My husband and I have been fortunate enough to travel to Napa Valley twice. It’s a region that we love, not only for the amazing food and wine but the area is so beautiful and the local people are so welcoming. We’ve experienced Napa two ways, the budget-friendly route, and the VIP route, thanks to friends of ours who not only allowed us to stay in their beautiful vacation home nestled in Yountville. They also helped us plan the perfect Napa Valley weekend and we are able to have so many unique (and affordable) experiences that made our trip unforgettable! Today I’m sharing our Napa Valley Itinerary for a three day weekend along with some of the outfits we wore while traveling. Be sure to read to the end for some tips and tricks we’ve learned on our visits. This trip was actually two years ago, and before I got my good camera, but all the details I share below are current and applicable to today!
NAPA VALLEY WEEKEND: THE ULTIMATE ITENARARY
After traveling most of the day, we got to our home for the long Napa Valley weekend and we changed and freshened up. We enjoyed an amazing dinner at Bottega Italian, a restaurant very well known for the superb Italian fare by celebrity owner and chef Michael Chiarello. We went back to the house, turned the outdoor gas fire on and enjoyed the quiet together and enjoyed talking about life, dreams, the kids. It’s funny how you don’t realize how loud and all-encompassing your kids can be until you get away for a few days. The next morning, after a night of sleeping without little people interrupting, we woke up to a sky full of hot air balloons. We remembered seeing this on our first trip and it’s such a fun sight to see!
Nappa Valley Weekend Day 1: Renolds Family Winery, Taylor Family Vineyard, Chateau Boswell Winery, Schramsberg Vineyards
We started with reservations at Reynolds Family Winery, and we were greeted at the door by the sweetest host. We sat on their patio and enjoyed the view of their vineyard, the rolling hills, and a quaint little pond. Only one other table was seated during our tasting, so it felt like we had the place to ourselves. We loved all of their wines, and I especially loved The Quote. Our hostess offered to take us on a private tour behind the scenes but we had reservations lined up so she promised to honor her offer when we come visit again.
Reservations Required – 5 Flight Tasting – $35 ppOur next reservation was a tasting and picnic lunch at Taylor Family Vineyards. I had not heard of this winery before, and it was the #1 winery on the list provided by our friends. We stopped by Oakville Grocery to pick up our groceries for lunch. If you haven’t been to Oakville Grocery, it’s a must see even if you stop by for a coffee or to pick up a treat. Founded in 1881, they are the oldest grocery in California. They have an unbelievable selection of cheeses, bread, meats, oils, desserts, dips, fruit and veggies. They also have wine, household items like picnic baskets, cutting boards, and more. We found this grocery on our first trip to Napa and I was so glad to be back.
For two days of this Napa Valley weekend, we scheduled a limousine service. It was so nice to set our own itinerary and have someone else in charge of getting us there. Our first trip we rented a car, which was nice, but I feel like we had a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful hillside not having to worry about a map, or directions, or driving. On to Taylor Family Vineyards in our beautiful white stretch limo. We didn’t know an amazing surprise was coming! The Taylor family has an incredible history. It is family owned and operated by three generations. In 1980, they converted ten acres of the family’s 23-acre ranch to a vineyard where their five family members, planted and tended the new vines themselves on their hands and knees. Our driver took us to a gated entrance, and once the gates opened we drove up a winding road ending at their beautiful ranch, in the hills of Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. We were greeted by owner Pat and her granddaughter Danielle, who lived in Arkansas for a short time before joining the family winery business. Now for our surprise. They had a breathtaking tasting set up for us with a tray of cheese, fruit, and bread along with freshly picked grapes from their property and four chairs looking out on their unbelievable view of the rolling hills of Napa Valley. We sat and enjoyed stories of their family, the history of the winery, and of course all the tasting details of the wine selection. They really are salt-of-the-earth kind of people! I fell in love with their Sauvignon Blanc and it has become my favorite wine. After our tastings, Danielle and Pat left us to enjoy our picnic lunch. We sat there feeling so blessed to be on that trip, to have the opportunity to connect, to take in all the beauty, to really enjoy each other’s company. I whispered to Brian to pinch me because it all felt like a dream!
