Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Vacation in Napa, CA - November 2010
I was invited by the Napa Downtown Association to Napa to discover all that it has to offer. I flew in on Southwest and due to the fog in San Francisco my flight was delayed (however the flights to Oakland were on time so I would consider flying to Oakland next time). Once we arrived in Napa we checked into our hotel at the Napa River Inn, which is Downtown Napa's only Michelin-rated hotel. This is a cute hotel right on the river waterfront. The room I had was a superior room, which had a balcony with a river view and a fireplace…very cool. The room had the most comfortable bed and I am even trying to see if I can buy their pillows. When you stay at the hotel, breakfast is included and you can choose to have either room-service (food provided by Sweetie Pies bakery) or eat next door at Sweetie Pies Bakery. Wi fi is also included. It was great to wake up to the beautiful view overlooking the river and seeing all the beautiful hot-air balloons in the distance. There are many stores, restaurants, and even a spa in the same complex. It is a cute community with a lot of history.
After checking in we decided to explore Main Street in Napa’s Downtown District. We stopped at the Bounty Hunter for a cheese and charcuterie plate along with a champagne flight….heavenly. Next we walked down Main Street and stopped at Vintners Collective Multi-Winery Tasting room where we had wine tastings from different vineyards which were very good . We then headed to the Napa Valley Wine Train for a 3 hour dinner train ride. What an experience. The meal was amazing and the wine from ZD as well as the champagne from Domaine Chandon were incredible. It was so much fun to be on the train having a grown up gourmet meal. They offer day and night time events and once a year have a family train ride for the holidays (but it sells out quickly).
The following morning we went to the Napa General Store for breakfast. This is located in the same complex as the Napa River Inn. They have a cute store inside with crafts made from the local artisans. We learned about the Napa River Flood Control in order to stop future floods and how great the downtown district had become. After breakfast we went on a Napa Walking Tour with George Webber, the local historian/Tour Guide. He was incredible. Dressed in costume, spoke with such great personality and knew so much of the history of Napa. We even toured the Churchill Manor, a Victorian Mansion in Napa that is now a bed and breakfast. What a lovely place to be able to stay. If you were looking for a charming place to stay, this would definitely be a great choice. We also toured The Cedar Gables Inn , a Shakespearean Bed and Breakfast. The owners, Ken and Susie were very sweet and welcoming. The wife loves to cook and bake so she has cooking classes you can take (they sell out in advance so be sure to make a reservation early if you are interested). She had one of the coolest kitchens I have ever seen…be sure to check it out.
We then walked to the emerging Oxbow District in downtown and visited the Oxbow Public Market , which has become the local gathering place. Their selective vendors offer a wide range of artisanal food and wine products, and feature fresh, organic and sustainable ingredients for any meal as well as an inexpensive snack or meal on site. I had the most amazing taco at C Casa where they make the tortillas fresh while you wait for your food. After our lunch we went on a guided tour of downtown Napa wine bars that are part of the Buzz Downton Napa Tasting room Association which is a collaboration of 13 winery tasting rooms located in the heart of the historic town of Napa. They are each independently owned. Our tour was led by Katie Hamilton Shaffer who is one of 3 owners of the Toolbox Wine Company. We stopped at her wine tasting bar which carries very reasonably priced wines. She shares her space with Gustavo Thrace. The film Bottle Shock was created after her partner Gustavo Brambila. Our next stop was Mason Cellars. I really enjoyed the Three Pears Pinot Grigio (and it only costs $10/bottle). They even offer complimentary tastings of each of their wines. We visited Ceja Vineyards which was founded by Mexican-American immigrants. Amelia Ceja took such pride in her wines and her family. She is a very spunky woman. Her family also owns a restaurant nearby called Bistro Sabor serving Latin America’s favorite street food and snacks. They even have salsa dancing on Saturday nights from 10:00 PM – 2:00 Am.
Before dinner we visited the Napa Valley Opera House , an intimate house with a seating capacity of 450. Singers, musicians, writers, dancers, actors and speakers have appeared on the stage since the doors opened. Originally built in 1880, after a 13 million dollar renovation, it reopened it’s doors in 2003.
That evening we went to dinner at Grace’s Table in downtown Napa. This is owned by a husband and wife team. I was blown away at how great everything tasted. We had a variety of items such as Potato Gnocchi in an Oregon Black Truffle Butter, Reggiano Parmigiano, Truffled Cow Milk Cheese, the iron skillet cornbread, lavender honey butter and Mache Lettuce, the bacon wrapped almond filled dates, cassoulet, duck confit, boudin blanc sausage, osso bucco with risotto , garlic sausage, butter bean, pork belly. Well you get the idea…everything was magnificent. I can’t wait to return to this restaurant.
The next morning I had breakfast at Sweetie Pies Bakery. Loved their chocolate croissant. They even offered to warm it up for me. I enjoyed the quiche as well. We were invited to go on a river boat ride. They don’t have these open for the public but if you meet someone that has a boat on the river I am sure they would love to take you around. It was quite peaceful. We had this amazing woman, Moira Johnston Block, take us around the river and explain the history. She is the founding member of Friends of the Napa River and played an intrical part in the Napa River Flood Control/River Project.
It was almost time to head home but we decided to visit a winery in Napa Valley first. We stopped at Miner Family Vineyards since my cousin is a winemaker there. He took us on an amazing tour of the winery including the cave. So cool. And what an incredible view. It was the perfect ending to the perfect trip.
Napa is a great place to escape with your girlfriends or partners. It is absolutely beautiful, close by, and with downtown Napa rebuilt, you never even have to get in your car to go out and have a good time. Everything is within walking distance including wine tastings, great food, entertainment, and shopping. My accommodations, meals, and activities were hosted by the Napa Downtown Association.