Less than two hours north of San Francisco and nestled between the Mayacamas Mountains and the Vaca Mountains, California’s Napa Valley is a glorious part of the world to explore. Take a bike tour through some of Yountville’s wineries, browse the riverfront boutiques in Napa, discover the outdoors in the hills near the charming town of St. Helena and indulge in some pampering at a historic or contemporary spa in Calistoga. Each community has something a little different to offer, but all are tied together with delicious, farm-fresh dining experiences—and plenty of great wine, of course.
Getting around: The Napa Valley stretches 50 kilometres from Napa at the south end to Calistoga at the north with the towns of Yountville and St. Helena in between. You can drive the entire valley in about 45 minutes.
Start exploring with Napa Valley Bike Tours in Yountville. Cruise through the vineyards enjoying light wine tastings along the way. On the well-paced, half-day tour you’ll learn about how Napa’s climate, terrain and fertile ash soil from Mount Saint Helena provide ideal growing conditions for a wide range of grapes; Beringer, Mondavi and Beaulieu make their famous wines here for a reason.
Enjoy lunch at Lucy, the field-to-fork restaurant at Yountville’s Bardessono Hotel & Spa, and check out the garden beds that grow produce for the hotel’s bar and restaurant. Walk off your meal in Napa (about a 15-minute drive south). Browse the Napa Riverfront district’s boutiques and the Oxbow Public Market, where you’ll find locally made goods like artisanal bitters, chocolates and soaps.
Sign up for an eco-fitness workout on the forested grounds of the Meadowood Napa Valley, a luxury resort high in the hills near St. Helena, about a 15-minute drive north of Napa. The eco-fitness class includes a scenic hike through the property’s forest trails with stops for stretching, calisthenics and kettle ball. After the workout, visit Meadowood’s luxury spa, which offers individually curated treatment plans and his-and-hers relaxation gardens with saunas and mineral soaking pools. Following your treatment, enjoy a cold-pressed juice and elixir tasting at Meadowood’s health-focused restaurant, The Grill. The Ginger Elixir—orange, Meadowood honey, cider vinegar and cayenne—will zing your palate back to life.
Check out Cairdean Estate in St. Helena, the name giving a nod to its owner’s Scottish heritage. Relax in the leather club chairs in the private tasting room of the winery with a glass of crisp Fumé Blanc in hand. The winery is built on the site of a former mall and the sprawling buildings have been transformed into a cohesive property, complete with restaurant, curated store and a deli and bakery.
Round out your day with a glorious dinner at Harvest Table. Michelin-starred celebrity chef Charlie Palmer opened this restaurant on the grounds of the manor-style Harvest Inn in St. Helena. Go ahead and opt for the “blind vine” wine-tasting experience. Your bottle will arrive wrapped in foil, and the guessing begins as to which wine accompanies each course. Take the time to savour Palmer’s creations—especially the succulent, shared-plate organic chicken.
Book an aromatherapy massage at Indian Springs Resort & Spa in Calistoga, then relax by the Buddha Pond and Gardens before taking a swim in the geyser-fed, Olympic-sized pool, complete with throwback, white-painted cabanas. The iconic resort harkens back to another era, and one is tempted to swim long, languid laps while wearing a ruffled bathing cap in the oldest mineral pool in California.
Follow your relaxing morning with more pampering, this time at Solage Calistoga. Set on 22 acres near downtown Calistoga, this spot offers a contemporary spa and natural geothermal pools. The mud bath is a Napa Valley tradition, and the Spa Solage offers a modern twist with the detoxifying Mudslide treatment; it includes mineral-enriched mud with your choice of pure essential oils. Try a Spa-tini before a late lunch on the patio of Solbar.
If you can tear yourself away from Calistoga’s mud baths and spas, head downtown for some early evening browsing in the dozens of beautiful boutiques along Lincoln Avenue that are full of clothing, jewelry and the work of Napa Valley artisans. Stop in at one of the tasting rooms provided in the wine shops along the way. Once the sun goes down, stroll around the corner to Evangeline, a mostly outdoor patio restaurant that serves French cuisine with a Creole twist. After dark, the walled courtyard comes alive with soft lighting and music.
Top Hotels in Napa Valley
An elegant B&B in a historic house where everything, from the food to the toiletries, is gluten-free. And it’s all within walking distance of Napa’s downtown tasting rooms, restaurants and waterfront.
Located near Calistoga, Chateau de Vie is a lovely manor farmhouse set among the vineyards. The cozy sitting room is a perfect place to enjoy a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon made from the property’s own vines.
[This story appears in the September 2016 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated]