Take a Romantic Winter Weekend Getaway to Napa Valley
Wine, food and more wine await
One of the most romantic places on the planet is the Napa Valley. The combination of wine, beautiful California weather, delicious food and breathtaking scenery makes for the perfect winter weekend getaway with romance in mind.
For the ultimate trip, try starting at the north end of Highway 29, in Calistoga, and work your way down to the city of Napa. Along the way you’ll find plenty of outstanding wineries, world-class restaurants and more. There are so many choices to be made - where to stay, where to eat and, most importantly, where to drink wine. While you truly can't go wrong, no matter where you choose, there are some standouts that are visit worthy.
The journey begins
One of the best ways to explore a new area is in a sleek sedan. Fly into SFO and rent a Silvercar Audi A4. The one-stop shopping for a rental car makes it easy to get on the road quickly and start the 90-minute drive to Calistoga. There are no lines, and no crappy rental cars here. Only luxurious Audis that you rent via an app on your smartphone.
And who wants to drive anything but a luxury sedan while you're in one of the most amazing places on the planet? Silvercar's Audi A4 will do the trick and take all of the hassle out of car rentals.
Once you arrive in Calistoga, head for the Mount View Hotel & Spa. Opt for one of the artist cottages for the ultimate experience. These rooms have their own private patios and include a bottle of complimentary wine hand-selected by the winemaker. If you opt for the Joseph Cellars Artist Winery Cottage 101, the private patio features a private patio with a Jacuzzi tub, an Illy espresso machine, plus an easel canvas and paints that await your creativity.
If 13th century Tuscany appeals, don't miss the Castello di Amarosa, which is a replica of an authentic medieval castle. A tour of the grounds is a photo-rich opportunity.
For dinner, walk around the corner to Evangeline for the perfect roast chicken in a casual French bistro setting. There’s both indoor and outdoor seating, weather permitting. But don’t worry, even in chilly winter temps, there are plenty of toasty heaters to go around. And of course there’s always snuggling in a bit closer with your sweetheart.
You’ve arrived in St. Helena
Red wine lovers will fully appreciate Spring Mountain in St. Helena, because it’s filled with outstanding wineries such as Pride Mountain Vineyards (right image) with a stone balcony looking out over the rolling hillsides, and Barnett with one of the most stunning picnic areas in the entire Napa Valley. Pick up a picnic at Sunshine Market before you head up onto the mountain. Once on the mountain, don’t miss the casual vibe at Smith Madrone, where owner Stu Smith will share his take on the history of Napa. Another favorite is the laid-back luxury of Sherwin Family winery where you can sip wine by an outdoor fireplace on the stone patio. Before you leave, don’t forget to toss a ball or two for Benelli, a ball-loving yellow lab that is a staple at the winery.
After Sherwin Family, head over to nearby Schweiger Vineyards and Winery, where you’ll score a fantastic view of the vineyards if you opt for a wine tasting experience on the balcony.
If more remarkable views are in order, head to Chappellet. Take the winding road up Pritchard Hill and you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent vista of forest, wildflower-filled meadows and a view of Lake Hennessy.
The Charles Krug winery is the oldest winery in the Napa Valley and a National Historic Landmark. The winery has a brand new tasting room, complete with a coffee bar. It’s the perfect place to relax for an hour in between tastings.
And if you're someone who loves to try out a restaurant before anyone else, opt for the brand new Harvest Table, which is Chef Charlie Palmer's wine country kitchen. It's a hidden gem.
If you’re looking for something different to do, try a couples class at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. With options ranging from wine tasting to cooking and baking, in as little as two hours you can learn a brand new skill.
For dinner, don’t miss the Goose & Gander in St. Helena. This gastropub (left image) is a local favorite, particularly for the cocktails, perfect after a day of wine tasting. Try the Rosemary Pear Shrub, with Distillery No. 209 gin, rosemary-pear shrub syrup, lemon, ginger and seltzer. Of course the food is amazing, too, particularly the grilled Spanish octopus and the legendary mushroom soup that’s a holdover from the restaurant’s previous incarnation as The Martini House. It’s so rich and delicious that some patrons even order it for dessert as a special treat.
A day of big reds, art and food
If you’re a lover of big reds, as most Napa Valley visitors are, then don’t miss out on Oakville and Rutherford. This area is rich with delicious reds and beautiful vistas. One of the most stunning is Far Niente (right image), with amazing reds and whites. Don’t miss Dolce, which is owned by Far Niente’s partners and is a late harvest wine blended from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Dolce is the only American winery dedicated to producing a single late harvest wine. This sweet wine has been described as liquid gold.
