You may have caught on my Instagram last week that Adam and I took a romantic little wine country getaway (hosted by Treasury Wine Estates) that was so relaxing and out-of-this-world delicious. I’ve been to Napa Valley a few times before, and on each trip, I pickup a few more tips on how to maximize the experience: where to go, what to see and how to leave feeling inspired and refreshed. Click through for my favorite snaps from the trip, accompanied by a few tips (from me, and from the real experts!) on how to have the best wine country trip ever.
1. Go with an open mind.
Most of us have our preconceived notions of what wines we do or don’t like (I usually stick to whites. Chardonnays are too oaky. Rieslings are always sweet.) But a trip to wine country is the perfect time to ditch those suppositions and try something you don’t usually drink. Talk to the knowledgeable staff at the wineries, tell them what you like, and watch them turn you on to a few new favorites.
2. Learn the tips and tricks of creating perfect food and wine pairings.
Start your trip with the “Food and Wine in Balance” seminar at Beringer Vineyards to help you get the most out of this culinary destination, and impress your friends back home!
– Elizabeth Hooker, Public Relations Director Beringer Vineyards
3. Escape the Napa sun with a private tasting inside hillside caves.
Beringer’s historic caves were hand carved in the 1800’s and naturally maintain ideal cool temperatures year-round.
4. Enjoy a lavish dinner with friends in Beringer’s Hudson House.
The historic home of the winery’s first winemaker and founder Jacob Beringer is one of the original culinary destinations in the Napa Valley only open to VIPs and media. Host to luminaries such as Julia Child, Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller, the Hudson House has only recently become available for public bookings.
5. Get some R&R.
Looking for a reprieve from all that wining and dining? One of the best spots to check out of day-to-day work/life madness and get some quality relaxation is Calistoga Indian Springs. You’re instantly transported into a difference universe: from their soothing mud baths, to the warm mineral pool, to the ambiance – this is a place not to be missed.
– Caitlin Flemming, founder of Sacramento Street, and the friend I consult for all things Napa Valley-related thanks to her very frequent weekend excursions to wine country.
6. Check out the art scene.
We spent a couple of inspiring hours exploring the galleries and grounds of di Rosa, a really spectacular 200 acre property in the gorgeous Carneros region of Napa Valley. The galleries feature rotating exhibits, as well as a permanent collection, of contemporary Bay Area artists. But my favorite part was the sculpture meadow: large-scale outdoor works set against a breathtaking vista of rolling valley hills. It was the perfect cultural break to get us rejuvenated for, yep, drinking more wine.
7. While wine tasting during the day, if you stumble upon a bottle you love, buy an extra bottle for dinner that night!
Don’t just think about purchases to bring home, instead head to dinner with all of the “research” you did during the day and a bottle you already know you will love. I always arrive to our local restaurants with my favorite Etude Carneros Estate Pinot Noir.
– Tammy White, Wine Educator Etude Wines
8. Go with someone fun.
It’s true: wine country experiences are better when shared. Whether it’s your significant other, your mom or your fun-loving gal pal, book a trip with someone who is ready to indulge (no calorie counting on this trip!) and approach each day’s activities with an open mind and a flexible attitude. You never know what fun opportunities might pop up!
9. Approach eating (and drinking) with a farm-to-table mentality.
The farm-to-table movement in Napa Valley restaurants has always been steadfast. Don’t forget to think beyond your plate when sitting down to lunch or dinner and choose a Napa Green certified winery to pair with your meal, such as Etude’s food-friendly Pinot Gris available on the menu at The Thomas.
– Michelle Flores, Public Relations Manager Treasury Wine Estates
10. Take it a step further: see the farming in action!
We took the farm-to-table idea literally, by visiting the gardens where The Thomas, and other Napa restaurants, actually grow the vegetables that made it onto our plate. Their resident gardener talked to us about the benefits and the challenges of growing all organic, and I left with a deeper appreciation for each bite of kale, radish, and beet that I might have otherwise mindlessly consumed.
And here’s what The Thomas‘ chef made with all those gorgeous veggies! The heirloom vegetable crudité with black truffle baba ghanoush seemed incredibly simple, but when each of the 20 vegetables was prepared with such creativity and care, it became a little work of art. Fried kale, roasted golden beets, pickled kumquats… so much inspiration for all-vegetable dishes I’ll be trying out at home!
11. Skip the traffic along Highway 29 and head to the picturesque Silverado Trail, where a variety of smaller-sized and by appointment only wineries awaits!
Don’t miss Stags’ Leap Winery, truly a hidden gem where tastings begin at its striking nineteenth century Manor House and continue throughout the stunning estate.
12. Don’t miss the unique opportunity to blend your own wine!
Put on your winemaker hat for a couple of hours at Chateau St. Jean and learn how different components come together to create a fantastic final wine.
Carrie Reed, Sr. Public Relations Manager Chateau St. Jean
13. Have a romantic picnic in Chateau St. Jean‘s idyllic Mediterranean style gardens.
Grab a bottle of Robert Young Chardonnay and some charcuterie and enjoy the splendid lawn in front of the iconic Sonoma Valley Chateau.