In 1836, Yountville was part of a land grant that transferred territory from Mexico to George Yount. The first white settler in the Napa Valley (and first to plant grapes), Yount originally named the town Sebastopol, even though another town of the same name existed nearby. It was renamed Yountville in Yount’s honor in 1867, two years after he died.
Today, this small enclave is well-known for restaurants, shops, art galleries, wineries, and its picturesque location. Just over an hour from San Francisco, Yountville is ideal for your next weekend getaway.
In an area less than two square miles, Yountville offers an interesting selection of places to stay. Most everything is within walking distance. Here’s what we tried:
Situated on a 23-acre estate, the Villagio Inn and Spais a serene escape from the rigors of a 24-7 life. With an Italian influence, the inn’s two-story stucco buildings with red-tiled roofs are nestled in lush gardens and along pathways lined with fountains and flowing water.
The large rooms are tastefully decorated and have fireplaces, views of the verdant grounds, private patios, and espresso machines. The separate double sinks and shower/whirlpool bath areas provide ample space.
If your focus is environmental, then it’s Bardessono.This upscale boutique hotel maintain its LEED Platinum certification through the use of local materials, artisans and purveyors – materials are reclaimed; art is repurposed; spa and restaurant products are from organic or sustainable producers (including their own garden), and solar panels reduce energy reliance. Fashionable rooms offer sleek furnishings, private patios, gas fireplaces, large bathrooms with room for spa tables, and organic linens and robes.
Another option is the recently renamed North Block. The interior courtyard, with plantings, a fountain, relaxed seating, and a fireplace is surrounded by the stone architecture and arched windows of the hotel. The comfortable rooms boast huge bathrooms, luxe furnishings and linens, high tech gadgets and connections, and some have their own fireplace.
Within with its small area, Yountville has several walking tours. Depending upon your interest, try the Historical Tour or the unique Art Walk with all its sculptures, many of which are for sale. The Napa Valley Museum offers a different look at the evolution of the Valley.
We started wine tasting just south of the Yountville AVA at Silenus Vintners in the Oak Knoll AVA. Find a unique collection of artisan winemakers who both make their wine onsite and showcase it in the contemporary tasting room. Favorites included the 2010 Poe Chardonnay, the 2007 Highlands Napa Valley Zinfandel and the 2007 Matthiasson Red Wine blend.
No trip to Yountville is complete without a visit to Domaine Chandon. Known for its sparkling wines, the modern tasting room and casual terrace are the perfect spots to sip bubbles. Hard to choose, but we kept going back to the Reserve Brut, the Blanc de Noirs and the étoile Brut. Pair your favorites with something from the Tasting Lounge Menu (more in Dine).
In the hills across town, Goosecross has been making wine since 1985. The friendly environment in the tasting room (the barrel cellar) and the knockout views make for a fun visit. We especially liked the 2009 Estate Chardonnay and the 2009 Cabernet Franc. Goosecross has a creative program to raise money through wine sales for nonprofit organizations.
Back downtown, we visited Cornerstone Cellars. Open and airy, it’s a wonderful place to people watch and taste wine. From their two labels, don’t miss the 2008 Howell Mt. Cabernet Sauvignon (Cornerstone Cellars) and the 2009 Cabernet Franc (Stepping Stone).
When it’s time to unwind, find heated swimming pools at the Villagio(with private cabanas)andBardessono. And if it’s luxurious treatments you’re after, both have their own spa, as does the North Block.
Even though Washington Street is lined with art galleries, restaurants, boutiques and wineries, many shops are concentrated in the V Marketplace. In 1870, the V was the Groezinger winery, barrel room and distillery built by Gottleib Groezinger, who purchased 20 acres from George Yount. Now discover home accessories, jewelry, photography, glass work, chocolates, restaurants, and wineries.
Don’t forget, wineries hope you’ll buy wine when you visit, so don’t disappoint.
Everyone knows the restaurant scene in Yountville is intense. During this visit, we chose casual and easy and tasted some scrumptious food.
It was sunny and warm at The Tasting Lounge at Domaine Chandon, so we headed straight for the terrace to indulge in bubbles with appetizers from étoile, the Michelin-starred restaurant. We started with oysters and a yuzu mignonette.
Our favorite sparkling wines are listed in Play, but if you can’t decide, the menu suggests pairings (includes still wines, too). The Scottish salmon (smoked and rillette) was served with a caper-shallot tapenade and fennel slaw. The Chef’s selection of charcuterie included duck terrine and rabbit roulade, among others, accompanied by pickled vegetables.
Dinner at Redd Wood is a delicious experience. Choose a cozy seat inside by the windows or outside on the patio. In either spot, you’ll appreciate the clean flavors of the shaved summer vegetable salad and the ricotta and white corn pizza. The plum agrodolce served on the quail and creamy polenta dish is outstanding. Don’t let the decadence of the chocolate caramel tart with sea salt scare you – it’s a short walk to the hotel.
Of the three hotels, only Villagioincludes breakfast – and it’s amazing. Sip a mimosa as you choose from the hearty buffet – hot entrées, cereals, fruits, juices, pastries and more. There’s even a separate omelet station. When you first arrive at the hotel, find a complimentary bottle of wine. And in the afternoon, there’s tea and coffee with sweet and savory options in the lobby.
Patty Burness can be found on Twitter.