The ultimate destination for wine lovers is Napa Valley, and this is how you can plan a full tour of everything this stunning destination has to offer
Napa Valley is the place to go for a gastronomic feast. It is where people go if they want to wine and dine amid the romantic landscape of vineyards. It is home to hundreds of wineries and a broad selection of restaurants that offer high-end tasting menus to casual dining.
The entire county spans about 30 miles of land. Because of its mild weather, it is the best place to plant and harvest grapes for winemaking. Napa Valley is a popular weekend destination for Californians and foreign tourists.
There are many ways to enjoy and explore Napa Valley. It all depends on how much time you have, and how big your appetite is for great food and wine. Past visitors agree that one day is not enough to get the most out of Napa Valley. It is quite difficult (but not impossible) to travel between wineries using public transportation. Likewise, Uber and Lyft prices add up. Might as well take your car or rent one for the trip.
Planning a visit can be quite overwhelming due to the number of wineries and restaurants and local attractions. So it is best to plan ahead and be prepared. It is best to go to Napa Valley using private cars as a lot of the wineries and restaurants are not within walking distance of each other. This is a great option for wine aficionados who want to visit particular wineries that group tours may not offer. Here are some guidelines:
- Upon arrival at Napa Valley, go to the Napa Valley Welcome Center to get the latest information and announcements
- Visit 4-5 wineries in a day
- Budget $25 to $40 for wine tasting fees per winery
- Wine Pass – get 2-for-1 deals and freebies from partner wineries
- Make reservations prior to going, as some places have limited capacity for wine tasting and/or dining
- Keep the group to about 5-6 people
- Show up on time as some of the more popular restaurants and wineries have a long wait time
Wine tours are best for those who wish to have an overview of this wine community. Tour groups pre-select the best restaurants, attractions, and wineries. These tour groups change an all-inclusive fee which comes with a fixed itinerary, including pick up and drop off from hotels.
- Napa Valley Wine Train with Gourmet Lunch / Cost: from $145
- Napa Valley Open Air Wine Trolley Tour with Lunch / Cost: from $115
- Small-Group Wine-Tasting Tour through Napa Valley / Cost: from $129
- Robert Mondavi Winery: One of the best vineyards in the United States.
- Cakebread Cellars: Known for their chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
- Beringer Vineyards: One of the oldest wineries in Napa Valley, and is also one of the most recognizable names in the world of wines. Beringer has a broad range of wines, from standard to premium.
- Charles Krug: The oldest winery in Napa Valley, and was the first winery in Napa to offer a tasting menu.
- Castello di Amorosa: Known as the “Napa Castle”, this winery produces some of the best Italian-style wines.
- Domaine Chandon: Cool off with some sparkling wine on a warm summer day at Domaine Chandon.
- Napa Valley Distillery: Technically not a winery, as it focuses more on spirits, the Napa Valley Distillery is a good place to go to learn more about making spirits, while sampling a few.
When to Visit
Napa Valley is blessed with a mild climate all year round. It shows off a different type of charm no matter which month of the year it is. During the spring, wildflowers abound in the fields. It makes for a pretty background while having a picnic outdoors. Summer has the best weather for hiking and biking. There are trails throughout the valley, where visitors can get a view of endless vineyards. During the winter months, visitors can enjoy indoor dining featuring well-made food prepared with seasonal local ingredients.
Nothing beats going to Napa during the fall season, which is harvest season. Napa Valley comes alive during this time of year. Visitors can enjoy special events like themed dinners, exhibits, and winemaking festivities during their visit.
Where To Eat
Napa Valley has more than a handful of high-end, Michelin-starred restaurants within the community.
- French Laundry / Cost: $350 per person for the tasting menu
- Morimoto Napa / Cost: from $50
- La Toque / Cost: from $75
- Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch Café / Cost: from $20
- Hog Island Oyster Co. / Cost: from $28 for a bucket of oysters
- Model Bakery / Cost: from $3 for pastries
Where To Stay
It is hard to squeeze in everything in one day. If possible, try to stay at least one night. This way, visitors can take a rest after a full day of eating and drinking. Napa Valley has different types of accommodations, from 5-star hotels to quaint bed-and-breakfasts.
- Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Napa ValleyCost: from $143.65
- Napa Winery InnCost: from $189
- Archer Hotel NapaCost: from $449
- Hotel Napa Valley, Ascend Hotel CollectionCost: from $179
Napa Valley Museum. Get to know the history; growth and development of Napa Valley. The museum includes photos, artifacts, and memorabilia from the various restaurants and wineries.
- Oxbow Public Market: A favorite haunt for locals and tourists. It is a market that sells fresh produce, local crafts, and is surrounded by local restaurants.
- First Street Napa: A place for shopping, dining, and wine tasting.
- Napa Valley Art Walk
- BottleRock Festival: A yearly music festival featuring some of the best artists
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