Napa Valley, a famed wine-producing region north of San Francisco in the US, is one of the most romantic corners of the world. With its sleepy, lavender-scented vineyards, polished boutique hotels and world-class bistros, it’s the perfect mix of town and country. Folks who take their food and wine seriously flock from everywhere to sample California’s finest vintages and the Michelin-starred greatness of its culinary scene.
Napa Valley Wine
The wine train, a three-hour excursion rumbling through the heart of the winelands, is the perfect introduction to the wonders of Napa Valley. In the plush comfort of a restored 1950s railway carriage, you can relax over a Champagne lunch served on bone china, watching quaint little towns floating by. The train stops for a castle and winery tour at the showy Castello di Amorosa and offers the thrill of moonlight dining and murder-mystery rides during the summer.
Based at the Silverado Resort. Thomas Keller opened this sizzling of-the-moment pop-up while the French Laundry is being renovated. It’s a sumptuous affair in a moodily lit sunken dining room with huge picture windows overlooking rolling lawns and a Mad Men elegance buzzing with a soundtrack of 1950s and 1960s tunes. The menu of artfully prepared American classics such as mac-and-cheese, vegetable potpie, and Caesar salad made tableside is wonderfully retro too.
A winery and horse ranch in Calistoga, Tamber Bey reflects Barry and Jennifer Waitte’s twin passions and was named after their first two Arabian show horses. Enjoy a precise Pinot Noir in the fancy rustic-chic tasting room, housed in a converted barn, with views of the horse corrals.
A lavish eco-lodge cocooned in a steep canyon amid sky-scraping redwoods. Facing a lake, it’s rather glamorous and the smell of pine from the surrounding woodlands only adds to the romance. Be sure to sample the swoon-worthy homegrown vegetarian tasting menu of exotic greens and its Sauvignon Blancs at the Lakehouse restaurant. The property has its own vineyard, where guests can pick and crush grapes, and enjoy wine-blending parties and grand feasts in the chandeliered wine cave.
Lucy Restaurant at the
Indulge in field-to-fork Cali cuisine and too many Cabernets amid the bamboo-fringed patio of Lucy Restaurant. Anani Lawson, whose stints at the French Laundry and New York’s Per Se made him one of the US’s most sought-after sommeliers, offers a private tasting flight of current releases from local vintners, along with titbits of wisdom. A sleek, minimalist hip spot, Lucy Restaurant showcases more than 100 wines and seasonal fare.
North Block Hotel
A Tuscan-style boutique in the ever-evolving food-and-wine Yountville mecca, which shares a courtyard with famed chef Richard Reddington’s posh pizzeria Redd Wood. Down the street, the concentration of revered bistros, patisseries and tasting salons is nothing short of wondrous. Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley, an eclectic art gallery-cum-wine collective in a stone manor stuffed to the rafters with art and antiques, is gem of a place where guests can sip rare cult wines in spirit-lifting settings.
In the ivy-covered gourmet V Marketplace in Yountville, chef-turned-chocolatier Chris Kollar shows you how to whip up his fanciful all-natural confections: passion-fruit ganache truffles that look like jewels. “Once you’ve had the Kollar Krack, you never go back,” he announces, producing a tray of the dark-chocolate pop rocks. Getting your hands dirty hand-rolling marshmallow-vanilla chocolates is a sense-stirring experience.
Peju Province Winery
A charming family-owned artisan vineyard in Rutherford Hill that produces stellar varieties of sustainably farmed wines. You can walk through avenues of arching sycamores, sculpture gardens and the mini-animal sanctuary behind the family farmhouse before stopping in the French Provincial tower tasting room to sample bold red blends. But the kitchen is the hotspot at Peju for the custom-tailored cooking classes. Over the long, handcrafted oak table, Guatemalan chef Alex Espinoza shows you how to create an elegant three-course lunch, which you can feast on afterwards.