This past August I vacationed with my parents to Napa Valley. Instead of visiting me in Seattle again they wanted to try something new. My parents never want to try something new, so I jumped at the opportunity! Keep in mind, they’re Jersey Italians so nothing is better than New Jersey and they only eat Italian food…which is why my food recommendations will be only Italian places! It was tough planning something like Napa… hundreds of wineries do I visit? Where do I eat? Do I Uber? Do I rent a car? I’m not a Napa pro, but this was everything we did!
I flew into San Francisco and rented a car so we didn’t have to Uber the 1 hour+ ride from SFO to Napa. It also was convenient because you’re not always going to wineries and places you’ll want to visit aren’t close together. I booked a studio room for the three of us at Vino Bello resort through AirBnb. It’s someone’s timeshare and it was perfect. They offer a free shuttle to and from downtown Napa at night. There is a bowling alley, a bar, two pools ((one family friendly)) and their own wine-tasting room. There’s grape vines all over the resort. Siena Restaurant is on premises, we went there for breakfast every day and it was incredible, their buffet on weekends is killer!
Frog’s Leap Winery – My absolute favorite! Not only is the wine awesome ((I ordered two bottles)) but the grounds are gorgeous. I suggest doing the Signature Seated tasting. Seated outside on their patio, you'll look out into their beautiful garden where they grow everything from pumpkins to peppers! Lucy was our sommelier and she was so knowledgeable I now have a girl crush on her! Frog’s Leap is interesting because they follow the European style and do not irrigate their crops – whatever rain comes from the sky ((and whatever doesn’t)) is what waters their crops.
Cakebread Cellars- We did a standard red tasting at Cakebread Cellars and it was great! Nick was our sommelier and he was knowledgeable and fun. The premises are pretty but there isn’t much to see. I loved the wine!
Tank Garage Winery - It’s an old gas station turned into a tasting room for Tank Garage Winery! The art on their bottles is unlike any other bottle of wine I have ever seen and their merch is pretty legit too. It’s a great stop for Instgram posts but I wasn’t a fan of their wine.
Castello di Amorosa – The castle winery you will hear every single person talk about. Personally, I thnk it’s a tourist trap. It’s SUPER pretty and definitely cool to see – you are INSIDE a castle. The catch? The castle was built 10 years ago and it’s PACKED with people. We wanted to just do a tour of the castle after hearing bad reviews of the wine from Uber drivers but it’s a Napa law that wineries must sell wine-tastings in order to have people tour their premises ((at least that’s what we were told)). It cost us $30 per person for a wine tasting and self-tour of the castle. We only tried one glass of wine because we had already done a tasting that day - I wasn't a fan and neither was my mim. I think this stop is a waste of money – take a picture from the parking lot and move on.
Napa has amazing restaurants! Even though we only went to Italian I recommend ALL of them. I highly suggest making reservations ahead of time, you can always cancel if you come across something else!
Bistro Don Giovanni is located in Yontsville ((across from the outlets!)) The food and drinks were AMAZING. Like a lot of Napa restaurants, it’s got an open kitchen so the vibe is fun. There’s also an outdoor patio. I had the mushroom risotto and an Italian Greyhound cocktail!
Oenotri (Oh-E-No-Tree) is located in downtown Napa where they are a ton of restaurants and shops. DON’T get overwhelmed by the menu. We witnessed one table get up and leave after reading it and the couple who replaced them leaned over to ask us what we ordered because they were confused by the menu. They use a lot of fancy terms for regular food items. Our server did a great job at explaining and there’s also always Google. Their drink menu is on a mini iPad! They also have outdoor seating available.
Ristorante Allegria is also in downtown Napa it’s two floors and offers outdoor seating. This had a less modern feel than Bisro Don Giovanni and Oenotri. It felt like a classy Italian restaurant. Food and drinks were great for all of us! While we were there a bachelorette party walked in with a giant blow up penis…beware Napa is becoming a new bachelorette party destination!
We first visited Della Santina's on a trip to Sonoma for lunch. Their sandwiches during lunch were amazing so we went back for dinner the following night. The food was great but my least favorite…it could have also been because it was fourth night eating Italian food. If you want to dine in Sonoma, The Girl and the Fig gets GREAT reviews from everyone!
What to Do
There is much more to see than grapevines and much more to taste than wine! There are plenty of other things to do in the Napa area and nearby. Downtown Napa is cute! There are so many great shops – chocolate shops AND clothing shops. There are a ton of storefronts that offer wine tastings and you can try wine from different wineries which is pretty convenient.
The Oxbox Public Market is a must! Similar to Chelsea Market in NYC and Pike Place Market in Seattle, it’s got a variety of places to eat and small businesses to shop. The only time I ate meat on this trip was here ((I was kind of being a vegetarian at this moment)) and it was a steak sandwich. *** They also have an option where you pick a raw cut of meat from their refrigerator and they'll cook it however you want. Oxbox market has a ton of other places to eat things like Oysters, tacos, pizza, sushi and more!
Sonoma is also a great place to visit. Similar to downtown Napa it’s got shops and restaurants galore. An Uber driver recommended to get some wine and cheese at Sonoma Cheese Factory and sit in the park and eat it…we didn’t do it but it’s definitely a cool idea!
I attempted to find some Redwoods for us to visit but that was an epic fail. You can visit the Redwood National Reserve near the Golden Gate Bridge on your way back into San Francisco.
It was recommended by some friends to do a wine tasting bike tour and a kayak along the river, we didn’t get a chance to do this but it’s definitely worth checking out!
I suggest making your Napa stay about 3-4 nights and if you want a longer vacation spend some time in San Francisco. There is only so much wine you can taste – don’t pack your schedule with wine tastings, you’ll be miserable. If you plan on traveling to Napa let me know if you have any questions!!