Napa Valley is known for many things, and included in that list are their beautiful wines, world-renowned restaurants, boutique tasting rooms, and the ultimate places to get pampered. With only 72 hours to spend in Napa Valley, with a trip that I would start and end in San Francisco, this vacation required planning and planning I did.
If you are a Napa vet then you probably know exactly what to do and where to go. If you have yet to venture into this famous wine region you’ll be surprised at how much fun you can fit into 3 days and never have to leave the 30-mile stretch. Either way, here is how I spent my 72 hours in Napa and if you feel so inclined, please feel free to steal this and do the same!
From San Francisco to Napa Valley
After a lengthy flight from Houston, a stint in Berkeley at La Note to enjoy a bountiful brunch was a must. A 1.5-hour scenic drive to Napa Valley would follow, but unfortunately, I only caught the final 15-20 minutes as sleep took over; my husband graciously filled me in on what I missed. As we turned into our hotel at Charlie Palmer’s Harvest Inn, located in St. Helena, I was elated with our decision to spend the next three nights here. The place is absolutely stunning! Waking up and taking a leisurely stroll through the vineyard on the way to breakfast was the highlight of our mornings and falling asleep with an in-room fireplace was the highlight of our nights.
We only had a few hours to get acquainted with our temporary home before we were out the door and headed to dinner. Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, a Michelin one-star restaurant, was our dining destination. The service and overall experience was not what I would have expected from a top-rated restaurant (maybe we caught them on a bad night?), but the food was the opposite. With that said, I would highly recommend a stop by Bouchon Bakery next door to make up for any hard feelings. I had high hopes in being able to visit his Michelin three-starred French Laundry but it didn’t work well with our large group that had more than a few dietary restrictions. However, if you are down for a nine-course tasting menu at one of the best restaurants in the world, by all means go for it! It’s one experience I plan to have during my next visit there.
The Napa Valley Wine Train
The next day would be filled with wine, shopping, and of course, more food! Our private dining experience aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train would begin as soon as we stepped foot in the Vista Dome, the train’s elevated and intricately decorated 1952 Pullman domed rail car. We were handed a complimentary glass of California sparkling wine, and spent the next several hours enjoying each other’s company and sharing delight in choosing our selected dish and wine pairing for each of the four courses.
Our time on the train was too short but after several glasses of wine, we were happy just to be in Napa. A stop at the 40,000-square-foot Oxbow Public Market was next on our list where we visited several local purveyors, sampled ice cream, grabbed a few to go snacks, and plotted our evening plans (because food is always on the brain, go figure). Dinner would be a Brix, a short drive from our hotel. We could have stayed there for hours talking and drinking up a storm. Our community style table was perfect for our group of 8 and the view that overlooked their garden really couldn’t be beat. Combine this with a killer Foie Gras Burger and the day could be considered epic.
Winery Tours & “Secret Sauce” Burgers
We turned our focus to take part in a few wine tours and tastings because a trip to Napa wouldn’t be complete without them. There are approximately 400 wineries in the Napa Valley region itself (4% of California’s wine is produced in Napa Valley) so even after a few trips to the area, you will still have a way to go. We would kick off our next day at Robert Mondavi. We ventured on a tour and tasting combination so we could take a deeper dive and learn the story behind the iconic brand. Our tasting consisted of a Chardonnay and a few Cabernet Sauvignon’s (the most popular grape grown in the valley) which were so delightful we purchased a few bottles to bring back home.
After fine dining for a few days, sometimes you just want a burger. You will find Gott’s Roadside on every must-eat list and they are known for their thin patty burgers dripping with their “secret sauce”. After onion rings, fries, and shakes, we were fat-fat full and ready for some chill time before our dinner later that evening. The hubby and I opted for a solo dinner date for our final evening in Napa. Redd Wood, the more casual sister restaurant of the white table cloth Redd, was the perfect location. Wood-fired pizza were enjoyed alongside craft cocktails and a decadent Chocolate Tart made with soft caramel, praline, and maldon salt. Amazing.
Boutique Wineries & Other Culinary Experiences
Our final day called for more wines, a little more shopping, and a meal to send us off in the most proper fashion. Our gracious hosts at Alpha Omega Winery made it very difficult to leave. We sat outdoors on the terrace right in front of their fountains overlooking their vineyard with a panoramic view of the valley and the Mayacamas Mountains. They harvest grapes from their own vineyards and other vineyards in the area. This family-owned boutique winery simply oozes class and world-class hospitality. Our private tasting included a sampling of four current selection wines and two Wine Club wines. Just a wonderful experience all around and we can’t wait to return.
I nearly lost all my mind at Dean & Deluca, and this was “supposed” to be a quick pit stop. The upscale grocer specializes in any and everything special. I found myself stocking up on coffee beans, lavender hand lotions, and a ton of other stuff I probably didn’t need. The Boon Fly Cafe would be our final stop for lunch desserts. We ordered salad because we knew it was about to be a sweet feast up in there! Yes, we ordered every single item on their desert menu (all 9), no judgement. I also recommend the Fremont Diner, which was closed for renovations the day we dropped by.
Whew! I’m not sure about you but just recapping those 72 hours has me both overwhelmed and excited at the time same time! I patiently await my next visit to the area where there is truly so much to do and it seems we always have very little time.