Visiting Napa: Where To Drink Wine And Stay Right Now


The Gardens at Newton VineyardsNewton Vineyards

If you are making the trip to Napa Valley you will most certainly wind your way down Highway 29, the region’s central artery lined with dozens of intriguing tasting rooms. The temptation to stop will be strong, but rather than take the easy right or left turn, commit to getting off the busy beaten path and visiting some of Napa’s special treasures. Your modest efforts will be rewarded with stunning views, idyllic gardens, and behind-the-scenes winery experiences.

The undulating rows of Newton Vineyards.Newton Vineyards

NewtonVineyard:

Newton has been producing wines in Napa Valley since 1977 and the current winemaker, Alberto Bianchi, has his sights trained on rich Burgundian styled Chardonnays and age-worthy single vineyard red wines. The winery is just a short hop off the main road but it feels a world away. It sits high above St. Helena—tucked into Spring Mountain’s many curvaceous and astonishingly steep hillsides. The landscape dips and curves in every direction and views are some of the best in the valley. You’ll also need to spend time wandering Newton’s spectacular gardens where you’ll be hard-pressed to believe you are in Napa and not Tuscany.

Views and landscape aside, you are here for the wine, wine which reflects the dizzying array of terroir and vineyard at Newton. Here, it is not unusual for three unique soils to co-exist within yards of each other. Vines stagger up steep terraces, each row subject to different set of environmental conditions—from temperature and fog to sunshine and shade. It’s all a bit overwhelming but hey, you don’t have to make the wine, or vinify each lot separately, or spend weeks hand-picking grapes. You just have to enjoy. And, Newton makes that just decadently easy. For the full experience book the Single Vineyard Immersion where you’ll get a tour of the gardens and wine caves and a seated tasting of four single vineyard wines (Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon from Spring Mountain, Yountville and Mt. Veeder).

Newton’s Vineyard Manager Mayacamas Olds is focused on redevelopment of each vineyard to ensure sustainability and ideal fruit maturation. Olds is also driving the winery towards organic and ultimately, biodynamic certification—a project that is, at a minimum, five to ten years in the making. The vineyards and the winemaking are extremely challenging work for the team at Newton, but you can taste this devotion to detail in the wines.

Rolando and Lorena Herrera of Mi Sueno winery.Mi Sueno Winery

Mi Sueño

Winemaker and owner Rolando Herrera’s first job in Napa was washing dishes for Auberge du Soleil. Thirty-three harvests later, after working with winemaking legends such as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ Warren Winiarski and Paul Hobbs, Herrera is living his great American dream. In 1997 Herrera and his wife Lorena made a few cases of their own wine as a side project, today that side project is celebrating its 20th year. A visit here promises to be a family-like experience. Tucked into a quiet back corner of an office park, the winery is a modest affair turning out some of Napa’s loveliest wines. There is no grand tasting room or stately entrance, rather the tasting room for Mi Sueño is right inside the winery. Here, visitors are greeted with walls covered in framed sports jerseys (a who’s who of athletes from Justin Turner to Adrian Beltre have come through these doors to taste Rolando’s creations and for good reason).

Guests walk through the “hall of fame” and back into the winery where barrels are stacked to the ceiling. A cozy arrangement of lounge chairs and sofas sit right in the heart of the action. Here you’ll taste a selection of wines, several of which have been served at the White House more than once. The Mi Sueño tasting offers a nice overview of everything Rolando is working on, from decadent Chardonnay to Pinot Noir. But, for some of the winery’s best work, opt for the Herrera Tasting—a selection of limited-production wines from premium vineyards. In both tastings, you’ll taste wines that are sold only at the winery.

Two More:

Frank Family Vineyards is a well-known winery in Napa, and on the weekends the tasting room can get hopping. It’s worth a visit for many reasons, but for me the single best reason to pop in is to taste their sparkling wines—some of my favorite bubblies in Napa, and only a select few are sold outside the winery. If you like Champagne or any kind of bubbly, then you must make plans (and a reservation) to taste the sparkling wines (they produce four styles) at Frank Family. My personal fave: Frank Family Brut Rose.

Corison Winery’s winemaker Cathy Corison is widely respected by sommeliers and critics alike for her polished, elegant red wines. The winery’s Collectors Vertical Tasting offers Cabernet lovers a rare opportunity to taste wines from across the span of four decades. Visitors taste four decades of Cabernet–including two of single vineyard estate wines. Indeed, Corison’s Cabernet Sauvignon expressions are some of the most exquisite in Napa Valley.

Where to Stay: Harvest Inn

Vineyard View room at Harvest InnHarvest Inn

Harvest Inn is a charming classic tucked right into the middle of wine country with spacious rooms, artful brickwork and local art throughout the property. The original owner was a master mason and his influence is everywhere, woven into the over two million bricks that line the pathways, pool areas and wrap around each individual fireplace. Resting underneath a canopy of trees, this destination is a resort-like vibe with sideline views of the vineyards. Request a vineyard view room for the ultimate sense of escape—every happy hour can be on your private terrace overlooking the vines. Despite the private feel, the property is really only three minutes from the shops and dining in the charming downtown St. Helena (my favorite town in Napa). The house car will take you (and pick you up) anywhere within a five-mile radius so driving is more or less optional.

The Inn’s main restaurant, Harvest Table, boasts lovely outdoor patios that overlook their lush verdant gardens. (they are, in my opinion, the best seats in the house). Our dishes of salmon and halibut were perfectly balanced with salt, texture and flavor coming together nicely. Everything was accompanied by a bottle of Frank Family Brut Rose and a side of malt fries—a perfect pairing.

The property consists of 78 rooms, two pools (one for adults only), two hot tubs and ten acres of vineyard views—pretty much all you need for a wine country escape.

Vineyard View room, Harvest InnHarvest Inn

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