Here’s a thought: skip the beach vacation and head to California’s wine country for a culinary food and wine weekend you won’t soon forget.
According to Sunset magazine, the tiny town of Yountville, California “boasts more Michelin stars per capita than any place on Earth,” which makes it a perfect spot for a culinary tour.
Oxbow Market is a fun stop. Have a quick bite at Pica Pica Maize Kitchen, a sweet treat at Kara’s Cupcakes, an energy boost at Ritual Coffee Roasters, or enjoy a wine tasting at Oxbow Wine Merchant. San Franciscans will love the familiar Ferry Building feel of Oxbow Market, which is also home to Taylor’s Automatic Refresher and Hog Island Oyster Company.
Redd is another shining culinary star, with dishes like Monterey Calamari with Chickpea-Pepper Ragout, Pine Nuts, Olives and Aioli; Crisp Duck Confit with Savoy Cabbage; Foie Gras Meatballs and Crispy Spaetzle; and the Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Butter and Pomegranate Reduction. Wow!
Also worth a stop is Etoile Restaurant at Domaine Chandon, whose chef, Perry Hoffman, was named Rising Chef of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle. With mouthwatering menu items like the Dungeness Crab Kohlrabi with Passion Fruit and the Roasted Lamb Loin with Medjool Dates and Lentil Puree, it’s easy to see why.
For the ultimate Napa brunch experience, you must try Ubuntu Restaurant and Yoga Studio (meal to be preceded or immediately followed by a yoga class). This is true California Zen.
It’s easy to get caught up in the fabulous food of Napa Valley, but don’t forget you’re in wine country! Some of our favorite spots for wine tasting are: Duckhorn (a relaxed spot where tasters can sit and leisurely enjoy their wine), Paraduxx (same owners as Duckhorn with a modern setting and feel), Cakebread Cellars (good for a tour and a tasting), Goose Cross Winery, Darioush and Crushpad.
For the ultimate in luxury Napa lodging, book a stay at Bardessono. The hotel features a restaurant with a farm-fresh menu, rooftop pool, outdoor showers, organic linens, and complimentary bicycle rentals for exploring wine country. We took advantage and enjoyed a relaxing bike ride along Yount Mill Road.
For a slightly less indulgent stay, check out Maison Fleurie, described as “French country romance in the heart of Napa Valley.” It combines the modern luxuries and sophisticated service of a boutique hotel with the amenities and architecture of a traditional bed-and-breakfast.
You might also consider the Lavender Inn, a less expensive bed-and-breakfast within walking distance of all the great restaurants in Yountville. Guests are served complimentary wine and cheese in the afternoon. There’s a cute outdoor patio where you can sit and dine – or try Bouchon Bakery, a delightful spot from Thomas Keller of the French Laundry fame. They serve amazing pastries and coffee – all the locals and visitors go there for breakfast. Bouchon has a nice outdoor patio to sit and read the paper.
No weekend getaway is complete without a little shopping. Visit The Cake Plate in Napa, an adorable boutique that shares space with a cupcakery. Artist collective Maisonry allows admirers to sip wine while browsing art and vintage furnishings. Serious shoppers should stop in St. Helena, which has a plethora of cute shops that are worthy of a splurge.
Been to Napa Valley? Feel free to share your additional tips and secret gems with us!
For a comprehensive listing of dozens of exhilarating day hikes, order the portable paperback Day Hikes Around Napa Valley: 88 Great Hikes by Robert Stone.