Insider’s Guide to Napa Valley

Yountville in Napa Valley by The Taste SF vineyards and a barn with mustard growing

 

Considering a trip to Napa Valley? We love Napa Valley. It was the first place we visited in California. Now that we live in San Francisco, we are only an hour away and have a lot of friends in the wine industry, so we go often. We’ve received a lot of questions for wine country recommendations, so we wanted to share our tips including some of the best wineries and restaurants in Napa Valley to help you have the best experience possible during your visit to Napa Valley.

There’s the City of Napa and Napa Valley. The City is at the southern end of the valley with lots of shops and restaurants. Napa Valley includes multiple towns, including St. Helena, Rutherford, Yountville, and Calistoga. It takes about 40 minutes, depending on traffic to get from one end of the valley to the other. Make sure to plan accordingly, since a winery in St. Helena or Calistoga will take significantly longer to get to from the City than one in Oakville or Yountville.

What to do

Interested in wine tasting? We’ve got you covered. There are over 400 wineries in Napa Valley, so we’re sure you’ll find something you like.

GET YOUR FREE GUIDE TO WINE TASTING IN NAPA VALLEY

Some of our personal favorite Napa Valley wineries include:

The Taste SF visits Robert Sinskey Vineyard's tasting room
vineyards at Round Pond Estate Rutherford Napa and The Taste SF

 

Wine tasting is the main reason people go to Napa, but it’s not the only thing you can do. If you are looking for other activities, check out the olive mill at Round Pond Estate. Pop in for an olive oil and vinegar tastings or book a lunch experience where you’ll tour the estate’s garden and enjoy ingredients picked that day.

Stop at The French Laundry Garden, directly across from the restaurant in Yountville. Admire their beautiful produce used in the French Laundry and Per Se kitchens. They also have a cute flock of chickens, and tables where you can have a picnic lunch.

If you’re into food, also check out The Oxbow Market, The Culinary Institute of America, or CIA at COPIA. We also love to stop at Sunshine Foods Market.

Where to Eat

Napa Valley has some of the best food options around. We often say that Yountville is like Disney World for foodies. There are so many great options.

Here are just a few of our favorites:

  • Torc – try the whole chicken
  • The Bounty Hunter – BBQ, beer, and wine.
  • La Luna Market & Taqueria – very local – for when you just need a taco
  • Hog Island Oyster Co. – Oysters, need we say more? They also have killer clam chowder and other bites.  If you have the time, head over to the oyster farm on Tomales Bay (not close to Napa)
  • The Model Bakery / Gott’s Roadside – There are locations for both in the Oxbow Public Market. While the original Gott’s and Model Bakery  may be cute, we prefer this location for the shorter lines and ample parking.
  • The Fremont Diner – It’s in Sonoma (on the border) but it’s worth the detour for brunch.
  • Bouchon Bakery – Get there EARLY otherwise you’ll stand in line. We love a simple plain or chocolate croissant. If it’s in season, try the strawberry and almond croissant. TIP: If the line is bad and you just want a macaroon – they sell them at Dean & Deluca in Rutherford.
  • Oakville Grocery – perfect stop mid-valley for sandwiches and snacks
  • The French Laundry – It’s currently closed for kitchen renovations, however, it’s a staple in Napa Valley. We haven’t been yet, but we hear it’s an experience.

Redd Wood Pizza in Yountville Napa

 

For Cocktails (because you may need a break from wine)

  • Goose and Gander – outdoor seating with a wide fun range of cocktails (try the wings)
  • Redd – sit at the bar for cocktails and snacks (try the calamari or pork buns)
  • Red Wood – It’s more casual that Redd. Have cocktails on the patio, and if it’s chilly there’s a fireplace. Try a Straight to the Melon or Redd Wood Rita and pizzas.
  • Ciccio – We haven’t been here, but friends say it’s the place to go if you like negronis.

Redd Wood Cocktails in Yountville Napa with The Taste SF

Where to Stay

Our favorite place to stay is in Yountville. It’s in the center of the valley and allows you to pop over to an amazing restaurant and walk home when you’re done. We love Hotel Yountville. They have an amazing pool with a fire pit and cabanas. Another good option is the Bardessono.

Staying in downtown Napa is another good option because you can walk to different restaurants, The Oxbow Market, and wine bars that stay open after the wineries close. (The Westin VerasaAndaz Napa) If you want a more remote experience, you can splurge for Solage, Carneros Inn, or Meadowood.

Do you have other recommendations? Let us know in a comment below. We’re always looking for new places to visit!

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