Four exquisite days in Napa Valley.
Napa Valley has been on my bucket list for most of my adult life. The region reopened three weeks prior to my travel dates and exceeded every expectation. After a direct flight from Atlanta to Sacramento and a one hour drive, my husband and I settled in for a short but sweet four days between Napa and Oakville, allowing easy access for exploring the valley.
Our experience started with a personal visit to Rob Mondavi Jr. and his Southern-born wife, Lydia. The couple’s hillside estate is in the Stags Leap district where they grow and produce their Rutledge & Vine brand, named after her family and their vineyards. We learned about grapes, seasons, soil, irrigation, climate and vineyard operations, as well as the family’s personal experience with the 2017 wildfires that ravaged the area from this fourth generation winemaker who has worked in every area of the industry.
Next, we were treated to vintner Joe Wagner’s Quilt & Company tasting, including the Belle Glos, Quilt and Elouan brands alongside a fabulous charcuterie board, followed by dinner at Wagner’s next-door California cuisine restaurant, Avow. Fresh oysters on the half shell were followed by scallops with romesco and chorizo, and Pacific halibut to complete the day.
On our second day, a visit to downtown Napa, thriving with local artists, tasting rooms and a new visitors’ center, was followed by lunch in St. Helena at farm-to-table restaurant Farmstead. Menu items incorporate eggs, chicken and beef from its Long Meadow Ranch, as well as the vegetables, herbs and edible flowers grow in tableside beds. This quaint town is also home to the famous Woodhouse Chocolate, Napa Soap Company and the 90-year, family owned Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing company, all worth a visit.
Checking out the Petrified Forest in Calistoga was next on the agenda. Then a scenic drive back to our hotel on the Silverado Trail parallel to the main highway took us through Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville and Yountville, and offered views of dozens of picturesque vineyard properties. Dinner at local favorite Bistro Don Giovanni, seated by fragrant rose bushes and under a lighted tent, made us feel like we were on a movie set.
Our third day began with a late breakfast at Black Bear Diner, where the sweet cream pancakes are not to be missed, followed by a leisurely tasting at Caymus Vineyards where we watched the vineyard’s owner, Chuck Wagner (the aforementioned Joe’s father), and his son, Charlie, host a live virtual event on the grounds. We enjoyed sunshine and pool time at our hotel before dinner at rustic French restaurant Angèle on the Napa River.
On our last day, we arrived early at Model Bakery, where lines form for the Oprah-famous English muffins, and noshed on breakfast sandwiches before our vineyard tour at Kenzo Estate. Encompassing 3,800 pristine acres in the mountains east of Napa, 80% of the world-class wine produced here is sold in owner and Capcom founder Kenzo Tsujimoto’s native Japan. We couldn’t resist shipping home a Kenzo ai cabernet and the Bordeaux-style blend Rindo, available exclusively through the vineyard.
Our final tasting was O’Brien Estate’s Bordeaux-style blends Romance and Seduction, which boast varying percentages of cabernet, merlot and cabernet franc grapes, and are only available to members. We capped off our last night by heading to Auberge du Soleil for sunset cocktails and a late dinner of micro-regional rustic Italian at Bottega by Chef Michael Chiarello in Yountville.
My grape love affair with Napa is official. A girls’ trip is next: Add mud baths, spa treatments and shopping to the wining and dining. Who’s with me?
~ There’s a lot to do from Napa to Calistoga, so don’t try to fit in more during a brief stay.
~ Reserve ahead and visit two wineries a day, preferably in close proximity. Tasting and tours are usually 90 minutes, plus drive time.
~ The first vineyard experience should be educational to learn about the area, then just enjoy the tastings.
VISIT NAPA VALLEY
Publisher & Founder
Joanne Hayes is a 26-year veteran of the publishing industry, having worked for 12 years as an Account Executive for an award-winning Journal Register Company newspaper group, Southern Rhode Island Newspapers, and 3 years as the Marketing Director of SO Rhode Island, a publication of the award-winning magazine company Providence Media, prior to her move to Atlanta in 2009.
Simply Buckhead Magazine was conceived by her company, ValueStream Media Group, and began publication in 2010, with Joanne at the helm as Publisher and Founder. The publication quickly became the “must-read” publication for people who live, work, shop, dine, entertain, travel, have families, homes, and pets and participate in philanthropic efforts, and has literally been read online all over the world.
ValueStream Media Group is a media partner and sponsor to CURE Childhood Cancer, Bert’s Big Adventure, Atlanta Community Food Bank, The nsoro Educational Foundation and Joanne currently serves as a Board Member for the Atlanta Community Food Bank.