Wine & Culinary Walking Adventure in Downtown Napa
The sleepy town of Napa has recently undergone a metamorphosis beyond just a place to sleep while visiting wine country, due in part to the abundance of gourmet restaurants, shopping, wine tasting, and entertainment—all located downtown. On a recent visit to the wine county I decided to explore Napa by getting out of my car and walking everywhere. The plethora of new restaurants that have opened over the past two years is astounding and there are more on the way, which will complete the transformation from quiet, small town into a highly desired destination.
A wonderful weekend starts and ends with accommodations, and The Westin Verasa offers the best in luxury, comfort, and sustainability. The architecture is reminiscent of an elegant chalet with the use of textured materials of stone and granite. Rooms are spacious and beds are heavenly, with silky sheets and soft pillows to give you the rest of your life. Bathrooms are luxurious with large tubs and/or showers made for two with rain showers that actually use 50 percent less water. The balcony was an ideal place to sip a glass of wine at the end of the day before dinner.
Wish you had brought workout clothes, but there was no room in the suitcase? You are in luck! The hotel offers clean exercise apparel and shoes for you to use during your stay for only $5 through its lending program.
Speaking of relaxation, the saltwater pool and hot tub are the perfect places to unwind after the rigors of wine tasting and dining. And you can have your cares massaged away in the spa. The location also makes for ease of walking to restaurants, shops, and wine tasting.
For those without reservations or an itinerary upon arrival in Napa, no problem! The Welcome Center is the place to begin planning a fun adventure, with helpful staff, brochures, and information to tailor an ideal trip to the Napa Valley. Although a little planning and advance reservations will ensure you can stay in your favored place.
What most excited me during my visit were the 12 wine tasting rooms all located within a few blocks of one another.. The hardest decision was determining the ones to visit; armed with my Downtown Tasting Card—purchased for $35—I would be able to taste at each of the rooms for the equivalent of pennies per pour. Each tasting room has its own personality, not only in wine style but also in décor. It seemed to be a fun way to taste my way through the Napa Valley without driving all over the valley.
Capp Heritage Tasting Room is a treasure featuring red and whites grown in East Napa. Having grown grapes for years for other wineries the winegrowers recently began bottling their own wine. The tasting room has an elegant feel in the tasting bar and in the adjacent lounge where they host music.
Trahan was rustic yet welcoming, offering a selection of red and white wines sourced locally. This family-owned operation creates delicious wine in small quantities.
NakedWines.com features wines from 40 young winemakers and serves 40 wines. The company is funded by angels who buy in at $40 per month, receiving discounts on their wine and supporting the growth of new vintners.
The culinary scene makes choosing where to enjoy the next meal a challenge—but a good one. I decided to have lunch at Oenotri for its farm-to-table Italian cuisine. The open kitchen and welcoming environment put me at ease. The house-made salumi was savory and colorful. The thin crust pizza was satisfying with marinara sauce that tasted garden fresh. My favorite dish was cannelloni with pork trotter, ricotta, tomato, cream, and orange zest that was pure magic. The wine selection included local favorites, and the restaurant also offers a wine club.
Carpe Diem Wine Bar offers small plates and more substantial portions in a comfortable atmosphere. Menu highlights included the ever-changing Soup of the Moment and the Taco of the Day. The wine list is extensive, with an emphasis on wine flights. The waiters are trained to help you choose the perfect wine to match the food. We enjoyed the butternut squash risotto balls, pita chips and dip, and short rib tamale with a Pinot Noir from the Russian River, an ideal pairing. For dessert, the Twix with caramel ice cream was a favorite but so was the chocolate pot de crème.
The Napa General Store located in the historic Napa Mill Building offers wine tasting, dining, and shopping all under one roof. We chose to enjoy breakfast on the sunny outdoor patio overlooking the Napa River. The smoked salmon flatbread was a highlight as were the huevos rancheros, two of the specialties.
Bounty Hunter is the place for wine and grilled meat. The iconic Beer Can Chicken was the juiciest chicken I had ever tasted. And of course the barbecue plates with pulled pork, brisket, and cole slaw are satisfying for big appetites. The wine selection is extensive.
The Oxbow Public Market is a food lover’s paradise, with stores devoted to baked goods, cheese, wine, meats, and seafood. This is the place to gather a picnic, eat a meal, or have a glass (or bottle) of wine. We chose C Casa for its savory Mexican cuisine; the restaurant is best known for to-die-for huevos rancheros. All of the food is local and sustainably produced, which is why everything tastes great.
Newly opened City Winery, located in the restored Opera House, has a selection of delicious bites along with a wine-by-the-glass selection that is remarkable. The large space is welcoming, and the winery features live entertainment upstairs most evenings.
For a splurge, La Toque inside the Westin is a treat for diners, with a 2,000-bottle wine list and Michelin-starred cuisine. Menus are planned around the extensive wine selection so the culinary experience is always memorable.
Uptown Theatre has a roster of musical entertainment and features big acts that usually don’t play in small venues. The beautifully restored theater doesn’t have a bad seat in the house, and a selection of local brews and wine contributes to the overall ambiance.
Our final stop was the only place we couldn’t walk to: Luna Vineyards, a short drive or bike ride from downtown. The vineyards surrounding the beautiful Italian-style winery made it seem as though we had been transported to the Italian countryside. At the long family table we were treated to meats, cheeses, and bread to accompany our wine tasting. We sipped and savored the refreshing whites and luscious full-bodied reds.
The weekend of wine, food, and relaxation was over too quickly. While I loved everything about the experience, the ease of walking everywhere made it that much more enjoyable. I can’t wait to come back!