Every year, millions of visitors travel to Napa for the famous wineries, restaurants, and beautiful landscape. The Valley itself is 30 miles long, and only a few miles wide, and it is home to a little over 400 wineries. With my sister’s birthday coming up, we decided not to buy presents this year, and decided that a quick girl’s trip to Napa was just the answer! Since we went in the end of summer, the weather was perfect, the vineyards were lush and green, and we never felt crowded or overwhelmed at the places we had visited.
While we decided to stay in the heart of downtown, we were not only close to all the local restaurants and shops but we were in the hub for many activities Napa had to offer. The City of Napa is located at the southern end of the Napa Valley and can be the start of many wine tours, but the valley spans for miles and offers many other beautiful sites besides the rows of vineyards painting the town. Since my family was visiting me, we had three days to make the most of our girl’s trip, so below is what we enjoyed on our Napa experience.
WHERE TO STAY
The Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa was our home for the weekend and it was the perfect location for relaxation and luxury. Located stones throw from downtown Napa, you can either take the shuttle offered, or walk to a row of many shops and local restaurants. Wine busses, trollies, and shuttles come to and from the hotel too, and the concierge was beyond helpful to us on which ones to take. When looking for hotels, we knew we wanted to do more on the trip then just visited wineries, and I noticed a lot of the activities meat at the Marriott, so for us it was a very easy decision to make this our home and we didn’t have to worry about driving or getting a driver.
PLACES TO EAT
Known for its amazing food just as much as the wineries, Napa offers a multitude of amazing places to eat. When we were making our Napa itinerary of places to visit, we were expecting to eat our lunches and dinner at the winery but when on a tour they quickly told us you cannot eat at the wineries so we were now asking around on where to eat. Luckily for us we were not disappointed. Since we were visiting all over the Valley, we ended up eating in the towns of Helena, Sonoma, Calistoga and many more towns that were near the wineries we were at. Our best advice when looking where to eat between tours would be to ask the people at the winery where downtown is located or where their favorite restaurant in the area is and the head there. We were never steered in the wrong direction, and the food was always amazing I think our favorite restaurant was Goose & Gander in Helena, known for its famous Mixologist. The restaurant is favored by both tourists and the locals, and it gave a very trendy vibe with a lovely ambiance, and well as amazing food.
WHAT TO DO
When you think of Napa Valley, you think “Wine Country” and with over 400 different winery options, it can be a little overwhelming of where to start. I asked around before I came to some people’s personal favorites, as well as finding which ones were in the area close to our hotel.
Our first stop was to Peju Winery located on acres and acres of lush ground, centered with a French inspired castle. I’ve had their wines before and always feel in love, and thought it was a perfect place to start our trip to see how they are made. The castle was surrounded with a beautiful garden and a moat that leads one inside to their tasting room. Once inside the tasting room, you are met with an exquisite stain glass window, and our guide Allan gave us a lovely tasting that he had made into a full own show rapping about the history, the valley, and the wines. Once we finished tasting us were able to stay and sit on the many tables scattered around the gardens to admire the view for hours. We had so many wineries on our list, but it was nice to sit on the grounds and catch up with my mom and sister. It was still early in the afternoon so there was a lovely breeze, and we were able to walk all around the grounds and give ourselves a private tour where we could see the barrels of wine being stored and learned about Peju’s history.
When you come to Napa you cannot leave without making a stop at one of the most famous wineries, Castello di Amorosa, or “Castle of Love”. Tucked high in the hills of a quiet town of Calistoga, this castle will make you feel like you are on a tour of the Tuscany country side. My family and I had visited Italy several times and this castle was nothing short of making us feel like we had just traveled back. We received a personal tour from the owner and after living in Italy for years and purchasing an Italian castle, he decided to bring his love for Italy to his home in Napa. For a small tour price, you can visit Tuscany for the day and it’s worth it to make an appointment to go in for a guided tour, as you will get to see the many floors of the castle that offers a unique torture chamber, barrel tasting room, and wine tasting. The hospitality was absolutely amazing, but make sure to get here early because everyone will quickly come enjoy this experience.
My favorite Pinot Noir is from Artesa, and after getting many recommendations to go there, we decided to make it our last winery of the day. Known for its amazing architecture, this winery is high on the hilltop overlooking the Carneros in the Southern Napa Valley and the views it gave us were absolutely breathtaking. The winery was a beautiful blend of nature meets architecture, which blends seamlessly into the landscapes. Once you’ve climbed to the top, you get amazing 360 degree views of the valley, accented with infinity fountains to add to your view. Once inside, the modern winery you get a tour of their barrel rooms, as well as ending with a tasting outside. We could see miles and miles of vines, and well as many of the surrounding wineries scattered in the view. It was a perfect place to end our wine day, enjoying the view of the valley from above.
On our last morning in Napa, we woke up very early for a sunrise hot air balloon adventure with Balloons Above the Valley. My sister has had it on her bucket list, so I thought it would be a perfect birthday present as well as a different way to see all the wineries. The tour met downstairs of the Marriott, and after about a 10 minute drive, we were in an open field with sixteen different balloons ready to depart. Our pilot brought us up and down the fields pointing out the various wineries, the cities within view, as well as giving us a brief history of Napa. To see the wineries from thousands of feet up was absolutely amazing, as well as floating along with the other balloons made for a very serene and relaxing morning. After floating for a little over an hour, we landed safely in an open field and continued back to our hotel for a champagne brunch. It was an amazing way to end the perfect girl’s weekend in Napa.