By Alison Bailin Batz
There is nothing like Napa during the late fall and winter. Gone are throngs of crowds seeking to sip in the sun through the spring and summer and then celebrate harvest season in early autumn. Exploring Napa during the cooler months feels like having Disneyland – a very adult Disneyland – to oneself. And thanks to a daily flight from Phoenix to Napa neighbor Santa Rosa on American Airlines, it is incredibly easy to hop on the 75-minute flight and get tasting.
Now, when visiting during busier months, wine lovers usually must focus on one growing region within Napa – Yountville, St. Helena, Rutherford, Carneros, Calistoga – given the high season’s never-ending traffic. However, for the next several months, the surprisingly rural roads through the mighty wine country are wide open, meaning visitors may spread their wings and sample away.
The first step to planning the perfect Napa getaway is choosing idyllic accommodations. Among the best bets are Bardessono Hotel and Spa, Carneros Resort, and The Meritage Resort and Spa. The sprawling Bardessono is a proud LEED Platinum Certified property and situated within its own vineyard along the main drag in the culinary mecca of Napa’s Yountville. Somehow, the modern resort provides an ultra-lavish experience and one of the best area dining experiences in its famed Lucy Restaurant yet does it all within a sustainable environment. Carneros, located in Napa’s Carneros where pinot noir and chardonnay rule, is equal parts farm, culinary hotspot, and luxury resort all in one. Then there is The Meritage, a AAA Four Diamond resort that also boasts a chic hotel-within-a-hotel concept called Vista Collina at The Meritage and full-scale brewery onsite.
With sleeping quarters set, the next step is to decide which of the 400-plus wineries in the area to visit. Book reservations at a combination of vineyards and tastings rooms that offer diverse experiences, including:
ONEHOPE Wine: Napa’s only cause-related winery, and its co-owner calls Arizona home! Book the Wine & Bites experience for the vineyard’s most exclusive selections, each paired with a small plate from their onsite chef.
Handwritten Wines: These wines are like buttah. So, it is only fitting they offer the Bread and Butter experience, which pairs five distinct cabernets with artisan butters and locally sourced fresh bread.
Ram’s Gate: If design lovers are on the trip, the architecturally awe-inspiring Ram’s Gate is the perfect stop. Book the Caviar Experience and compare caviars with both still and sparkling wines.
Girard: Do not miss the VIP Tasting here, an ultimate behind-the-scenes tour capped with Calistoga-exclusive wines and small bites.
Silver Trident: This tasting room doubles as a Ralph Lauren showroom and offers one of the cheekiest tastings in its Potato Chip Extravaganza. Yes, it is a wine and potato chip pairing. And it is even better than one might imagine.
Cakebread Cellars: This family-owned jewel has an amazing culinary lunch experience as well as the Perfect Pair experience, which features a walk through their sustainable vineyard and gardens.
Rombauer: While known for its chardonnay, the zinfandel at Rombauer will be everyone’s new favorite wine. Book the Cave Tour, which feels like entering a Hobbit’s home, but in the best way possible.
Clos Pegase: The only way to do this gem justice is booking the Connoisseur Cave Tour & Tasting, which has a little of everything, including a cave theatre and culinary pairing.
Palmaz: Founded by the doctor who created the heart stent, it is said each grape in this vineyard represents a life he has saved. Book the tour through the unground cave and its surprise “light show.”
Raymond Vineyards: At Raymond, they offer guests the chance to blend their own bottles through the Winemaker for a Day experience. Also, while there check out the “Red Room,” too!
Chandon: Bubbles, anyone? Go big at this sparkling wine fairyland by booking the Epicurean Experience, a full multi-course and sensory experience of all thing’s food and wine. It is a wow.
Hungry for more? Napa is also among the most lauded foodie destinations in the world. Find time to visit RH Yountville, the Bubble Room, Press Napa Valley, Mustard’s Grill, and Bottega as well.