Our tasting was arranged by our friends, so I’m not sure they have public tastings, but it never hurts to contact them!
With full bellies and full hearts, our next stop was Chateau Boswell, a hand-hewn stone winery nestled along the Silverado Trail in Saint Helena, where we had a private cave tour scheduled. Another gated entrance, we had surprises waiting for us here as well. This was the most charming Chateau and perfectly manicured gardens. We were greeted by our host for the afternoon and he first took us into their large processing center. He opened a barrel and we got to see fresh grapes fermenting. He scooped out a few grapes and let us have a taste. It was so interesting to get to actually taste the process, see all the machinery and learn about the details of the winemaking process. We then went into their beautiful cave entrance and went deep into their caves. We saw barrel after barrel of wine, and the host had set up a beautiful tasting at the deepest point in the caves, and gave us a fresh tasting of wine from the barrel. We were the only guests on site that day, what a VIP experience! I really loved their wines and hope to be back in the future!
This tasting and tour were also set up with the help of our friends, but their website states you can call to schedule a visit!
Our last winery for the day was Schramsberg Vineyards, which is located in a restored 19th-century Victorian mansion. Schramsberg Vineyards is known for producing the finest and most complex hand-crafted sparkling wines in California. They make their sparkling wine the traditional method, where it is all carried out by hand: grapes are hand-harvested, the wines are handcrafted, the bottles are stacked and riddled in underground 125-year old caves, some of the bottles are even hand-labeled. We reserved the Cave Tour which takes an hour and a half. This was one of my husband’s favorites because he loves history and learning how things work. This tour was very detailed and educational, and definitely worth the expense.
Reservations Needed – Cave Tour – $70 pp
We had dinner reservations at Bistro Jeanty which is a classic French Bistro nestled in the heart of the Napa Valley. It is the only French owned and operated restaurant and it did not disappoint! We were tired from a long day of touring and tasting, but the amazing meal and beautiful atmosphere were so worth it. I ordered their mussels and pasta, and my meal was simply divine! We will definitely visit there again!
Napa Valley Weekend Day 2: Castello di Amorosa, Hall Winery
We started our day with brunch at Bouchon which not only has a walk-in bakery with every fresh-baked good you can imagine, they also have the cutest French bistro for dining. We sat outdoors on Bouchon’s patio, sipped on mimosas while enjoying a picturesque view of Yountville. As you can see, it’s magazine-worthy!
Our first stop was Castello di Amorosa. Although they offer tours, you can visit the castle without reservations and you can explore many of the floors and rooms. We opted to explore on our own and enjoyed seeing the amazing structure, murals, chandeliers and all of the decor authentically built like a 13th-century Tuscan castle. They do not ship their wine, so you can only taste and purchase on their premises. While their wine is not the highest of quality, the wine is good and the experience is definitely worth a visit. A fun note, they poured a sparkling wine that was a dark pink color and its Italian name means “baby maker”.
We enjoyed lunch at Tra Vina and as you can see we had an amazing piece of Tiramisu, my favorite dessert. Tra Vina is unfortunately now closed.
We then visited Hall Winery which we had heard had amazing wines and an amazing collection of contemporary art. All true, we really enjoyed our visit. The vibe was completely different, a very hip tasting room and a younger crowd. It has a very sophisticated feel and such a gorgeous view. This is a great stop to not only enjoy wine but fine art as well. We asked one of the attendants outside to take our picture and he had such a fun personality. He was insistent that we kiss, and I guess the saying can be applied here, when in Napa…kiss!
Reservations Recommended – $40 pp
We had dinner plans in Yountville but ended up delayed so we picked up a late reservation at Archetype in St. Helena, and it didn’t disappoint. Archetype is known for their wood-burning grill and ambiance. We enjoyed a drink in their very cool bar area while we waited for our table, and then were seated in their gorgeous, sophisticated dining room. Their crab cakes and smoked salmon were absolutely delish and we will be visiting here again!
