A couple weekends ago, Adam and I took what was probably our last romantic getaway for quite some time, and babymooned for a long weekend in Napa Valley. I know what you might be thinking: Why in the world would you choose to go to the wine capital when you’re pregnant and can’t even drink?! It’s a valid point… but when I was thinking about where I’d most like to go at 6 1/2 months pregnant, my top qualifications were (a) amazing food – to make up for the lack of wine, obviously, (b) beautiful nature and great hiking spots, and (c) great spa amenities for prenatal pampering. Having spent quite a bit of time in Napa Valley over the years, I knew that it checked every box. We ended up having the best time, and the massive rainfall one of the days only made it even more cozy and romantic. Since I’ve been home, I’ve gotten a ton of questions about my favorite spots in Napa Valley from friends and readers who are planning trips there, so thought I’d round them up into one totally non-comprehensive guide. Click through for all my Napa spots!
First things first: where to kick up your heels and call home base for your Napa trip. There are so many fantastic hotels in the Napa Valley area that range across every price point in every different town, so for this post, I’ll just talk about where we stayed on this trip. Calistoga Ranch has been on my bucket list for awhile — tucked into a private canyon, every “lodge” includes indoor and outdoor living space, which means we could shower outdoors, eat breakfast on the deck, and kick up our feet in front of the outdoor fireplace and feel completely immersed in nature, separated from anyone else by the ancient oaks that form a canopy over the entire property. We ate a fresh, organic breakfast every morning on a deck overlooking Lake Lommel, put on fluffy robes and walked to the amazing spa, hiked through the majestic hills, and read in front of the fireplace when it got chilly. It was a true retreat — the perfect spot to savor each other’s company and soak up the beauty of Napa Valley.
The Thomas (pictured): sit on the rooftop deck – canopied in magical white lights – of this cool historic building on Napa’s main street for rustic American food in a Prohibition-era setting.
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. Homey, comfortable and unpretentious — with fresh seasonal food that always makes an impression. This St. Helena spot is popular with the locals and industry insiders, and we always make a point to stop here for lunch and order a glass of wine and a big salad or roast chicken.
Press: When we need to take a break from all the pizza and pasta we’re always addicted to in Napa, we head to Press and share one of their prime new york strips — paired with the truffle mac & cheese and maybe even a chocolate soufflé at the end. Then we roll back to our hotel room and fall into a food coma.
Bottega. (pictured) Amazing pastas, creative appetizers, and a relaxed and cozy Cali vibe make this a spot that we return to on ever trip to Napa. Last time, chef Michael Chiarello was working the room and greeting every guest that stopped in.
Redd Wood. This is one of those perfect restaurants that is totally laid-back, but with chic interiors, a bustling vibe at any time of day, cool music over the speakers, and best of all, serves wood-fired pizza with that wonderfully blistered crust that I’m always searching for.
*photo credit: brad johnson for food republic
The Restaurant at Meadowood. It’s definitely fine dining, and definitely standout. The menu is inventive and surprising, and celebrates its relationships with Napa Valley’s very best growers, artisans, and ingredients. Go there for a celebration and settle in for an epic meal.
Solbar. (pictured) The modern dining room of the Solage resort draws a trendy crowd, but the food really blew us away, marrying traditional California flavors with Asian influences and unexpected flavor pairings. We sat at the bar and had a great night people-watching and ordering inventive small plates from the bar menu.
*No list of Napa Valley restaurants would be complete without mention Thomas Keller’s legendary French Laundry… but I can’t review it since I’ve never been there, and I wanted to save my first trip for when I’m not pregnant and can enjoy the wine pairings. But if you go to Napa Valley, and can score yourself one of the most difficult reservations in the country, by all means, seize the day.
Napa Valley boasts some of the most beautiful spots to hike and bike that I’ve ever laid eyes on. I took this shot on one of our morning hikes on the Calistoga Ranch property, and we’ve also hiked up the mountains in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, which I highly recommend. Here’s a great list of other spots to soak up the great outdoors.
Many people don’t know about the fantastic art collections at several of the wineries around Napa, and there are definitely some galleries worth checking out. This shot was taken while we explored the di Rosa (which also has an amazing sculpture meadow), and for a comprehensive list, check out this list of Best Wineries for Art Lovers.
Shop in St. Helena
There are tons of charming little town squares spread throughout Napa Valley from Yountville to Calistoga, but my favorite for shopping is St. Helena. On this particular trip, I stocked up on linen hand towels, greeting cards, and some adorable books for Phoebe at can’t-miss Napa Valley Vintage Home. I also really love Acres, Napa Soap Company, and St. Helena Olive Oil Co. Just up the road is Oakville Grocery, an amazing specialty foods store where I always pick up a few yummies to pack in my carry-on.
And finally, wine tastings — for many, the centerpiece to their Napa Valley explorations! There are way too many great wineries to mention in this one post, and no doubt loads of amazing ones that I’ve yet to visit, so for now, I’ll just mention a few of my very favorites that have left a lasting impression on me through the years. Do call ahead – many of these require an advance reservation.
Beringer Vineyards, St. Helena. Take the “Food and Wine in Balance” seminar for a really unforgettable experience.
Etude Winery, Napa. The estate and surrounding gardens are so picturesque, and they accept walk-ins for parties of up to 4.
When you visit Napa Valley in the winter or spring, chances are good that you might get rained on. We escaped the torrential downpour on this trip in the cozy confines of Cardinale’s gorgeous tasting room…
Cardinale, Oakville. Quite possible the chicest tasting room I’ve ever laid eyes on (pictured here.) The wine is a limited production blend (only one Cab each year) that’s a splurge — and totally unforgettable.
Quintessa, St. Helena. The contemporary design of the estate is really remarkable, and I love this wine.
Rutherford Hill, Rutherford. Loved exploring the caves where the winery frequently hosts private dinners, and the olive groves (pictured here) are so stunning.
Stags Leap Winery, Napa. The historic estate is really stunning, and boasts some pretty amazing stories — definitely worth booking a private tour if you can.