St. Helena, known for its charm as much as its wine, is home to the very first winery in Napa Valley. It was established in 1995 as an independent American Viticulture Area (AVA), a designated grape growing region that has specific and identifiable characteristics defined by geography, history, and climate.
It's no big surprise that visitors to the California wine country focus primarily on wine, but we’ve got our share of fantastic breweries up here too. Whether it’s a trip for a beer-loving pal who needs an extra push to get out of the city, or you just want a refreshing way to cleanse your palate between wineries, we've got you covered.
In Napa, there’s a restaurant called Tuscany. Located in the heart of downtown, the 12-year-old establishment is the kind of Italian joint that serves tiramisu and has a cover band at night.
This is Napa’s old idea of Italian. The new one is represented by Oenotri—a restaurant with Neapolitan-style pizza, house-made pastas that are judiciously sauced, roasted meats, and earnest talk of regionality and staying true to Italy’s soul. Opened in 2010 by Curtis Di Fede and Tyler Rodde—two chefs who met while working at Oliveto in Oakland—the restaurant will resonate with anyone eating their way through SF, where places like Flour + Water, Locanda, and Cotogna rule the roost. But in Napa, which is just getting its foodie foothold, Oenotri is a standout.
This is the first installment in a series of blogs that will examine the different AVAs of Napa Valley and what makes them special. We'll highlight one famous winery and one hidden gem in each region.
An American Viticulture Area (AVA) is a designated grape growing region that has specific and identifiable characteristics as defined by geography, history, and climate. The variances between AVAs lead to significantly different flavors in grapes and wine and the exact spot where the grapes are grown plays a significant role in what you like and don’t. We decided to feature Calistoga first as it’s the most recent region to be granted a separate AVA status in Napa Valley (although Coombsville is well on it’s way)
It's harvest in the wine country and for a winemaker that means it's time to start picking grapes (determined primarily based on the sugar content, measured in Brix) but for the rest of is it’s all about picking the right harvest parties to attend. Most wineries have at least one harvest party, starting as early as September and running through November, which range from grape stomps to black tie formals. These are almost always the best parties of the year and usually require reservations. Here are some of our top recommendations this year:
The wine industry is busy with harvest but it’s a three-day weekend for you, so why not a trip to the wine country for a little relaxation and celebration? September has been officially dubbed California Wine Month, so there’s a ton going on in general and many wineries will be having last minute Labor Day specials. Here are some notable deals and special events for those of you who haven’t yet decided how you want to celebrate another year of hard work.
When visiting Napa, sometimes you want to get dolled up and be treated like royalty and other times you just want to keep it casual. Here are some of my favorite tasting experiences for the times when you want to sip excellent wines in your t-shirt and jeans.
There may not be as many places to stay in Napa Valley as there are in San Francisco, but I’d wager my weight in wine that they are just as diverse. From exclusive resorts to motels out of horror movies, we’ve got it all and plenty to choose from. Some of the most elegant and exclusive resorts in Napa Valley can be found on our list of the best spas and most romantic things to do and here are more favorites from North to South (upvalley-downvalley, as we say):
There are few things better than starting (or ending) a day in the wine country with a lavish spa treatment. While I prefer a deep tissue massage to finish off a day of wine tasting, others like to escape for weekends at a time into mud baths, facials and detoxifying soaks. No matter what your pleasure, there is no more opulent place to spa than amidst the vines, where creative treatments range from mineral-enriched clay and volcanic skin detoxifiers to cabernet baths for couples. Here is a list of my favorite spots for treatments in the Valley.
If your summer plans include a jaunt to wine country the weekend of August 27th, you might consider taking off a bit early on Thursday. You'll avoid the Friday pains of the 101 bottleneck, yes, and you'll also arrive in time to catch the great Brian Wilson perform at the gorgeous Uptown Theatre in Downtown Napa on August 25th. The fact that Wilson rarely plays solo shows and that Pet Sounds is pretty much universally acclaimed as one of the best albums of all time make this an evening not to miss. Wilson will be playing some of his greatest hits (think "God Only Knows," "Don't Worry Baby" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice") as well as selections from his album Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin. ($65/$75.