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.
The first-ever Napa Valley Film Festival debuts this November in a five day "extended weekend" run of the best of new independent films, studio sneak previews, and conversations with actors, directors, producers and writers, giving you one more reason to cruise up to the picturesque communities of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. It's set to be the perfect storm of film buffs, food and wine lovers attending unforgettable parties, tribute and awards programs, culinary demonstrations, wine tasting and late-night lounges.
My friends want it all when they come to the wine country. They want to visit all their favorite places but grumble when they’re left with little or no time to discover new things. They want to try limited production wines, brands and varietals their friends haven't heard of, but don’t want to spend the extra bucks on random picks at restaurants or drive to the far reaches of the valley. In the past, my answer to their plights was simply: "Visit more often and stay longer." But there is another solution: Winery collectives and downtown tasting rooms.
Many of 450 or so wineries in Napa Valley are too far off the beaten path for an easy day-trip from SF. But it might surprise you to learn how many of the best “off the beaten path” spots are actually only a stones throw away from the iconic wineries that line Highway 29. Here are a few new favorites:
Summer is here and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be spending most of your time at BBQs and hanging outdoors by pools, rivers and cool waters. But what wine to bring? Everyone’s tastes are different so there’s no right answer, but here are some of my favorites, a few summer-safe varietals and the top picks of a local expert:
Ever wonder why you can spend a whole evening drinking wine and wake up feeling fine, or drink just a glass or two and wake up with a pounding headache? The anti-hangover rallying cry is typically "avoid cheap wine," but when your next-day happiness is in question, it's good to have an arsenal of more specific tactics. So we turned to Jordan Kivelstadt (winemaker at Qualia Wines and founder of Silvertap Wines), Keith Emerson (winemaker at Vineyard 29), Ignacio Delgadillo (winemaker at Delgadillo Cellars), Kale Anderson (winemaker at Cliff Lede Vineyards) and Kent Jarman (winemaker at Joseph Kent Wines) to get some answers. We found that while wine hangovers are not an exact science, the level of pain in the morning is directly related to these things: Alcohol level, yeasts, oak flavor, tannins, additives, congeners and sulfites.