Last Christmas I decided to try one of those Groupon/LivingSocial travel deals – I had been eyeing them for a while but I was a little bit skeptical. I spotted a deal for a Bed and Breakfast in Napa that did not expire until the end of March. It had good reviews, and we had never really been to Napa, so I thought we could turn it into a nice little long-weekend getaway. We didn’t realize that it was the “off-season” there, so the harvest was long over with and the vines were bare. It was also forecasted to rain that entire weekend. We arrived at SFO and drove the rental about 2 hours north. If you are flying in, you can go to either Oakland or San Francisco – both are equidistant from Napa. We chose SFO due to the cheaper flight and more scenic drive.
We arrived at the B&B we had reservations at, and Brian was a little shocked – it was an actual house, with just six rooms. I don’t think he was expecting it to be so…intimate! This B&B, The Wine Way Inn, is run by a husband and wife couple. It is in a perfect location – right near downtown Calistoga within walking distance to restaurants and shops, and a few minutes drive to the surrounding wineries and the rest of Napa Valley. The innkeeper makes his own wine, which he puts out every evening for guests, and makes the best breakfasts – amazing scones, frittata, and homemade granola, among other yummy things. I am very tempted to buy the cookbook they just came out with!
Since it was raining and also the off-season, the wineries and restaurants were a lot less crowded than normal. We visited many of the wineries along the main road by simply driving by and deciding at the last second which driveway we would turn down. I can honestly say that they were all terrific, and had beautiful grounds.
Rubicon Estate (it is now named Inglenook) had amazing grounds. We ventured inside to find the car that was used in The Godfather (though I didn’t get a photo of it). Makes sense since Francis Ford Coppola owns this winery.
V. Sattui – a little touristy, but still beautiful
We were able to take a tour of the wine caves at Beringer Vineyards. Beringer was designated a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and they also claim to be the oldest continuously-operating winery in the area. The wine caves on the property were dug into the side of the hill during the 1870s by Chinese laborers, who dug over 1,000 linear feet of caves, at the direction of the Beringer Brothers. The caves were impressive – there were many little nooks and cellars within them, and they still house the large casks that are used to age the wine.
It was difficult to take photos in the caves because it was so dark!
Would love to have a dinner party at this table.
Or at this table.
One of the Beringer brothers, Frederick, built a mansion on the property that was completed in 1884, called The Rhine House. According to the winery, he chose the architecture to reflect that of their old home in Mainz-on-the-Rhine in Germany. This house is now the tasting room and gift shop, and does have beautiful architecture, indeed.
In addition to the wineries, Napa Valley also has amazing choices for foodies. We ate dinner at Solbar, the restaurant in the Solage Calistoga resort. We had burgers and shakes at Gott’s Roadside, which always seemed to have a huge line at any time of the day. We stopped at Bounty Hunter for pulled pork BBQ and wine. In short, nothing we had to eat in Napa disappointed. It was all excellent. All the restaurants seem to pride themselves on having great settings and ambiance as well.
Being able to wine taste in a region that is one of the most famous in the world for their wines was an amazing experience. The feel of Napa as a whole was also a lot different than I had pictured in my mind, for some reason. It has a very homey, small-town feel. There are barely any chain stores or restaurants – I saw one Safeway grocery store, and that was pretty much it. I also did not realize how much history the region has.
This was definitely not a budget weekend trip, as we had to pay for the flights, our stay at the B&B, and a rental car. And of course, we had to buy wine to bring home (we got special styrofoam containers to go inside of a cardboard box, that we were able to check as luggage with our airline, with no issues)! But, we were able to get a discount on the B&B with the travel deal, and it being the off-season. There were so many wineries that we wanted to visit, but weren’t able to due to time – the Napa Valley definitely warrants more than one trip!