Frog’s Leap Winery is another favorite, with a laid-back tasting experience on what could be your neighbor’s back porch. That is, if your neighbor lives in the lap of luxury in Napa Valley.
Relaxing on a porch with wine
Head over to Yountville to Bottega (left image), which is an absolute must for lunch or dinner. Sit outside on the patio next to the fireplace, and the winter weather won’t be an issue. Chef Michael Chiarello knows how to treat his guests right at Bottega, with a menu of micro-regional Italian cuisine, selecting the best dishes from across Italy and giving them a Napa twist.
Afterward, visit Ma(i)sonry, also in Yountville. It’s an intimate experience that pairs wine with art, and you can opt to do a tasting in the private garden, or inside in a gallery room. The beautifully landscaped grounds are filled with architectural delights and furnishings ranging from 16th century to mid-twentieth century and contemporary works. The stone building itself was originally a private residence, built in 1904.
And once you’re back at your hotel, be sure and call Zeel for a couples’ massage. The masseuses will arrive at your hotel door, with their own massage tables, and knead out all of the stresses of a day of laborious wine tasting.
Once you’re in Napa, staying at the lauded Silverado Resort and Spa (right image) is a must. With some rooms opening up onto the golf course, you’ll be awakened each morning to the sunrise views looking out over the fairways. Breakfast at The Grill is a laid-back way to start your day.
Or opt for the Napa River Inn if staying downtown is more your thing. With rooms in three different historic buildings, you can easily find something that suits your taste, such as the classic Embarcadero building with balcony rooms overlooking the beautiful riverfront.
Another option is the impeccable Meritage resort, just south of the downtown Napa area, with its own winery on site.
As for wineries, Shafer Vineyards is by appointment only, as are many of the area’s wineries, and this one is worth the trouble. One of the few wineries touting a wine that has scored 100 points by Robert Parker, the tasting experience is unforgettable in a beautiful room with glass doors that slide open to bring in the outdoors, weather permitting, and amazing views of the countryside.
Food, and more food
It’s no surprise that food plays nearly as big of a role in the Napa Valley as does wine. Because man (or woman) cannot live on wine alone. After a day of tastings, there’s nothing better than winding down with a memorable meal. In Napa proper, don’t miss Atlas Social. This relatively new gastropub offers globally-themed small plates with fun dishes such as a mini rabbit pot pie served in a tiny cast iron crock, a farm egg soft boiled and coated in breading, fried, and served with chunky bacon jam, and citrus-braised pork belly tacos with avocado tucked in and salsa roja in a thick tortilla.
Torc (left image) is another new restaurant in downtown Napa, taking the spot of the former Ubuntu. For fans of Ubuntu, they won’t be disappointed at Torc. The chef’s tasting menu is an unforgettable experience that will leave you completely satisfied. The lobster risotto is perhaps the best dish you will ever taste, along with the deviled eggs with pickled onions and bacon. Try something simple, such as a tomato salad with burrata, basil and tomato vinaigrette, and relax and enjoy the handsome interior of the restaurant and its mix of rock walls, high ceilings and a hewn wooden floor.
And if you’re ready to spring for a multi-course menu paired with wines, La Toque offers a build-your-own 3, 4 or 5-course experience that is truly sublime. Chef Ken Frank’s one-Michelin star restaurant located inside the Westin Verasa Napa offers New French cuisine in an amazingly romantic setting.
A classic in downtown Napa is Angele, and for good reason. This charming French bistro is all about service and delicious food, the perfect combo. The restaurant is in an 1890s ship chandlery, a handsome barn-like structure overlooking the Napa River. There’s also a great patio to enjoy classic preparations such as baked oysters, duck liver mousse with summer fruit and toasted country bread, beef tartare made from the rib eye or duck leg confit with roasted potatoes and pears, and wild mushroom risotto with black truffle butter. This is truly a magical dining experience that is a blend of the old and new Napa.
For brunch, head to Lulu’s Kitchen, and try the absolute must-have, lobster eggs benedict. It’s the perfect bridge to close the gap between breakfast and lunch.
If you want to try to imitate some of the delicious Napa food yourself, head to the Silverado Cooking School with hands-on cooking classes for those who want to try their hand at learning a new recipe or technique.
Another option to break the monotony (if such a thing exists) of back-to-back wine tastings is to visit the olive mill at Round Pond. Try the small bites olive oil tasting, and take a tour of the grounds. And when you’re ready for more wine, the Round Pond estate tasting isn’t to be missed.
Whatever you do in the Napa Valley, romance is sure to be a part of the experience. And don't forget, this is one of the most famous places on the planet for engagements, so it's okay to get your hopes up. At the very least, you might inspire your sweetheart to propose on your next trip to Napa.