July 5, 2019

Travel Guide: Napa

The Studio Brunstrum guide to all things Napa, California: the best wineries, restaurants, accommodations and more!

A frequent visitor of Southern California, I realized it had been nearly 20 years since I visited the North part of the state after my daughter suggested a weekend getaway to wine country. Joined by family friend Connie, the three of us spent 4 days and 3 nights in Napa over Easter weekend.

 

After meeting in San Francisco, we rented a car and drove the hour and a half to Napa, making a quick stop in Sausalito for a bit of lunch at the infamous Scoma’s, an old Tugboat and Ferry service from the late 19th century that was converted to a restaurant in the early 1940s. After checking into our hotel, The Archer, in downtown Napa we enjoyed drinks and a few games on our rooftop, the Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar before heading to dinner at Mustard’s, on the of oldest restaurants in Napa. Just off the St. Helena highway, Mustard’s is famous for their seasonal farm to table cuisine, and of course, their pile of onion rings! Coincidentally, our Uber on the way to dinner happened to be launching a private driving service and offered to take us winery-hopping the next day! If you ever need a driver in Napa- reach out to Jillmael at Pacific Obsidian Enterprises!

Our first full day in wine country started with a visit to Duckhorn Vineyards. Co-founded in 1976 by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn, it has become one of the premier vineyards in Napa Valley. Famous for Bordeaux-varietal wines, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were among the inaugural wines produced from the vineyard. Throughout our tasting, we learned that only 7% of winemakers in the Napa Valley are female, and Duckhorn is home to one of the most famous in the world, Renee Ary!

Favorites from Duckhorn: (hint: Duckhorn has 5 different wine labels, but if it has a duck on the bottle you are drinking a Duckhorn wine!)

2017 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc

2017 Paraduxx Proprietary White Blend

2018 Goledneye Vin Gris

2015 Duckhorn Discussion Red

2016 Duckhorn Cabernet

Next, we visited The Prisoner Wine Company or what they refer to as “The Makery”. Recently remodeled, the Makery boasts an interior with a kitschy play off the Prisoner name. From handcuffed light fixtures to gated doors, their wine tasting room embodies the Prisoner Wine Company Spirit. Taking their branding one step further, each bottle of wine has both a name and a label that exquisitely pair with the name of the vineyard.

Favorites from PWC:

2016 Erased (Blanc de Blanc)

2017 Syndrome (Rose)

2016 The Prisoner (Red Blend)

2017 Eternally Silenced (Pinot Noir)

After lunch at the quaint French café, Bistro Jeanty, we headed to our final tasting of the day at Honig Vineyards, a family owned winery started in the 1980s with a focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. A leader in sustainable farming, Michael Honig (president and founder) chaired the first California initiative to establish state-wide guidelines for sustainable farming and winemaking.

Favorites from Honig:

2018 91 Points Sauvignon Blanc

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Pink

 

After a walk through downtown Napa, we enjoyed dinner at Celadon in the historic Napa mill, adjacent to the Napa River Inn! Another fabulous farm-to-table meal, Celadon’s menu features seasonally influenced flavors from the Mediterranean, Asia, and the Americas. I highly recommend eating outside in their beautiful courtyard – so charming!

We spent a quiet Easter with brunch at Bottega, situated in Yountville’s old marketplace. While in Yountville, we also were given a private tour of the Bardessono Hotel and Spa, one of the most luxurious hotels in the area.

 

Our final day in the Valley started at Domaine Chandon, the first French-owned sparkling winery in California. Situated on one of the larger properties in the area, we enjoyed a bubbly tasting while walking their beautifully curated grounds.

Favorites from Domaine Chandon:

Sparkling Rose

Carneros Still Rose

 

A day of bubbles, our last stop was a wine tasting at Domaine Carneros. Unmistakably French, the Domaine Carneros winery is set on a picturesque hillside in a French chateau. Founded by the same family behind the French vineyard Champagne Taittinger, Domaine Carnernos was opened in the late 1970s, with development led by Eileen Crane, another of the region’s premiere female winemakers.

Favorites from Domaine Carneros:

2012 Late Disgorger Brut Cuvee

2015 Brut Rose

I found the architecture of the region quite curious; each vineyard had its own distinct style, everything from a French chateau to an Italian villa to a classic ranch to a museum-eque gallery. A consummate question asker, we learned quite a bit of interesting trivia about wine country; some of my favorite facts:

  • it takes upwards of 500 grapes to make one bottle of wine
  • grapes from new vines are not usable to make wine for nearly 3 years
  • of the 550 wineries in the Napa region, only 7% employ female wine makers
  • you can earn a 4-year degree in wine making

Our trip was so fabulous that we’ve decided to make Napa an Easter tradition!

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