Time to Visit Napa Valley

Napa First Hand

November in Napa Valley is bursting with the signs of fall; the yellow leaves are more golden, and the reds are more russet. Of course, the scintillating scent of grapes permeates the crisp harvest air. The devastating fires of October certainly brought despair to all who live and love the wine region. Ever mindful of those who lost their homes and businesses, and with great respect for the teams of first responders who protected individuals and properties, I wanted to share my recent visit in Napa Valley. With the joy of first hand insight into the conditions and experience of the Valley, I’m pleased to say that overall, the Valley is back to normal, and the air is truly crisp and clear again.

All of the fires have been contained, and the Napa Valley wineries have continued to bring the 2017 harvest to fruition. The doors are open in all of the restaurants, shops, and vineyards in the towns of Yountville and St. Helena. Overall, a dozen wineries were affected, but there are close to 800 that were not touched.

Napa was most fortunate in that it looked almost completely unscathed; it is fully operational and brimming with vibrancy and vigor. However, Sonoma did not fare as well, but it is operational again, and they are working feverishly to rebuild and renew the communities hardest hit.

The Wine Experience

The wine tasting experience is two-fold. First, one gets to explore the incredible taste of wines that only this region can produce, by some of the best winemakers in the world. Secondly, the breathtaking architecture is evident throughout; whether it is a sprawling ranch, historic home setting, or a cozy living space, the variety of properties add an additional element to the experience.

The essence of Napa Valley is more than just the beauty of this wine growing region, but also the opportunity to gain a greater appreciation for the art, history, and human passion for wine making and consumption.

My first experience included the beautiful Tusk Estate, whose enviable location high in the hills, affords incredible views of Napa Valley below.  While many of the wineries have their own unique look and savoir-faire, when you enter Tusk Estate, it feels as if you have been invited to a lovely Venetian-styled, private home. The most extravagant experience and my favorite was the state-of-the-art wine cave, complete with a fantastic music sound system, bar and lounge area, as well as private rooms with prized wines. This is an exclusive experience that Frontiers can arrange for you during your stay in Napa.

A ceiling full of rose petals, a beautiful red baby grand piano and baccarat crystal throughout greeted me as I walked into the Raymond Vineyards property. Here, I enjoyed an exceptional dinner experience in the Red Velvet room of this estate, with their newest releases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlots. 

A rustic barn structure greeted me when I visited the Davis Winery. Once the door opened, I was amazed to see a complete facility for wine making. Heading to the upper deck, they presented a lovely charcuterie plate with a glass of their interestingly named, Chardonnay Hungry Blond wine. What further enhanced this experience was the amazing panoramic view of the mountains.

Sophisticated Surroundings in Napa

There are many options to welcome a lovely stay in Napa; however the following two that I experienced both embody comfort, casual sophistication and have an ambiance reminiscent of the Napa Valley experience.

Vintage House recently underwent a major renovation, located in the charming town of Yountville. The hotel exudes sophisticated elegance, but still retains warmth with its palates of greys and muted lavenders in a luxury farmhouse style decor. One unique feature of the property is that they use local artwork throughout. My room was complete with fireplace, private porch, and a spacious bedroom area. Large oversized soaking tubs and dual rain showers are a nice plus. Guests here enjoy the outdoor pool with the very large hot tub which is flanked by a waterfall wall, and surrounded by sculpted garden settings. This hotel has a great location in the town whereby guests can walk to local shops, art galleries, fun bars, tasting rooms, and excellent restaurants. One of these restaurants is the famous French Laundry, which offers two different nine-course tasting menus daily – in which no recipe uses the same ingredient more than once. Additionally, there are two restaurants on the property of Vintage House, the award-winning Chef Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega and also the Charming Ottimo with its local and Italian fare.

Meadowood Resort, is situated on a 250 acre private estate and is nestled in the woods of the famed town of St. Helena. Meadowood, is a premier property that displays the best Napa has to offer in terms of an epicurean, experiential, and healthy enrichment in the most natural of settings. The resort offers 85 rooms and suites in total. Especially engaging for me was a lesson with their croquet professional, on their formal (British-style) croquet court. Everyone dresses in traditional white. During my lesson, I noted a variety of guests of all ages also enjoying the game. Other outdoor pursuits include golf, horseback riding, kayak on the Napa River or fly fish on Putah Creek. Meadowood also offers a unique spa setting that rivals any great resort, as the fitness and spa experience is completely meshed with the beautiful surroundings.

They also provide tailored eco-fitness classes and health related experiences. Our yoga class was held in the outdoors, and the fitness trek was enjoyed throughout the grounds. In addition, Meadowood offers fabulous dining at their famed Michelin 3-star restaurant, The Restaurant at Meadowood. This is the only Michelin 3 star restaurant in the United States. Chef Christopher Kostow has also opened a casual dining room named The Charter Oak in downtown St. Helena. The menu reflects the products of the Napa Valley and also only highlights two ingredients at a time. Their Estate Sommeliers curate wine excursions based on your personal interests, and will also host on-site wine experiences right there in the beautiful settings at Meadowood.

Opportunities For Adventure

In addition to wine tasting, Napa offers a number of exciting and unique activities to fill your days and complete your vacation experience. Ambling along the backroads on my bike was a great way to explore the town of Yountville. There’s much opportunity to be fit when in Napa. Frontiers can arrange guides and winery visits that allow you to hike or bicycle with a stop to enjoy a picnic lunch or a local restaurant with tasting of local wines included. Embrace the hands-on harvest experience, where you really immerse yourself in the experience from the vineyard, to the winery and to the barrel room.

Only the sounds of nature were heard in my open-air treatment room at the Spa at Meadowood, where I was able to experience a lemongrass steam, an invigorating massage and the opportunity to relax in a peaceful slumber in this incredible setting.

My excitement was building as I arrived at the hot air balloon launch area. Exhilaration overcame me, as the hot air balloon transcended the ground, where I was about to get a glimpse of the Valley from above. My first thought when they were getting the balloon fired up, was that I was allowing myself to take off in a wicker basket! However, the amazing views and the relative ease within which you float across the sky in the hands of an experienced balloonist, gave way to a calm elation.

Wine-related activities do reign supreme in Napa, from being winemaker for a day, to creating your own bottle of wine (complete with your unique label), cooking classes, as well as combination art and wine tours, picnics with food and wine pairings and of course elegant dinners with renowned chefs.

A visit to Napa offers all the elements of a vacation full of entertainment, from active adventures through the valley to passionate pursuits to expand your culinary and wine knowledge. The Wine Country encompasses charming towns, aromatic vineyards, historical homes and lovely estates where you can relish wine tasting with some of the best winemakers in the world. Frontiers will customize the perfect Wine Country itinerary for you whether you are traveling as a family, a girlfriend’s getaway, or a romantic couple’s retreat.  Come for the first time; you’ll be back again and again.

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