Napa Valley – Must-Visits for First Timers

Just north of California’s San Francisco Bay Area lies Napa Valley, a sunny, Mediterranean-like region more commonly known as Wine Country.  In addition to the thriving expanses of vineyards, a number of very excellent restaurants and hotels complement the area’s top-notch wines.  Here are some of the best for the first-time visitor!

Wineries

Napa Valley by Sarah_Ackerman on Flickr
Artesia Vineyards

The Artesia estate combines exquisite avant-garde architecture with sweeping, panoramic views and award-winning wines.  On clear days, the San Francisco skyline can be spotted in the distance, and the light-filled galleries provide the perfect setting for sampling some of Napa’s finest Pinots and Chardonnays.

Frank Family Vineyards

Owned by a former Disney executive, Frank Family Vineyards brings vineyard hospitality to a new level.  With highly rated wines and a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere, Frank Family has earned its reputation as Napa’s top winery in 2013.  The tasting room is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, and online reservations are recommended.

Hotels

Calistoga Ranch by Neeta Lind on Flickr

Calistoga Ranch

Tucked away in a private canyon full of ancient oaks, lakes, and rolling hills, the Calistoga Ranch takes rustic luxury to new levels.  With excellent food and wine provided in the private dining areas, Napa’s finest bounties are brought to the Calistoga’s guests.  The spa offers relaxation and renewal, and proximity to award-winning vineyards provides endless opportunities for day trips.

Bardessono

Simplified elegance and contemporary luxury define the Bardessono experience.  On-site gardens, in-room spa services, certified green buildings, bicycles available for traversing the countryside – Bardessono goes to great lengths to ensure a memorable, and ecologically responsible, stay.  With several wine tastings within walking distance – Somerston, Girard Winery, and Cornerstone Cellars – and many more easily coordinated through the hotel’s concierge, Napa’s finest wines are easily accessible.

Restaurants

The French Laundry Restaurant by Kevin Tao on Flickr

The French Laundry

The French Laundry is regularly included in Restaurant Magazine’s list of the top 50 restaurants of the world – and received the magazine’s top honor in 2003 and 2004.  Each day, world-renowned chef Thomas Keller prepares unique nine-course menus, boasting that not a single ingredient is repeated throughout the meal.  The restaurant brings together the finest ingredients, top chefs, friendly and passionate staff, beautiful architecture, and unmatched scenery to create an all-around unparalleled experience.  Reservations are highly recommended, and can be made up to a year in advance.

Redd

On the more modern and chic end of the restaurant spectrum, Redd channels cuisine from Asia, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and beyond.  Signature dishes include glazed pork belly with soy caramel and apple puree, as well as a Cajun-inspired petrale sole with coconut rice, clams, and chorizo.  The modern décor was designed by New York architect Asfour Guzy.  Redd has one of the highest Zagat ratings in the area at 28 out of 30, and Chef Reddington takes pride in infusing his extensive European culinary experience in his dishes.  For pizza aficionados, Redd’s sister restaurant – Redd Wood – began offering wood-fired pizza last year.

Napa has something for everyone, ranging from affordable wine tastings and reasonably priced food to some of the finest dining available on the planet.  The beautiful, pastoral setting makes this destination one that won’t be soon forgotten.  Happy travels!

 

Angie Picardo is a staff writer, financial analyst, and content manager at NerdWallet.com, a site dedicated to empowering consumers to save money and make smarter decisions about their personal finances, travel plans, or higher education.

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