We are definitely taking advantage of all the perks #NerdNation has to offer. Yes that’s right, I said it. My little sister is a freshman at Stanford University and loving all that Palo Alto and the world of programming computers has to offer. Due to my passion for travel, and love for my little sister, we planned a big trip out west to see what California is all about! Before heading to the Stanford Campus, we decided to spend a few extra days exploring (and drinking) our way through Napa Valley. Landing at the San Francisco airport, we used a rental car to drive about 1.5 hours north toward Napa. Of course there was a little bit of traffic here and there, but overall it’s an easy scenic drive.
After hearing rave reviews about the town of Yountville, I decided that this would be a great “home base” for our daily activities around the region. From the hotel, to the various wineries, activities and restaurants, Napa Valley has it all and Yountville was the perfect starting point! I was amazed with the natural beauty of the rolling hills and the genuine friendliness of the locals — making the trip easy, enjoyable and memorable. Please read below for more specific tips and details on where to stay, the best vineyards to taste, along with restaurant and activity options! I captured some spectacular shots behind my LADY lens and look forward to sharing these photographs + tips with you… Enjoy!
Where to Stay
There are a variety of hotel options in the Yountville area. Typically most of the hotels in the downtown area are a bit pricey. To find something on the more affordable end of prices, try one of these Bed & Breakfast spots for lower rates ($200/night): Lavender, Oleander House and Garden, Petit Logis Inn, Maison Fleurie.
If you are planning a super special Napa trip (anniversary or honeymoon), then you must look into Auberge du Soleil. This is a Relais & Chateau five star property (yes, five) with private bungalows and plunge pools atop a mountain overlooking the valley. It doesn’t get more glamorous or luxurious than this hotel option. However, with rates at $1300+/night, it’s not practical for everyone.
For our trip, I found the PERFECT hotel: decently priced for a 4/5 star hotel (average $400+/night), central location, luxurious amenities, informative staff and welcoming treatment. Hotel Yountville is now one of my all-time favorite hotels for a cozy stay. I loved this hotel. Here are the reasons why:
- Fireplaces in every guest room
- Complimentary wine tasting in the lobby
- Complimentary bicycles for tours of the region
- Roaring fires in the lobby, on the porch and by the heated pool + hot tub
- Friendly and helpful staff for reservations, recommendations and information
- Walking distance to all the great bars/restaurants in downtown
- Complimentary passes for tastings at vineyards and wine bars in Yountville
- Beautiful ambiance and hotel décor
- View my photographs below for a glimpse inside the hotel premises
Where to Taste
People don’t travel all the way out to Napa Valley to watch birds. The wine here is utterly spectacular in so many ways. Seeing the production of the wine from the early stages of grape growing, to fermentation and bottling makes you appreciate the endless years of work that go into just one good glass! Smell sweetly and sip slowly, there is nothing more savory than a freshly corked bottle of cabernet shared with the ones you love in Napa.
We explored all around the region by car and stopped to visit a variety of vineyards – from super high-end wines to lesser-known family owned vineyards – they all had something special to offer. Just a heads up for my travel gals — the more pricey wineries (i.e Silver Oak), charges you a $20 tasting fee whereas some of the lesser known wines offer free tastings. Here are my top 5 favorite vineyards to visit in Napa:
- Silver Oak (my favorite wine from the Napa)
- Regusci (family owned, friendly, bottles range from low to high in price points, they offer group picnics and tours)
- Domaine Carneros (specializing in bubbly served on the patio of a giant castle, a bit touristy, but worth a trip)
- Opus Wine (very pricey and reservations required for a reason)
- Rutherford Hill (just up the hill from the fancy Auberge du Soleil hotel, ask for a private tour of the caves with complimentary wine for a fun treat)
WHERE TO EAT
You can’t just drink wine all day, lady! There are plenty of delicious restaurants to appease any culinary palate. If you’re into the ultimate indulgence, make sure to look into The French Laundry, re-opening in the summer of 2015. With a price tag of $1000/couple, this sophisticated tasting is said to be the best dining experience in America. Reservations are recommended 3 months in advance. For a more modest bite, check-out some of my favorite places located in downtown Yountville: Bistrot Jeanty (you can’t go wrong with French food served with yummy wines), Hurleys (a local’s favorite, try the wild boar special), REDD (order the lemon ricotta pancakes for breakfast), Bottega (if you prefer an Italian fare with your reds).
Our best lunch of the trip was at the famous hotel I mentioned earlier in this post — the bistro & bar at Auberge du Soleil has a large wrap-around patio serving lunch with views overlooking the luscious green valley. They serve anything from a signature burger, charcuterie and cheese plates, tuna tartar, to a prosciutto flatbread pizza (my choice). Here is one of the best images I can remember (and thankfully captured) from the trip: my mom toasting me with a glass full of chilled Stag’s Leap as I enjoy my warm pizza in brisk Napa weather.
WHAT TO DO
Believe it or not, there is a lot more to do in Napa than just wine tastings. From swimming in the saltwater pool at the hotel, relaxing with a book by a fire pit, bicycling through the rolling hills, catching the sunrise in a hot air balloon ride, you name and Napa has it. For more information on my favorite balloon tour in Napa, click here! Checkout the shot below of my extremely tall husband (6’5″) giving an old enormous tree a hug — he looks tiny in comparison!
After seeing vineyards in France and Italy, I truly think that Napa is a fierce contender for boasting the world’s most beautiful wine country. As we drove back down toward San Francisco and Palo Alto, we were sad to say goodbye to such a magical piece of America. The joy of traveling requires the sorrow of leaving a new place behind to venture home. So how do you cure a Napa hangover? We had never tried the legendary burgers that all of our west coast friends go crazy about, yes that placed called In-N-Out. For years I have been hearing about this hotspot and always wondered what all the hype was for. Monster style? Of course. My lady review of this classic west coast burger joint? Slightly overrated – Shake Shack definitely takes the gold! But you can’t beat the price at $2.25 a burger! Wow!
My best personal “travel grams” in Napa can by found on Instagram @Ladyhattan:
Hoping you enjoyed my journey through Napa Valley… I am looking forward to many trips back here in the future as I continue to fly out west to visit family at Stanford. A big thank you to the Hotel Yountville for such great hospitality! I hope to stay with you all again. Happy tasting and travel planning, ladies… Until the next sweet escape.