Sep 27, 2017 | Napa Valley | A Taste Of | Bill McIntosh
A Taste of Napa Valley - Points of Interest
Napa Valley is a stunning national treasure, a jewel of California, and a destination that should by on everyones bucket list. It is located in Northern California just north of San Francisco. The town of Napa, which as at the southern end of the valley is roughly 90 minutes from the San Francisco Airport (SFO). The spine of the valley is route 29 running north to south. As you drive north from Napa, towns dot this route including Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St Helena, and Calistoga at the northern end.
The unique geography is ideal for growing grapes and has turned the valley into a world renowned wine-making region. It enjoys a dry Mediterranean-sytle climate, creating an ideal region for wine growing1. And despite that only 4% of the grapes in California are actually grown in Napa Valley, the region wine industry generates over $50 billion to the US economy, and generates over 300,000 jobs1. And despite the size of the business, over 95% of the wineries in Napa Valley are family owned1.
And once the wine industry was established, the restaurants and world class food followed. Indeed, if you want to dine at the French Laundry, be sure to book your reservations at least a year in advance. All of this creates the opportunity for a memorable weekend escape.
If you find yourself in Northern California (or you live here) and are looking for an enjoyable day of escape in Napa Valley, allow us to make some suggestions on some points of interest in Napa Valley for your consideration. Below we have pointed out some select places to eat and things to experience all in one day. Certainly there is a lot more you can do in Napa, which is one of the reasons we call this a "Taste."
If you are coming up from the San Francisco Bay Area, or are already in Napa, get an early start with breakfast at the Alexis Baking Company & Café. Known for their incredible breakfasts, try the pancakes or the huevos rancheros and don't forget the fresh squeezed orange juice which they claim "is so fresh it should be slapped!(2)"
From the first bite, you know your day will be off to a good start. And if you want to save something for later, pick up one of their signature cakes including Apricot Pistachio, Carrot, Chocolate, and Chocolate Caramel.
Hiking in Napa
Now that you are done your breakfast, it is time to get your heart pumping as you work to build up your appetite for the rest of your day. Nearby is the Skyline Wilderness Park. Skyline Park has over 25 miles of various trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There are also camping sites available as well as the Martha Walker Garden, an incredible three acre habitat featuring native plants and flowers.
The hike on the main Skyline trail leads to Lake Marie at the eastern end is just over two miles. It is a great way to see some of the beauty Napa has to offer. If you are looking for something more rigorous, there is an alternate route along the ridge trail. This is a stiffer workout if hiking is your thing. Your reward on a clear day is a beautiful view of San Francisco Bay, Mt. Tamalpais and Mt. Diablo.
In the summer, the park is open from 8am to 7pm, 7 days a week(3).
Now that your appetite is back after a great hike, it is time for lunch! We have two options for you: The first is a an outdoor picnic at a winery. The second is at one of Napa Valley's signature restaurants.
Create a memory with a picnic at V. Sattui Winery. Their Artisan Deli is all you need to pick up food for a picnic before or after some wine tasting.
The V. Sattui winery is situated on a 38-acre organically-farmed vineyard in St. Helena. The winery features tasting rooms, a gourmet artisan deli, and large area for picnicking full of tables. The winery has over 60 wines from 20 different grape varieties for you to choose from. Create the perfect picnic onsite at the Sattui deli. They have panini, pasta, seafood, and salads, and over 200 cheeses, salami & pâtés to choose from. You will be glad you went for the hike earlier in the day!
The picnic area is open daily from 9am to 6pm, except for Christmas. It closes an hour earlier November thorugh February. Wine tasting is available from 9am to 5pm and costs $20 per person(4).
If the weather catches you or you prefer a restaurant, grab a Napa style lunch at Auberge du Soleil. Bathed in sunlight, the restaurant sits on a hillside overlooking the valley and a 33 acre olive grove. Another can't miss experience, the food and view will stimulate your senses and sooth your stress.
It is located at 180 Rutherford Hill Rd, Rutherford CA and is open from 11:30am to 2;15pm for lunch, and 5:30pm to 9:30pm for dinner(5).
Wherever you choose to eat, Napa is all about wine so be sure to make the time to visit a winery or two. You can literally drive through the valley and turn into any vinyard you see to sample their fare. If you are finishing up lunch in Rutherford, you should consider one of our favorites: Mumm Napa. Our gift baskets featuring Mumm Napa Sparkling Wines are perennial favorites.
Mumm has been in Napa since the 1970's, but its roots trace back to France in the 1800's. Open daily from 10am to 6pm, tastings are available in beatuful outdoor settings, and cost as low as $25(6). Tours of the winery are also available.
While you are flitting from winery to winery, be on the look out for the Clif Family Bruschetteria Food Truck. The Clif Family may be better know for thier Clif bars, but as avid bikers, they fell in with Napa Valley and have launched a line of artisan foods. Using fresh ingredients from local farmers, Chef John McConnell has created a tasty snack that is the perfect break in between wineries.
If you are more of a sweet tooth, indulge yourself at Woodhouse Chocolate. These increbible chocolates have been well featured including appearing on Oprah's O list and most recently named "Best Chocolate Shop in America" by the Huffington Post. It is definitely well worth the visit!
Located at 1367 Main St, St Helena, CA 94574, their aim is to create the richest, most flavorful chocolates and confections using locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. This family run business spanning three generations create unique, high quality, and incredibly decadent chocolate. You will feel like you are eating chocolate in Paris or Brussels!
If you have had enough wine and are just looking to be pampered, it is time to go to the spa at the Indian Springs Resort & Spa located at 1712 Lincoln Ave. in Calistoga. A volcanic eruption millions of years ago created the the unique geaography that allows groundwater to be heated by hot magma and then rise back up thorugh thermal geysers. This historic California resort and spa is a place to escape to and relax and feel renewed.
Dinner in Napa
Before you know it, evening will be approaching and you will find yourself looking forward to dinner. If you are really done for the day and are ready to head home, then I suggest you visit a classic in California for a quick bite to eat at Gott's Roadside located at 933 Main St in St Helena. This is the first Gott's and they offer stellar breakfast sandwiches and all day Burgers. Sit outside for one last bite before you head home.
If you have more time and are looking for one last sumptuous meal, consider the James Beard Award-Winning Fare at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen.
Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen located in downtown St. Helena is a local favorite for classic American cuisine in a relaxing and unpretentious environment. For lunch, the brick patio is shaded by a 100 year old fig tree is the place to be. For dinner, head downstairs to the bar and dining room. Enjoy a cocktail and dinner in the speakeasy atmosphere after a long day of touring wineries.
A day like that is sure to tire you out. But if you are staying in the area and still have some energy, head out for some live music at craft cocktails at Silo's.
So there is your "Taste of Napa." If you can't make it to Napa, but still want a taste, try or send one of our Napa-inspired Gift Baskets.
1. Napa Valley Vinters - www.napavinters.com
2. Alexis Baking Company - www.abcnapa.com
3. Skyline Wilderness Park - www.skylinepark.org
4. V. Sattui Winery - www.vsattui.com
5. Auberge du Soleil - www.aubergedusoleil.aubergeresorts.com
6. Mumm Napa - www.mummnapa.com