It’s been a monumental year for exciting openings in St. Helena, the sweet Napa Valley town sandwiched between Calistoga and Yountville.
With new and redesigned tasting rooms from both well-known and fresh-on-the-scene wineries plus the addition of fantastic new restaurants, an already excellent Wine Country destination is in the midst of an epic renaissance.
On this weekend itinerary, we hit the best of what’s new in St. Helena (plus a few great oldies), from the one-of-a-kind, immersive wine tasting experience at Ink Grade to the excellent dinner destination Charlie’s.
Friday: Wine Tasting + Check-in at Harvest Inn
(Courtesy of Harvest Inn)
Afternoon Tasting at Newfound Wines
There’s only one way to kick off a weekend in Napa Valley: with a wine tasting. The small, up-and-coming artisan winery Newfound Wines opened its first tasting room in the spring. In the semi-hidden space in downtown St. Helena, which feels more cozy home than Napa showpiece, you’ll get a taste of clean, fresh, organic semillons and aromatic and layered grenaches. The laid-back approach here is a perfect way to ease into a weekend of wine-stained luxury. Tastings ($50/person) are by appointment only. // 1200 Oak Ave., newfoundwines.com
Check in at the Harvest Inn.
Like a storybook village in a redwood forest, the Harvest Inn is a delightfully charming home base for a weekend in St. Helena. Five lodges housing 81 guest rooms are tucked among the grounds' eight acres where you'll also find two swimming pools with hot tubs (one is adults only) and a koi pond. The signature brick paths, bridges, and garden walls find their way inside too, forming grand wood-burning fireplaces in rooms with private, vineyard-facing patios. The rooms themselves have a quiet, earth-toned luxury translated into cloud-soft beds and generous tiled baths.
In the main building, the Harvest Table specializes in local fare, serving it up at the busy bar, on the patio, and in the dining room. Don’t be fooled by the vibe in the latter which, with the exception of the gorgeous medieval fireplace, is more basic than many of its Wine Country counterparts: Executive chef Colin Rupp’s food is fantastic. For dinner, order dishes like rich wagyu steaks with garlic confit and roasted maitake, the remarkable house pappardelle pasta with marsala cream sauce, and beautifully seared branzino with caponata and celeriac puree. It’s also the perfect spot for a leisurely pre-wine tasting breakfast (think chilaquiles and fried chicken and waffles). // 1 Main St., harvestinn.com
Saturday: Wine Tasting + Dinner at Charlie's
Ink Grade's tasting room incorporates natural elements with chic, modern style.
(Courtesy of Ink Grade)
Wine Tasting in St. Helena
Don’t be shy at breakfast; you’re going to need that cushion for the day’s three wine tastings, which is about the most we can handle while still keeping it classy. Fill up at the Harvest Inn or The Station (1153 Main St.), a bakery and cafe in a vintage gas station a few blocks away.
Stony Hill Vineyard
Alighted on the slopes of Spring Mountain, surrounded by oak forest and expansive views of the valley, Stony Hill Vineyard brings the drama. Inside, the 1951 mid-century manor does more than hold its own. Freshly reopened this summer after an extensive remodel, the house is a design magazine dream of authentic period furniture and accents. Tastings are held in private break-out spaces in the house’s original rooms, including the spectacular wood-paneled study. They’re the perfect complement to the winery’s library, which although its been traditionally known as an exquisite producer of organic and biodynamic white wines like riesling and chardonnay, is lately earning plenty of attention for its dry, high-elevation cab. Tastings start at $75/person and are by reservation only. // 3331 St. Helena Hwy North, stonyhillvineyard.com
Ink Grade may be a new label, but the land it farms has a 150 year old winemaking pedigree. While they’re in the process of constructing a winery that brings Napa Valley’s natural beauty inside, they’re operating out of a chic, modern space, called The Pavilion, near downtown. Ink Grade’s signature tasting, Senses ($125/person), is one of the most innovative in town. The immersive experience—the first in the world, they say—surrounds you with 360 degrees of sound and visuals that reveal the seasonal moods of the vineyard and inner workings of the winery as you sip fruit-forward merlots, flinty and luscious cabs, and refreshing sauvignon blanc. They also do a more traditional tasting experience ($75) by appointment Thursday through Monday. // 699 St. Helena Hwy, inkgrade.com
Orin Swift Cellars
Cult favorite Orin Swift Cellars opened its brand new tasting room this fall in downtown St. Helena’s historic Art Deco bank building. True to the brand’s elegant yet quirky character, the new space is simultaneously eclectic and well-appointed, with breakout lounge spaces arrayed around vintage furnishings and unusual art. Orin Swift’s three tastings—Rock ($45/person), Paper ($60), and Scissors ($125)—range from standing bar and seated experiences to one held in a hidden room which has been restored with a touch of offbeat love. The wines here bring the intensity and strangeness you’d expect from winemaker Dave Phinney, with opulent Bordeaux-style cabs and blends, delicately balanced chardonnays, and the unique pinot noir cuvee Burnt Sacrifice (produced in partnership with the Napa Valley Community Foundation after 2019’s devastating wildfires). // 1321 Main St., orinswift.com
Dinner at Charlie’s
Charlie’s, a new locally sourced, globally-inspired restaurant, is an incredible addition to St. Helena’s food scene. Chef-owner Elliot Bell has a way of making comfort foods feel one of a kind. This winter he’s adding aged parmesan and shaved white truffles to matzo ball soup, brown butter and potato latkes to aged wagyu, and unctuous toppings like whipped ricotta and persimmon mostarda to fire-charred flatbreads. Seafood is one of many bright spots on the menu and you can try several timely delicacies in the aptly named seafood party. Tasty cocktails, mostly uncomplicated drinks with crowd-pleasing flavors like passionfruit, poblano and burnt cinnamon, accompany a strong wine list full of both local and Old World vintages. // 1327 Railroad Ave., charliesnv.com
Sunday: Breakfast at Noma House + Shopping
Selections from the tasty new cafe and design collective, Noma House.
Breakfast at Noma House Cafe & Collective
Though it’s new on the scene, the darling little cafe and design collective Noma House is destined to become a St. Helena staple. Thursdays through Sundays, the pastry cases are piled high with kouign-amann, blueberry muffins, and seasonal treats like persimmon cookies. Grab a few to nosh with coffee while you wait for heartier dishes from the kitchen like mushroom tartines, lemon ricotta waffles, and veggie frittatas. Before heading out, take a spin around the shop, which has a curated collection of locally made goodies for home, garden, and bath. // 1429 Main St., nomahousecafeandcollective.com
Before heading out of town, take some time to pop into the row of indie shops along St. Helena’s high street. Some of our favorites include the home and garden stores Acres (1219 Main St.) and Vintage Home (1201 Main St.), clothing boutiques Elyse Walker (1381 Main St.) and Pearl Wonderful (1219C Main St.), ceramics shop Carter and Co (1231 Main St.), and jewelry purveyor Patina (1342 Main St). For design lovers, it still doesn't get much cooler than mainstay Martin Design(1350 Main St.).