Your first trip to the Wine Country? Here are tips on stress-free places to sip, savor and stay.
Relax by the fire pit on the patio outside the tasting room and estate lounge at Odette Estate winery.
Given the Wine Country’s international reputation, Napa Valley is easily a bucket list destination for people around the globe. The vineyard-lined back roads, bucolic trails, plentiful wine-tasting options and palate-pleasing eateries can easily sweep you away—and for a first-timer, it can be a bit overwhelming. Where do you even begin? The following is a list of wineries, restaurants, hotels and activities that are perfect for a wine country newbie.
PINE RIDGE VINEYARDS
Not quite ready to be among the seasoned swirlers? For a newbie, wine tasting can be intimidating, especially when everyone around you is fluent in vintner vernacular. For the newbie wanting to ease their way into the wine country, the Pine Ridge Vineyards’ Wine Tasting and Cave Tour is a fun and accessible introduction. The immersive experience includes a guided vine-to-glass tour that starts at the demonstration vineyard, continues to the wine cellar and into the extensive wine caves, where guests are treated to an exclusive barrel sample. Guests are also given a tasting of five wines paired with artisanal cheeses. 5901 SILVERADO TRAIL, NAPA, 800.575.9777
For newcomers who prefer to dive right in, Odette Estate offers guests an expansive space to get acquainted with winemaking. The property sits on a historic 36-acre vineyard and includes a 5,000-square-foot winery, 18,000 square feet of caves and an 8,500-square-foot planted living roof, all powered by 2,500 square feet of solar panels, generating 30,000 kilowatts of solar power. Be sure to check out the vantage point from Odette’s hospitality center. Panoramic vineyard views can be seen through the opened floor-to-ceiling glass windows or outside on the patio. If you plan to stay past sunset, the patio comes with a fire pit, where you can enjoy your glass (or bottle) of wine. 5998 SILVERADO TRAIL, NAPA, 707.224.7533
For anyone coming to Napa Valley for the first time, Mustards Grill is practically a rite of passage. Even after nearly four decades of operation, the local institution remains a culinary staple for residents and visitors alike. Located right along Highway 29, Mustards is a hub for the food and wine community, where winemakers lunch with truckers and chefs come to dine on their night off. Be sure to ask your server about the Famous Mongolian Pork Chop. The backstory is as delicious as the dish. 7399 ST. HELENA HIGHWAY, NAPA, 707.944.2424
For something a bit more casual, Gott’s Roadside offers Napa’s seasonal approach to the classic burger. With seven locations, Gott’s is no stranger to Bay Area residents, but its St. Helena location is where it all started. There’s a second wine country location in Napa by the popular Oxbow Public Market. Lines tend to get long, but it’s worth the wait. Order one of the award-winning burgers (with fries and a milkshake, of course) and a bottle of wine; sit at a picnic table in the back; and enjoy. 644 FIRST ST., NAPA, 707.224.6900; 933 MAIN ST., ST. HELENA, 707.963.3486
If you’re looking for a great steak to pair with that red wine you just learned about, PRESS is a great place to go. Consider it an extension of your Wine County 101 experience, as the restaurant offers the largest and most extensive wine collection of Napa Valley wines in the world, with vintages going back to the early 1960s. 587 ST. HELENA HIGHWAY, ST. HELENA, 707.967.0550
OXBOW PUBLIC MARKET
For a one-stop-shop experience, Oxbow Public Market offers a variety of choices in shopping, dining and sipping. Visitors can walk around and get a taste of what Napa Valley has to offer—from olive oils and local cheeses to handcrafted chocolates and rare spices. There’s a number of food choices after your shopping is over, including C Casa at Oxbow, Five Dot Ranch and Cookhouse, and Hog Island Oyster Bar. You can also stop here to pick up bites for a picnic and/or a bottle of wine for your wine country adventure. 610 FIRST ST., NAPA, 707.226.6529
NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN
If you’re ready for Napa, but want the luxury of a great view and delicious food and wine brought to you, the Napa Valley Wine Train is calling for you. Packages include the lunch train, dinner train, half-day and full-day winery tours, and special events. Guests are taken on a 36-mile roundtrip discovery to St. Helena and back, stopping at several wineries, including Charles Krug, Robert Mondavi and Raymond Vineyards. Between stops, you can sit back and take in the train’s plush, vintage setting—truly an only-in-Napa experience. 1275 MCKINSTRY ST., NAPA, 707.253.2111
All aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train
WESTIN VERASA NAPA
For first-timers, a central location is key. The Westin Verasa Napa is located in downtown Napa where all the action is. Next to the hotel is Oxbow Public Market; and within walking distance is Napa’s Main Street, lined with restaurants, coffee shops, bars, tasting rooms and boutiques. 1314 MCKINSTRY ST., NAPA, 707.257.1800
SOLAGE, AN AUBERGE RESORT & SPA
If you’re looking for a little more seclusion, treat yourself to one of resort’s exclusive geothermal pools, or riding through wineries in a complimentary beach cruiser offered to each guest. Located on-site is Solbar, headed by executive chef Gustavo Rios, with seasonal and innovative dishes that offer the best of what Napa’s pantry has to offer. 755 SILVERADO TRAIL N., CALISTOGA, 866.942.7442
Photography by: ODETTE ESTATE WINERY & NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN