Day-tripping to Napa Valley is one of my favorite things to do while visiting home in San Francisco. Visiting wine country has definitely taken on a new meaning since my kiddie days, but even if you’re not into wine, the scenery in Napa is unbeatable, the restaurant selection is on point, there’s shopping & galleries, pretty areas to stroll through and did I mention it’s beautiful and relaxing? It’s the perfect place to get away, and if you’re already in NorCal, it’s ideal to visit for just the day or weekend. Hello wining & dining at its finest! Here’s a look at what I did on my last trip to Napa Valley with my parents. I can safely say I wish I never had to leave, but alas I live in reality and am writing this from good ol’ NYC.
Napa Valley is home to some of the best food in the country—from Michelin-starred restaurants to neighborhood eateries, this whole area is pretty much a hotbed of culinary superiority. R+D Kitchen in Yountville is a trendy restaurant that features both indoor and outdoor seating, complete with bright yellow sun umbrellas, relaxing Adirondack chairs, fire pits, fountains, a koi pond decorated with lily pads and cute wooden box gardens filled with herbs and flowers. The restaurant has a friendly ambiance, delicious food and is overall a gorgeous, open-aired restaurant to enjoy your meal right by the vineyards.
For our appetizers, we ordered the Thai Steak & Noodle Salad with marinated filet, mango, avocado, pancit noodles and the Deviled Eggs. For our main course, we split the Campfire Barbecue Ribs with Carolina barbecue sauce and coleslaw and the Shrimp Louie with jumbo shrimp, avocado and tomato. And most importantly, for dessert, we split their moist and decadent Three-Layer Carrot Cake with toasted walnuts and mascarpone icing. Fantastic meal!When it comes time authentic French pastries and baked goods, look no further than Thomas Keller’s famed Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Bouchon Bakery is located just down the street from his also famed 3 Michelin-starred restaurants—The French Laundry—and is a quaint bakery styled after classic “French boulangeries.” It has an extensive array of artisanal breads, amazing croissants, macaroons, an array of sweets such as cookies and tarts and a complimenting selection of espressos, lattes and coffees drinks. Despite the long wait, we stayed in line and decided on the bread pudding, an eclair, a strawberry macaroon and iced coffees. Needless to say, we weren’t disappointed and enjoyed our treats in the pretty little adjacent courtyard taking in the fresh air of the valley and the peaceful feel of the town.
It’s not a secret that Napa Valley is known for its stunning wineries and the premiere wines they produce. While in Napa we visited a couple of our favorite wineries, Caymus Vineyards and Silver Oak Winery, for wine tasting. Both Caymus and Silver Oak have fantastic wines, and this is coming from someone who unfortunately has yet to develop her palette. Whites are my favorite right now and I can tell what I do and do not like. Aside from that, I’m pretty much an amateur when it comes to wine tasting! Tastings are a treat though and I love reading about the wine flavors and such… then actually tasting the wine and comparing. I’m generally way off in what I think I’m tasting in comparison to the supposed actual flavors. But who really knows what pencil shavings, smoked chicory or cigar box taste like??
Family owned Caymus Vinyards is run by Chuck Wagner and his children who come from a true Napa Valley family winemaking legacy which can be traced back over 150 years and eight generations. Located in the Rutherford farmland, Caymus is an amazingly gorgeous place and the landscape is so well manicured! The courtyard areas are filled with flowers, roses and perfectly shaded by palm trees and lush overhead foliage. Outdoors awaits cushy patio seating, umbrellas and tables, perfect for indulging in wines and taking in the scenery. It’s literally an oasis in the valley.Silver Oak Winery is also- not so shockingly- an exceptionally scenic location and family ran as well. The 40+-year-old establishment is fully dedicated to producing only the best Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting room is beautiful- you can see their whole “library” collection of wines on display, as well as their giant wine barrels, and the stone walls in contrast with the sunlight shining through the large glass windows give the place a very modern and elegant feel. The grounds, located in Oakville, are amazingly pristine. Plus you can get up close and personal with the grapes! Obviously, I was a huge fan.
While strolling through Yountville, we stumbled across the most awesome culinary garden I have ever seen in my life! I have always been excited by the actual growing of beautiful fruits and veggies by Mother Nature, but this garden was awe inspiring. Welcome to The French Laundry’s Culinary Garden of perfection! This garden literally has it all: impeccable rows of fruits and veggies like Strawberries, Peppers, Turnips, Radishes, Ruby Swiss Chard… to more exotic things like Sweet Ball Melons and Fairytale Eggplant. This Summer alone they had over 50 varieties of tomato to work with! There are 4 bee hives—because obviously, one isn’t enough—a hoop house filled with heirloom tomatoes, tons of varieties of lettuce seedlings and herbs growing in flats and the garden even has a chicken coop! A CHICKEN COOP!
This one-of-a-kind garden is a must see if you find yourself in the area. It’s spectacular. Vibrant sunflowers- in all hues of reds and yellows- welcome you as you enter this delightful treasure trove of produce. This top-notch garden, of course, provides a continuous supply of the freshest ingredients to Thomas Keller’s Yountville restaurants, which also include Bouchon Bistro, Ad Hoc, Ad Lib, and Addendum. It literally tops all farm-to-table experiences! Hands down.
While you’re in the Yountville area, check out V Marketplace for boutique shopping! There are lots of cute shops perfect for buying random home accessories & kitchen everything, lots of kitschy-yet-necessary decor, jewelry, clothes, wine-themed anything and lots of artisanal goodies, chocolates and items to indulge in. Also, there are galleries and plenty of artwork to oogle at. And if shopping isn’t your thing, check it out anyways because the courtyard is picture perfect- both relaxing and charming.
And if you’re no longer in Napa, but say on your way back home to the Bay Area, stop by the Gilroy Premium Outlets. Because deals.