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A Weekend in Napa

napaBack in late September, I spent a long weekend in Napa with some of my best friends. So stylish, so picturesque, there is more to Napa than a glass of wine. It’s bewitching beauty made it hard for me to put my camera down. I felt almost compelled to photograph every corner I viewed. Rest assured, I did put the camera down a few times to relax, sip some wine, and just take it all in. The only problem then, was putting the wine glass down.

With so many good wines and eats and so little time, it’s a very good thing that in Napa, all roads lead to wine. Here’s my visual synopsis, which is followed by a few details of where we wined and dined.

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The Wining:

Hall Wines – After a delicious glass of Hall wine at lunch, we decided to make this our first tasting stop. A wonderful and friendly staff treated us to our first tasting of the trip. The tasting took place beneath a canopy of red blown glass “drops of wine” suspended from the tasting room ceiling. 401 St. Helena Highway South, St. Helena, CA 94574

Beringer – Visiting the oldest and continuously operated winery in Napa was a must (since 1876). Beringer has delightful grounds and gardens and you can opt to do the reserve wine tasting in the the historic Rhine house or the standard tasting in their tasting room or both. The trees that form a lovely canopy over Main Street (Rt 29) were planted by the Beringer brothers. 2000 Main Street, St. Helena, CA 94574

Duckhorn Vineyards – A little off the beaten path, it looks like you are driving up to someone’s private country home. After the tasting, grab a glass of your fave bordeaux style wine and relax on the porch or or the patio, which is surrounded by some exquisite gardens. This is definitely one of the more picturesque wineries to drink wine in Napa. I’d recommend a reservation. 1000 Lodi Lane, St. Helena, CA 94574

Chandon – Sparkling wine first thing in the morning, yes please! I have a special love for sparkling wines and champagne and this is one of the few places that produces sparkling wine in Napa. It was established in 1973 by Moët et Chandon and is the oldest French-owned sparkling wine producer in Napa. We started out our second day of tastings here. Driving up to the grounds you’ll encounter a resplendent view and find a beautiful modern eco-conscious building built right into the landscape. The sleek open air tasting room is a wonderful place to sip some bubbly and take in the scenery. 1 California Drive, Yountville, CA 94599

Robert Mondavi Winery – Unfortunately, we had a midday rain shower which prevented us from exploring the beautifully landscaped grounds. The rain did afford us plenty of time to take respite inside one of the sprawling California Mission-style tasting rooms and enjoy a wine tasting beneath its graceful arched roof while looking out upon an expansive courtyard with sculptures and shrubbery. They were kind enough to let us split one of our tastings for my friend who was driving and just wanted a few sips. As we exited, there was even a masked accordion player dressed in Venetian stripes playing some tunes. 7801 St. Helena Highway, Oakville, CA 94562

V. Sattui Winery – I had been here before, so we skipped the wine tasting this time around and headed straight for their deli, and what an amazing deli it is, brimming with an extensive collection of cheeses, cured meats, fresh baked breads and savory sauces. We sampled more than our share and ended up buying a nice spread for a picnic, which we enjoyed under a lovely canopy of redwoods at Bothe-Napa State Park. The park is right off Highway 29 between St. Helena and Calistoga. 1111 White Lane (at Hwy 29), St. Helena, CA 94574

Castello di Amorosa – This looks like a bona fide castle imported from Italy (or a fairytale), but it was recently completed in 2009. We did our wine tasting down in the cool, candlelit catacomb-like cellar. Our wines were served by a friendly, older Italian gentleman with a melodic accent. After the wine tasting I would recommend taking some time to wander around and explore the fine points of this castle. It’s just lovely. There are even emus and chickens wandering the grounds. The day we were visiting they were preparing for their annual  harvest and grape stomp event for wine club members and their guests. 4045 North St. Helena Highway, Calistoga, CA 94515

Stag’s Leap – If you’ve seen the movie Bottleshock, Stag’s Leap is the “other” California winery that won in France in 1976 alongside Chateau Montelena. It’s worth a visit if you like reds. The ivy snaking over the walls of the manor house and the shady patio make for an enchanting place to hang out, drink wine and take it all in. A reservation is a good idea. 6150 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558

Van der Heyden Vineyards – We happened upon this winery because we saw the sign that said open until 6 pm and it was 5 pm and all other wineries had closed – womp! womp!. We screeched to stop, did a U-turn and hung a left into the driveway towards this eccentric and unusual winery. When I got out of the car I was sure we were going to be served moonshine based on the dilapidated antique truck and kitschy decor we encountered. For $10 we tasted 7 different wines, all served by the winemaker himself, Mr. Van der Heyden. Full of anecdotes and stories, he was a great host! If you are a fan of dessert wines he is one of the few in the world to successfully make a late Harvest Cabernet Sauvignon. 4057 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558

The Dining:

Fish Story – We popped into Fish Story unannounced for lunch soon after arriving in Napa. We had a lovely lunch here on the patio along side the Napa riverfront. Located in the new, trendy riverfront area of downtown Napa there is “nothing fishy” about this place, well except the fish, of course.  It was a really pleasant meal sitting in the California sunshine, enjoying the day with good friends. 790 Main Street at Third, Napa, CA 94559

Redd – We had a dinner reservation at this trendy Yountville restaurant, but arrived a little early and enjoyed cocktails at the bar with a friendly and articulate bartender who make some delightful drink recommendations. The ambience was sleek and simple, with intimate lighting. This minimal atmosphere really made the food the hero. I would categorize their food as California cuisine with Mexican and Asian influences. You can do a five course tasting menu, but we chose to order a few appetizers and each got a main entrée.  I enjoyed every bite I ate here and would highly recommend Redd. 6480 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

Solbar – This restaurant is located at what looks to be the hippest resort in Napa, Solage (I’m staying here next time). The whole place has a woodsy chic vibe overlooking a patio with sleek, modern fire pits. The chef, Brandon Sharp, is an alumni of the world-renowned, French Laundry (if we had planned our trip a year in advance we might’ve been able to a reservation there instead) and cooks up “California Soul Food” using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. The dinner menu is divided into two types of fare; healthy, lighter dishes and hearty. The service was excellent and our waiter was very personable and helped us pair our entrées with some delicious Napa wines. I would not shy away from eating here, it was top notch.755 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, CA 94515

Brix – We visited Brix for brunch on our last day in Napa. The fare is french-inflected, California cuisine and is served buffet style. Like many of  it’s Napa Valley counterparts, it has a farm-to-table approach to its food. We filled our bellies with a selection of seasonal fruits, freshly-made quiches, omelets to order, pastries, homemade doughnuts, baked goods, shrimp, lox, pizzas, and more! While the brunch was nice, the atmosphere here is the champion. Brix boasts a beautiful back yard filled with rose, flower and herb gardens that back right up to the vineyards. 7377 St. Helena Highway, Yountville, CA 94558

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