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Napa Valley: Three-and-a-Half Days of Wine, Food, and more Wine

food travel
Couple toasting with a glass of rosé champagne and a glass of pinot noir

Behind every successful trip, there is a person with an MS Excel itinerary to the minute, worthy of Monica Geller's approval. This is the story of such a trip, and such an itinerary (Monica, we made you proud).

THE PLACE 

Napa Valley is an American Viticultural Area located in California's Wine Country and it's regarded as a top wine region globally, with over 500 wineries. Its Mediterranean mix of terroir sets it up for quality grape-growing success. 

 

THE TIME 

According to the locals, the best time to visit Napa is during Harvest Season (a.k.a. August through October). The caveat: expect high prices and crowded scenes. 

A local blog shares insights about visiting during other times of the year e.g. avoiding the crowds from December through March or leveraging the cultural scene during May and June. 

 

THE TRIP

Before I continue, I must disclaim that the Napa Valley Experience was one of the stops during our California Road trip Honeymoon. 

When planning for it, we weren't considering a "once in a lifetime" adventure, nor going somewhere we'd "never go back." We were looking to have an amazing time, doing something we both enjoy, and something we're both terrible at: RELAXING. 

All was planned to avoid needing a vacation from our vacation. And this road trip gave us exactly that.

 

ARRIVAL 

After a seven-hour flight from Panama City, we landed in San Francisco. We spent the weekend there and drove the 117 km to Napa on Sunday. 

DAY ONE

I had booked all tastings many months in advance and crafted the agenda around specific ones that occurred at specific times and dates (I should print and frame that masterpiece of a schedule).

So, when we arrived to Napa, our first stop wasn't the hotel (a beautiful Embassy Suites that I'll praise later), it was Inglenook Vineyard. Its history dates back to 1842, and its most notable fact (at least for us peasants): it's owned by six-time Academy Award-winning director, Francis Ford Coppola. 

 

 

Inglenook Vineyard was all one (who has never been, like ourselves) expects of a vineyard.

As I write this, I remember that this-is-the-life-I-deserve feeling while stepping into this greenery-covered chateau and tasting that first glass of crisp white wine, that was handed to me by a very elegant, model-looking blonde hostess, while we waited to be seated to our Heritage Tasting.

 

THE HOTEL

We chose this Embassy Suites out of recommendation from friends. The food wasn't great but somebody put in quite the design and landscaping effort to make us feel like we were staying at the extension of a winery.

DAY TWO

I woke up at 4am with an urge to check my email, and there it was: the cancellation of our balloon flight (slash crushing of a life-long dream).

The silver-lining? We got to sleep in, sneak in a work out and arrive earlier to our tasting.

The first stop of the day was Castello Di Amorosa. Since the tour didn't start until 12.30 pm, we strolled and took the pictures. If you want the Tuscan castle experience in Napa, this is definitively one to check out. 

I booked the Diamond Estate Tour & Reserve Wine Tasting and I would book it again tomorrow. Not an overstatement.

Even if it this wasn't my #1 choice (it is my husband's though, and it's my #2) this experience boasts a unique mix of:

A castle tour, hosted by an entertaining, fun (and funny) 'wine educator', who doubled as a master storyteller (coining this term by the way) and who had an interesting sense of humor that both my husband and I could appreciate and enjoy deeply; and an extremely thorough wine tasting (six wines each, so we could taste 12 wines between the both of us), with wines that we adored - becoming the only other vineyard where we actually bought bottles to bring home. 

Ten out of 10? No. Eleven out of 10. 


Castello's tour only happened at lunch time, so after this magnificent tasting of the wines, we were starving. 

Our restaurant choice, Brasswood Bar & Kitchen , was so good, that it made me think that all places in Napa must be good by default, considering our criteria was a mix of proximity and average customer reviews. 

DAY THREE

We arrived at Schramsberg Vineyards (The Mothership of Sparkling Wines and my #1) at 10.30am. 

Its history dates back over 150 years.

There's something about being greeted with a glass of bubbly at 11am, that sends you straight to cloud nine.

We took the All Sparkling Experience – beautifully executed.

 Our guide was super knowledgeable on the vineyard history, the Méthode Traditionelle (process by which "all Champagne and most high-quality sparkling wines are made") and I didn't get BS vibes from him (and I like to think my BS-o-Meter is still sharp). All felt pretty honest and straight forward during the tour and the tasting. 

After I stepped down from cloud nine and snapped out of the sparkling spell, we stopped for lunch. 

The only description I can craft for Rutherford Grill is this: Fall-off-the-bone roasted poultry and beef, and mouthwatering, cheesy, oven-baked vegetarian sides. I had a generous glass of that bubbly Brut Rosé (a.k.a. elixir of the goddesses) and he had what looks like a good serving of Pinot.

Robert Mondavi Winery was the third and last tasting tour of the day. This experience fulfilled my (movie and pop culture referenced) expectations on what a vineyard tour would be like. 

We took the Signature Tour and Tasting – pretty straight forward. I don't recall getting a welcome glass of wine, which would have been appreciated upon stepping into

DAY THREE AND A HALF

The Beringer Winery.
Look at this place:

We arrived about 30 minutes before our scheduled time. So, we took pictures, and enjoyed the wine.

The Taste of Beringer Tour was so intimate, personable and deeply enjoyed. We don't remember exactly why (I just asked my husband as I'm writing this), but we took a liking to the tour guide. And the tour around the estate felt close to home - I know, strange for two people living in the tropics to say this - but it did for some reason.

After our good-bye tasting at Beringer Winery we headed for lunch at Bounty Hunter

If you go to Napa and are into slow-cooked, melt-in-your-mouth bone poultry and beef - but are also into really witty named wine, beer and spirit flights: please, do yourself (and your travel partner/s) the favor of stopping here.

Gracias Napa - la botaste. 


 

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