end of your trip, you’ll be begging to stay. Who can blame you if you have these thoughts? The small towns that dot Highway 29 are charming, the people are kind, the food is outstanding, and the wine is some of the best in the world.
For those who’ve never been, it can be a bit confusing trying to figure out where to go and stay. The legendary Napa Valley stretches 30 miles from north to south, with the towns of Calistoga and Napa anchoring its northern and southern reaches, respectively, so there’s a lot of land to cover. Both spots offer excellent lodging, as do mid-valley hamlets St. Helena and Yountville. Here are tips for getting the most out of a trip to Napa Valley.
What better way to see the beauty of Napa Valley than 20,000 feet in the air? Taking off for sunrise, a hot air balloon ride over Napa is perhaps one of the most gorgeous views that you may ever encounter. And Aloft Hot Air Balloon has been doing this for quite some time. Founded in 1978, Napa Valley Aloft is one of the original hot air balloon companies of Napa Valley. So if you’re looking for the best, this should be your first option.
The Napa Valley Wine Train hasn’t generated many positive headlines for itself – specifically to attract people of color. But it’s a new year, and the wine train is offering some new, exciting experiences, and a guarantee of top-notch service. If you’re unfamiliar with the wine train, it is one of the few active historic passenger railroads in the United States, offering an engaging and memorable experience that echoes the glory days of train travel, with fine dining service, multi-course meals cooked to order, Napa Valley scenery and ultimate relaxation aboard exquisitely restored antique rail cars. The Napa Valley Wine Train features vintage Pullman rail cars faithfully restored with Honduran mahogany paneling, brass accents, etched glass partitions and luxurious armchairs that evoke the spirit of luxury rail travel at the beginning of the 20th century. So, if you’re all about forgiving and forgetting – the wine train should be top of list!
Silverado Resort and Spa is a luxury resort in the heart of the Napa. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure or business, you can find it all here. What’s best about the property, is that you get the feel of a large resort, with the service and attentiveness of a boutique hotel. And the resort’s amenities are pretty fantastic too: the soothing, full-service spa sets the stage for relaxing comfort, offering massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, a hair salon and more. Also, there are two PGA championship golf courses, 10 tennis courts, and biking and hiking trails on-site ensure excitement at every corner. And thanks to its location, it’s all close to more than 400 wineries.
You know the Andaz Napa is different the moment you step into the lobby (or any Andaz for that matter). Though modern, there’s no front desk, and no defined space to check-in. Instead an Andaz host greets you armed with an iPad, offering a glass of complimentary wine while you wait for your room keys. The hotel has 141 rooms with modern but comfortable style, offering complimentary snacks and drinks (non-alcoholic) from your mini-bar. Now how’s that for amenities. What also makes the property great is that its in downtown Napa, and within walking distance to plenty of attractions. So if by chance, you don’t want to stray too far, you don’t have to!
Signorello Estate introduces Enoteca Signorello, which a private tasting experience to explore the subtle nuances that make food & wine such a great pairing. Guests can enjoy the Italian Villa-style winery for a flight of our current and reserve wines paired with bites of Italian inspired delights, featuring Snake River Farms Kobe Wagyu beef. Most notably known for its estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Signorello Estate is a small family owned boutique winery that has been producing small lots of high quality wines since 1985. So, if you love a good red, this place is for you.
Situated in the Rutherford region of Napa Valley, Round Pond is another family-owned winery known for its rich, expressive wines (especially Cabernet), olive oil and farm-to-table philosophy. And might I mention, the farm-to-table brunch is simply divine? Definitely better than the boozy brunches one might experience on a weekly basis. Offering a sensory exploration of Round Pond’s handcrafted olive oils and red wine vinegars, this delicious experience is a must for dedicated foodies.
Surrounded by its purple hued mountains, Sequoia Grove Winery sits on 22 acres right in the heart of the valley floor in an important region referred to as the Rutherford Bench. What makes this unique is that the Tasting Room is housed in a 150-year-old barn, nestled among the majestic Sequoia trees. Here you will discover wines produced expressly for the winery, not available in the market, as well as the Sequoia Grove wines you’ve enjoyed from your wine shop or favorite restaurant. On a sunny day enjoy a glass of wine in out beautiful gardens, or on a rare rainy day, sip your favorite wine in their rustic tasting room.
Kimberly is a NYC-based editor, writer and social media strategist. She also moonlights as the editor of Travel Noire.