Napa Valley Weekend Day 3: Rustic Ridge Winery and Ranch, Mumm Napa, Del Dotto
We started our day with an amazing brunch at Pacific Blues Cafe, which is unfortunately now closed. We had a scheduled tasting and picnic lunch at Rustic Ridge Winery and Ranch. This experience was not quite what we were expecting. Their website showed horses grazing in green pastures and rolling hills of grape vines. The ride in a limo to the Chiles Valley was quite winding and took longer than we anticipated. The owners were SO hospitable, but the tasting room seemed dark and dusty like it hadn’t been used for a while. The pastures were dirt and the green rolling hills weren’t green…things may have changed since our visit, but it was a little rustic for me. However, everyone we met was SO hospitable. After a nice tasting with their hostess, we hiked (literally hiked in four-inch wedges) up a hill to find a spot to look out on the view, spread out our blanket and enjoy a peaceful lunch just the two of us. Give me a spread of cheese and other delights, and I’m happy no matter where I am! The sweet owner took a picture of us and commented that we looked like celebrities, and honestly we felt a little like celebrities on this entire trip!
Our next stop was Mumm Napa, and as a lover of sparkling wine and champagne, I was looking forward to this one! Mumm’s history goes back to the leading international champagne brand in France. It was established in California in the late 1970s, they follow the traditional winemaking techniques of its French heritage. I really loved their tasting room that included a table with a view, and their sparkling wine didn’t disappoint.
Reservation Recommended for patio seating – $25 to $35 pp
Next up was Del Dotto Vineyards. There are three locations and we visited the Del Dotto Estate Winery and Caves in the St. Helena region. This winery is truly a destination. Our tasting started in the foyer dripping with Venetian architecture from floor to ceiling. We actually had a Cave Tasting reserved but we went to the wrong location. Although only a bar tasting was available at the location we arrived at, our host was so kind to provide bread and cheese pairings to go along with our flight of wines, as well as chocolates. Yes, please! We then were given a private tour of their caves which were just as majestic as the grand foyer. Outside we enjoyed the fountains and the perfectly manicured gardens. We so enjoyed the ambiance and as we were leaving we had the pleasure of meeting the owner, Dave Del Dotto, and he signed our bottle…a fun memento of our trip!
Reservations Required – Bar Tasting – $45 pp
We ended the last evening of our Napa Valley weekend by having coffee and dessert at Auberge du Soleil which has an amazing view at sunset. I loved getting to watch the sky change color from blue to purple to pink. They do not take reservations for their Bistro terrace and seating is limited, so keep that in mind and try to get there early. But when visiting Napa Valley, you need to have a sunset cocktail or glass of champagne on the terrace. It was the perfect ending to a very romantic trip!
I hope you enjoyed all the details of our Napa Valley weekend and this itinerary helps guide you on your trip to Napa. I can’t wait to visit again and use my new camera and photography skills and experience more of what Napa has to offer. Here are a few tips for you:
Attire: Below you’ll find the sources for our clothing choices. If something was sold out or no longer available I found similar options for you. The attire in Napa is generally casual, but there are some locations dressier than others. It does get cooler in the evenings, so a sweater or jacket is recommended.
Tastings: Most winery locations are more than happy to provide something a little extra to enhance your experience, whether it be an extra tasting, a plate of choose and bread, or a surprise behind the scenes tour. Most people who work in these tasting rooms do so because they love it. So don’t be afraid to get to know your hostess, take your time learning about the wine and the history, and have fun! Also, many wineries have coupons on their websites so do a little research before you go and print off any available coupons.
Driving: There are many shuttle services, limo and car rentals, and services like uber readily available at all times. Please do be responsible and put your safety, and the safety of others, as your top priority.
Purchasing Wine: Many wineries have insulated boxes that are safe to carry wine on an airplane. We used these boxes for both of our trips and everything got home safely. Another option would be to ship directly from the winery.