The other day a former student (knowing I lived in Napa for many years) asked me for suggestions for a quick one-day detour to the Napa Valley while in San Francisco for business. It’s had me thinking, once again, about planning a trip of my own. I’ll definitely go for longer than a day though!
Excluding friends and family, and in no particular order, here are my top 5 things I’d do with one day in Napa Valley:
1. Genova Deli on Trancas Road: Stop here for a great cup of coffee and a biscotti to snack on, then pick up a selection of salumi, cheeses, bread, Italian soda, and Italian candies to enjoy later on a little picnic. Make sure you have a cooler in the car – this is a good idea even if you are not going to have a picnic but you are planning on buying any wine. Note: If it’s a Friday, I would replace this with a visit to the Saint Helena Farmers’ Market instead.
2. Casa Nuestra Winery: The drive up here is long but extremely beautiful. You may be tempted to make some stops along the way, but I only get to chose 5 things for this post! Casa Nuestra is unlike just about any other winery I’ve been to in Napa Valley (technically North St. Helena, almost to Calistoga). When you turn into the driveway, you will be surrounded on both sides by thousands and thousands of sunflowers glowing yellow like a sunny dream. The tasting room here is small cabin decorated with old concert posters and all the ribbons and award that their wine has won over the decades. Don’t miss the Chenin Blanc. By the way, this is the place for that picnic you packed… outdoor tables and goats to keep you company!
3. Joseph Phelps Vineyards: This is cheating a little since I have friends who work here, so I would get to kill two birds with one visit! Not only does Phelps have some of the best wines in the world, they also have a world-class view of pristine rolling hills of vineyards as far as the eye can see (interupted only by clusters of ancient trees). Tastings are by appointment only, so this visit must be planned in advance.
4. Auberge du Soleil: Long one of the most exclusive resorts in the Valley, this is also a perfect place to enjoy an appetizer and pre-dinner cocktail on a comfortable deck with one of the most stunning views. In all but the summer months, you will probably get here in time to enjoy sunset (in the summer, you’re probably a little early for sunset). There is also a world-class restaurant here, but I’m holding out for the last stop.
5. Bistro Jeanty: My absolute favorite restaurant in the entire Bay Area and still in my top 5 ever. That’s saying a lot! No matter if I am alone or with a group of 10, I’ve always had the best service and the most satisfying meals here. From the most simple meal of soup and salad to a full-blown multi-course extravaganza, “Jeanty” has never let me down. The Tomato Soup en Croute is infamous. For bistro purists, try the lambs tongue salad or the pigs feet appetizer if they are available. For the lovers of classic French comfort food, the Coq au Vin with a side of buttery egg noodles never fails to make me swoon.
Even with only one day, choosing just 5 things is extemely difficult – fortunately, if you play your cards right, you won’t have to!