If you’re anything of a wine lover then no doubt you’ve heard of the famous Napa Valley just north of San Francisco, California. Iconic not only for its selection of quality wines, but also for delicious food and breath taking scenery.
If you fancy the odd glass of vino then you really can’t miss out on planning a trip to Napa Valley while traveling through Northern California. And even if you’re not a massive wine drinker, enjoying a day in Napa Valley is an ideal opportunity for seeing California’s picturesque landscapes and indulging in quality restaurants.
Traveling to Napa Valley
A trip to Napa Valley is only two hours north from San Francisco, making it the ideal weekend getaway to treat yourself to one of the many quaint bed and breakfasts cottages in the area. Or in our case, the perfect day trip escape from the city. Our morning started in San Francisco, but a short time in the van saw us fully immersed in the California countryside.
While traveling to Napa Valley be sure to keep an eye on the gorgeous countryside. The road is lined with rolling green hills, full of bright mustard flowers and grape vines. In the sunlight the bright yellow petals of the flowers pop against the sharp green blades of grass, and every so often fields of flowers open up to rows upon rows of vineyards.
These vineyards are like the gold mines of Napa Valley, with their rows upon rows of spindly vines creeping along the fences. Each branch is trimmed to perfection and ready to provide quality wines around the world. And of all the quality selections on offer, the wines came from the beautiful Chiarello Family Vineyards. These wines can be sampled on site, or if you’re feeling a little peckish enjoy a glass or two over lunch at Bottega Restaurant.
Where to Eat in Napa Valley
Bottega Restaurant is the dainty kind of place that you’d expect to see in a fairy tale wedding. White cherry blossom trees line the entrance, with droplets of petals falling softly like a light winter’s snow. The gardens are manicured to perfection with seamlessly mowed lawns and vibrant flowers that contrast against the rustic brick of the buildings to give the whole grounds a colorful pop.
Famous TV chef, proprietor of Chiarello Vineyard and long time Napa residet Michael Chiarello heads the restaurant with his brilliant staff. He has added his modern take on some classic Italian dishes and they are delicious! Expect the same rich tomato flavors you’d expect from tradition Italian cuisine, but with more flare and extra ingredients to really make the dishes standout.
For me, the wood oven baked zucchini and potato lasagna, with a shaved mushroom and celery salad, was the winner for the day. The menu was creative and varied, and I even gave my arch nemesis Brussels sprouts another shot with a delicious shaved Brussels sprouts antipasti dish.
Throughout the lunch we were treated to a selection of wines to sample, notably their crisp Chiara Bianco white with notes of white peach and pear, and their Giana Zinfandel with its mix of red and blue berries. I’d never really considered myself much of a wine drinker, but after sampling a few throughout the day I was ready to keep them coming.
Where to Drink in Napa Valley
If you’re heading to Napa, chances are you’re planning on doing a little wine tasting. There may not be any better place in the world than Napa Valley for tasting wines. The winery selection is exquisite and the views overlooking the vineyards while sipping on a glass just enhance the experience. There are plenty of wonderful wineries depending on your preference including Robert Mondavi and Rutherford.
We especially recommend visiting the Trinchero Family Winery. Their newly re-opened tasting room has cozy, old world charm that will make you feel right at home. The winery is family run and the attention to quality shows through in their delicious wines. Their whites are fantastic but their deep, rich reds are really special. We absolutely loved the Forte and Mario’s Cabernet Sauvignon. The staff at the winery are expert sommeliers and can help you find the perfect selection to take a few bottles home and enjoy later. We’ll be keeping a few bottles from this winery on hand for for those nights we feel like indulging and gifts for close family and friends. I know what mom’s getting for her birthday this year!
Exploring Napa Valley
After lunch, sufficiently full and feeling a little buzzed from the wine, it was really nice to finish the day with a walk around the gardens to take in the atmosphere of the countryside and all that Napa has to offer.
Just down the road from Chiarello is the famous French Laundry headed by Thomas Keller. What appears to be a pretty casual and laid back little restaurant is actually one of the most sought after on the West Coast, with people making reservations months in advance just to get a chance to dine there.
We weren’t lucky enough to check it out, but we did get the chance to wander around the garden across the road from French Laundry, where the restaurant grows all it’s own organic produce. It’s a lovely garden to stroll through, especially if the sun is shining, the sky is clear and you’ve got a little bit of left of wine to enjoy with good friends.
And that’s really what Napa is all about! Whether you’re up there on a wild bachelor or bachelorette party, a tamer family reunion or just a couple of friends wanting a fun day out, Napa has something for everyone! Any visit to California should be rounded off with a leisurely day of wine tasting in Napa, or in other cases, a wild fiesta!
Thanks to Visit California for showing me the best Napa Valley day trip and providing some quality restaurant and wine experiences. You were always going to win me over with free wine… but I think you knew that!