The unofficial tag line of Napa Valley is “Disney World for adults” — which can be loosely translated as “Disney, with alcohol.” But since all the alcohol you’re likely to consume is wine from the region’s 200-plus vineyards and wineries, it’s classy.
After all — as the posh locals love to say — this is just a humble farming community.
Many visitors show up just for the vino, hopping from town to town and winery to winery to sample cabs and pinots. But with spas, boutiques, galleries, golf courses, hilly parks, yoga studios and some of the most decadent restaurants in the country, there’s more to Napa than just wine.
Napa is known as much for its indulgent eats as for its wine, earning a whopping 12 Michelin stars this year. But you don’t need to drop hundreds of dollars at Thomas Keller’s revered French Laundry in Yountville to eat like a king — just a hundred or so at any of the top-rated spots. As this is the West Coast, farm-to-table, heirloom, sustainable, organic creations reign.
Battling it out for our top picks are La Toque in the elegant Westin Verasa Napa (www.westinnapa.com) and Lucy at the modern Bardessono hotel (www.bardessono.com), where we had a tour of the chef’s garden, snagging a handful of sweet white alpine strawberries.
For a quick nibble, stop by the Oxbow Public Market (www.oxbowpublicmarket.com) in downtown Napa, just down the street from the Westin.
Work off all that food by working up a sweat. This writer is an uncoordinated yoga newbie who was balancing on her head by the end of a session at Silverado Resort and Spa (www.silveradoresort.com). The made-to-order smoothie we had right after was the perfect cool-down.
Fancy a round of croquet? Stay at Meadowood (www.meadowood.com), set on a private 250-acre estate in the northern town of St. Helena, for access to the games of the gentry. Any resort can have a golf coach making the rounds, but for a truly refined experience, don all white, grab a mallet and have croquet instructor Mike McDonnell teach you the ways of the game.
There’s no shortage of spas. For a tranquil experience, head to Solage Calistoga (www.solagecalistoga.com) in Calistoga, the northernmost town in Napa, where you can soak up the sun before your treatments lounging at what the hotel/spa calls a “private, gender-specific, clothing-optional hydrotherapy circuit area.” We call it a naked pool, and we loved it.
Book Solage’s signature Mudslide: a full-body mud mask with your choice of scented oil, followed by a bath in geo-thermal mineral water, capped off by a nap in a vibration chair.
We’re not sure how much good these things actually do for our skin, but the pampering sure helped ease our East Coast stress.
A little bit of Flavor!
Every day is tourist appreciation day in Napa, but Flavor! (www.flavornapa valley.com) takes it even further. From Nov. 20-24, get a sampling of the best of the valley with this foodie festival. Every chef who participates either has a restaurant in the area or graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. The highlight is Appellation Trail at the CIA’s St. Helena campus, a tasting event featuring almost 100 wineries and 25 restaurants.