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24 hours in Napa Valley
posted by Stephanie in Gypsetters Guide
Why go: Because it’s wine country! Need I say more?
What to pack: California is rather laid back and although they won’t turn you away while wearing neon rubber shoes and sports gear it’s nice to still look chic while being relaxed. Think preppy countryside and base it on the season. We went in spring which can be quite warm in the day and chilly at night. Summer dresses and ballet flats with a lightweight jacket or sweater just in case, equestrian boots and soft shirts work really well too. For men, shirts, jeans, a lightweight sweater or a blazer. You will be drinking wine… not guzzling beer.
Love / Lust: I loved our rustic French meal at Bistro Jeanty but am dying to go to French Laundry which was unfortunately closed for reservations during our stay. We also really loved being able to drink and NOT drive with Napa Red Cab and our super kind driver Michael who is a great photographer. But the old soul in me was a little disappointed that the antique Packard cars from Classic Convertible Wine Tours were unavailable! I had imagined myself cruising around the vineyards in one of these.
Stay: Hotel Yountville was so charming and incredibly romantic. Each room with a fireplace and lush, inviting beddings piled so high you just want to plop down and sink in forever. The concierge was extremely helpful even before I arrived! I never got to meet him in person, but he responded to all my emails in a timely fashion and booked everything for us. We truly enjoyed all his recommendations.
Eat: There are so many wonderful options in Napa Valley. We decided to maximize our overnight stay by starting with the 5×5 Wine Pairing at Pine Ridge Vineyards which came with a wonderful tour of the property and the caves, but was much lighter than expected. So we ended up with sandwiches from Oakville Grocery Co.’s deli… they were alright. I should have stuck to my gut and gone for their gorgeous selection of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie.
There are so many restaurants in Yountville to choose from for dinner, plus one could say it was Thomas Keller Town. I was having a hard time deciding between Bouchon Bistro and Bistro Jeanty and went with the latter because well… it’s French done by a Frenchman for my Frenchman! Also the concierge had said it was more of a place where the locals like to eat. But on a spontaneous decision while walking through the streets of the town we sat down for a round of a dozen oysters each plus a bottle of cold Napa Sauvignon Blanc on the sunny terrace of Bouchon Bistro. Stellar idea! Crusty bread, real butter and gorgeous oysters from all over north America. We asked for a second round of only Royal Miyagis from British Columbia. Sweet, creamy, plump but not too big. Beautiful!
Dinner at Bistro Jeanty was lovely. It reminded me of Paris but with American portions. The temperature had dropped as soon as the sun went down so the Soupe à l’oignon was a perfect remedy to a shivers. Rich, potent and graciously gratinéed… The cassoulet was also the same, with the crisp bread crumb crust, creamy yet still slightly firm beans, falling off the bone duck and grilled sausage. The highlight however was the Rabbit wrapped in pancetta with a morel mushroom parpardelle. That rabbit was so juicy it was almost silken enveloped in that crispy savory pancetta. Then punctuated with the earthy morel mushrooms. Just to die for. More wine. Some Armagnac and a fantastically flakey, buttery, caramelized tarte tatin with crème fraîche ice cream.
Drink: Must I really answer this? Wine of course. And although many establishments offer wines from around the world, try to explore the local ones. I realized however that good wines come at a price and if you want a really nice bottle in a restaurant you’re looking at $75 and up.
Do: I wish we could have visited more vineyards but on such a short stay we only fit in two: one to whet our appetites – Pine Ridge Vineyards and of course, why waste time on anything else but the best – Opus One.
Pine Ridge is so charming with the roses that line the vineyards and the plump cat Olivia that walks with you on the tours. Established in 1978 by Olympic skier Gary Andrus who injured himself during the games and decided to the hobble around Europe enjoying himself. He then discovered wine and fell in love with everything Bordeaux had to offer. Pine Ridge is planted with Bordeaux inspired varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Our guide Bernard was really funny and we loved all his quirky stories and witty comments. Definitely worth a visit but next time I would stay on their beautiful terrace rather than in their private tasting room. The weather and the view was just too wonderful to be cooped up inside.
Opus One offers tastings of their current vintage but I managed to arrange a full tour through my dear friend Romy Sia of Wine Story. We were welcomed by no less than the VP of Public Relations Christopher Barefoot who happens to also be a fellow Sorbonne Alumni and a Francophile. The property is beautiful. The architecture is unique. The story is equally special and the wine delicious. Watch out for my in-depth article in the Philippine Star soon.
Do rent a car, call a cab or use the numerous services the valley has to offer so you don’t need to drive. Leave your call in the hotel and enjoy yourself. We also booked dinner walking distance from the hotel so we wouldn’t have to drive home as well.
Shop: Definitely purchase a few bottles or cases if you must of wines while visiting the vineyards because they often have special vintages or wines that they don’t distribute at very advantageous prices.
OST: It all depends what you’re the mood of your getaway is… My husband and I drove down listening to some upbeat Top 40 on the radio but truly appreciated the majestic sound of classical music the fills the colonnades of Opus One’s Winery.
Reading Material: More than a book get yourself in the romantic mood with the 1995 film starring Keanu Reeves – “A Walk in the Clouds.” Who can forget that borderline cheesy but goosebumpily romantic scene of protecting the grapes from frostbite? Still too romantic for your taste? Although set in the Santa Ynez Valley rather than in Napa, “Sideways” is still a great classic for wine lovers. But don’t be too fooled…. The true wine experience is not just about the Pinot Noir and contrary to what Miles believes, yes… you should be drinking some f***ing merlot!
Season: Spring weather was stunning and luckily the vines were budding early so we still had some lovely greenery on the vineyards. I would most likely come back a little later in April or early may to have more verdant vines or in September right before the harvest.
In the know: Best to do a little research online as well on all the Music, Art and Culinary festivals happening in Napa Valley. You may want to catch one of them or avoid them for a less crowded visit. Note that some vineyards are closed of weekends and most of them stop accepting visitors at 4 p.m. So best to be ready to booze it before lunch.
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.
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