Passported contributor Elisa Carbone Brown is a bit of a hero around these parts. She travels well, has a nose for sussing out the best guides, sends back reports of amazing restaurants, and often she does it all while wrangling her three kids solo. Seriously, she rocks. She recently shared some of her Napa Valley tips, which is a place everyone in the office is dreaming about now that spring has finally sprung. Read on to get Elisa's tips on where to stay, what to sip, and more.
Located in downtown Yountville, Bardessono’s bragging rights include one of the best locations in the valley. Yountville is the center for many world class restaurants, and the town is only footsteps away from this luxury eco-friendly hotel and spa. Guests can expect sexy, sleek décor, large rooms with modern amenities, lush green grounds, and exceptional standout service. Lucy’s Restaurant and Bar, located inside the hotel, is a perfect spot for apres-dinner cocktails and conversation.
Hidden high up in the hills, this fifty-room Auberge Resort focuses on reconnecting and revitalizing guests through the beauty of its surroundings. A private lake, rock-hewn stream and hiking trails make the grounds pretty exceptional and up the romance game a notch. Each nature-chic lodge features an outdoor shower, gas fireplace and private deck. As an added bonus, the ranch has a private vineyard on site, offering guests the experience to join the pruning, harvesting and crushing of the grapes during the fall season. (Editor's Note: a client recently returned and said the splurge on a suite is well worth it due to the views and extra space.)
Situated next to Bardessono, the intimate, European-village design of the hotel features cascading fountains amidst beautifully manicured grounds. In the morning, hop on one of the hotel’s complimentary bicycles and grab breakfast at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. After a long day of vineyard tours, relax by the pool, which is situated under towering Italian cypress and majestic oak trees. The premium suites with garden patios are the most popular options.
This secluded hotel nestled in the heart of Napa Valley is a true gem. The sprawling estate’s accommodations come with all the classic trimmings, from stone fireplaces to vaulted ceilings and white linens. Adults can indulge in a generous collection of amenities such as golf, tennis, croquet, swimming and spa treatments, while the children attend sports camp. Hooray! Food aficionados will enjoy the customized wine pairings, culinary and craft cocktail classes and an award winning restaurant that draws from the hotel’s bountiful farm.
This neighborhood farm-to-table spot serves up killer dishes all day long. The lemon ricotta pancakes draw long brunch lines, while the crab cakes and tater tots hit the spot after a long day of vino.
James Beard nominee and Food Network host Michael Chiarello focuses on southern Italian inspired dishes at this award-winning eatery. The chef’s buzz and dishes such as raviolo di uovo, uova verdi e pancetta cotta draw huge crowds, so reservations are a must.
Farmstead Restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch
Centered around an open kitchen, Farmstead delivers a unique experience focused on family-style dining and a farm-to-table menu sourced from the estates winery and farm. Once a month, the eatery hosts an event where guests can gather around the fire pit alongside highly acclaimed guest chefs and watch them roast, smoke and sear a feast served to them right from the flames, paired with Long Meadow Ranch wines.
One of the best restaurants in Napa, this modern American steakhouse features decor and a wine list as chic and sophisticated as the guests that frequent it. Book a table outside or pull up a stool at the gorgeous handcrafted walnut bar.
Casual and hip spot with a laid-back vibe serving up yummy wood-burning pizzas and handmade pasta dishes.
Inside, guests can enjoy Solbar's elegant grey-schemed decor and innovative California soul food dishes. Outside, Solbar boasts the best terrace Napa has to offer, with glowing fire pits, a small bites menu and stunning mountain views.
Named “Best Restaurant in the World” by Restaurant Magazine, Thomas Keller's French Laundry has a big reputation to live up to, and it delivers every time. No ingredient is ever repeated in the nine-course course tasting menu, and the food is always inventive and delicious. Reservations book months in advance, so plan accordingly to experience this once-in-a-lifetime destination.
Restaurant at Meadowood
Arguably one of the best in California, Michelin-starred head chef Christopher Kostow and top mixologist Sam Levy curate smart, sophisticated menus reflecting the property's farm's glory and the chef's passion for local sustainable cuisine. Sam’s famous “whisky for breakfast” is not to be missed.
Private chef/instructor Julie Logue-Riordan of Cooking with Julie focuses on cooking with local ingredients. Julie takes clients on tours of the Napa or St. Helena Farmers Markets to shop and meet the artisans before teaching hands-on three-course lunch classes.
Napa Valley Balloons
For those seeking a bit of adventure, NVB offers one-hour tours with an experienced private guide, educating guests on all local points of interest and showcasing the exquisite beauty of the valley from high above.
Reserve a picnic table or private cabana and enjoy a picnic lunch at Rutherford Winery. This coveted spot is set up high above the valley floor with the best panoramic views of Napa Valley. Stop by Ox Bow Public Market, a gourmet farmers market with every offering imaginable to fill your picnic basket. For those who prefer to order lunch, swing by Addendum, an addition to Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc family, that serves up boxed lunches to-go
A historic Napa landmark, offering amazing live show performances with world class headliners.
There are over 400 vineyards in Napa Valley, each offering different experiences. Vineyard tours vary from a simple stroll through the grounds to more advanced tours of production facilities, cave exploration, guided lessons about the the aging process, and tasting rooms offering food pairings. Plan on two-to-four vineyards per day during your visit to Napa Valley. Here are my top ten favorites: