The iconic Napa Valley is without a doubt a stunning location with its incredible wineries and restaurants scattered amongst the rolling hills. A weekend spent sipping some of the California classics from Yountville to Calistoga is straight-up dreamy. With a staggering number of wineries to choose from, you can pack in as little or as much as you'd like on your Napa Valley getaway.
Planning Your Weekend Getaway to Napa Valley
Heading to Napa for a weekend of wine? There are a few things to think about before you lock in your dates, buy flights and book a car.
When to Visit
There is really never a bad time to go wine tasting in the California sunshine. With wineries open year round for tastings, you can choose whichever season works best for you. April through October offer warm days with opportunities for picnic lunches in the sunbaked vineyards and sunset bike rides. These months are the height of the tourist season, so be prepared for some crowds, especially on the weekends. If you visit during August through October, you'll see harvest in action and will likely get to see the crush pad, sorting belt, and many rounds of punch-downs in full swing at more than one winery. Napa slows slightly during the winter months and November through March is a great time to go if you are looking to avoid the crowds and not battle for reservations. The weather is still mild and there is plenty to do with annual events like the Napa Valley Restaurant Week in January.
Booking Tasting Appointments
Many wineries require you to book your tasting appointment in advance, so it's a good idea to plan out your visit to some degree and make sure you reserve tastings with your top priority wineries before you arrive. Most wineries will have a tasting flight option, perhaps with a few nibbles or a small plates pairing. Tastings can be anywhere from $15-75 per person. Often times, you can also buy a bottle and have them open it for you to enjoy on site. This can be a great option if you are going with a group.
Scheduling a Car Service
Unless you have a designated driver along for the weekend, you're going to want to book a car service while touring wineries. There are multiple companies that offer personal drivers at around $50 an hour. Alternatively, there is The Napa Valley Wine Train. The train offers a cultural package that is more of an all-day-affair with tastings at partnering wineries and a 4-course meal aboard over the 6 hour tour up and down the valley.
Napa Valley Wineries to Visit
With nearly 400 wineries in Napa Valley, there are more than enough to choose from. If you are planning to go during the busy season, make your tasting appointments as early as possible to ensure you get to visit your top picks. At the southern end of the valley, make sure to visit Brown Estate. Their tasting room is in a renovated barn downtown Napa. First established in 1996, Brown's is the only Black-owned estate in all of Napa. Be sure to have a glass of zinfandel with your cheese plate here. Outland is a natural wine tasting room in downtown Napa. In their clean and fresh space, they pour glasses from three small natural winemakers in the area, Farella, Poe, and Forlorn Hope. Grab a flight and experience Napa through the natural lens.
Moving up valley, Cakebread Cellars, in Rutherford, has been family-run since 1974. Implementing sustainable practices in the vineyard, they have a stunning barn where you can enjoy a seated tasting or sign up for a vineyard tour. Nearby Frog's Leap is not to be missed. Here, John Williams has been at the helm of the winery since 1981. With 200 acres of dry-farmed, organically grown vines, Frog's Leap is situated in a scenic setting where you can taste their sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, zinfandel, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. Turnbull has estate vineyards in Oakville and Calistoga. They are working with a variety of different micro-soils, focusing on small production cabernet sauvignon and offer casual tastings nestled in their gardens as well as more curated private tastings led by their house sommelier.
Spottswoode, in St. Helena, is a family-run winery that has been organically farming their 46-acres of vines since 1985. Stroll through their biodynamic gardens with a glass of their cabernet sauvignon. At the northeastern corner of the valley, you'll find Eisele Vineyard tucked at the base of the Palisade Mountains. Their 162-acre estate produces timeless organic wines. Call to book an exclusive, private tasting on site.
Where to Stay
Napa is a popular destination, and places book up well in advance. As soon as you have your trip dates on the calendar, make sure you book your lodging. From luxury resorts to Airbnb, there are many options. Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa is a popular and fun mid-century modern hotel with a dose of retro quirkiness. In downtown Napa, look to Blackbird Inn and Finch Guest House for a budget friendly bed and breakfast.
For a more luxurious stay, Carneros Resort & Spa in Napa is surrounded by rolling hills draped in vineyards. In St. Helena, Napa Farmhouse Inn is a charming little stay situated on 3 acres of organic gardens, tucked between the grape vines. For a centrally located option, Inn St. Helena is a boutique B&B located downtown. Looking to splurge? The famous Meadowood won't disappoint. With its full fledged estate complete with luxury rooms, a spa, tennis courts, extensive grounds, and a restaurant, you'll want to move in before you even arrive.
Where to Eat
Where there is good wine, there is good food. Napa has numerous Michelin star restaurants, boutique bakeries, farm-to-table al fresco lunch spots, and quirky roadside diners that will all the hit the spot during your weekend romp. Head to Thomas Keller's bakery, Bouchon, in Yountville for an array of breakfast treats like classic pain au chocolat croissants and espresso. If you're in downtown Napa, don't miss Oxbow Public Market, a boutique food hall where you'll find C Casa serving up Huevos Rancheros, breakfast tacos, and fresh squeezed Valencia orange juice. And you can't go wrong with breakfast sandwiches or the famous English muffins at Model Bakery.
For a casual lunch and locals' favorite, Gott's Roadside serves up burgers, fries, and shakes. They have locations in both St. Helena and Napa. Kitchen Door, in Napa's Oxbow Market, is seasoned chef Todd Humphries' latest project where you'll find him making duck bánh mi and other good afternoon bites. Craving Italian? Stop by Ciccio in Yountville. Here, they are making blistered wood-fired pizzas and pasta dishes loaded with fresh ingredients from neighboring farms. In St. Helena, Giugni's Deli is your go-to if you want a quick sandwich and bag of kettle chips post bike ride.
When it comes to dinner in Napa Valley, there are some real gems. Michelin star restaurant, The French Laundry, is in a beautiful old stone building surrounded by the culinary gardens. For a more down-to-earth (and affordable) option try Keller's Ad Hoc; both are in Yountville. For some rustic luxury, head to Charter Oak in St. Helena, where they are serving up small bites of hot wings with koji butter, chicory salads, and smoked beef short ribs glazed with cabernet grapes. Make sure to snag a reservation in advance. At the northern end of the valley, Solbar at the Solage Calistoga Resort will hit the spot after a day of wine tasting.
What to Do When You Need a Break From Wine Tasting
Sipping wine in the sun while strolling through vineyards is dreamy and all, but if you find yourself needing a break, Napa Valley offers an array of hikes, hot springs, biking trails, and bespoke shops to clear your head in between tastings. Skyline Park is just outside of the town of Napa and offers beautiful hiking trails if you want to walk it off after a few glasses. The Vine Trail is another great option to get outside. This well connected bike trail spans the length of the valley and offers great views of the rolling countryside.
Need some down time? Head to Indian Springs in Calistoga for some rejuvenation with mineral hot springs, mud baths, and other spa treatments. If you're interested in strolling through some shops, head to Napa. The Napa Farmer's Market runs year round on Saturday mornings and is full of heirloom melons, local goat cheese, organically farmed mushrooms and radiant bouquets of seasonal flowers.
Napa Valley Wine Vacay
If you're looking for the perfect weekend getaway, you really cannot go wrong with a weekend of wine tasting in Napa Valley. With hundreds of wineries to explore, unique restaurants to dine at and everything in between, you can customize your getaway anyway you want.