This post has been a long time coming. You may have seen that Jake and I visited the Napa Valley before he graduated from medical school. We did a lot of traveling recently, but this was our big celebratory graduation trip.
As you probably know by now, Jake and I love to travel. It is probably our favorite thing to do together. Jake is now in his intern year of residency, so we knew we wouldn’t get to travel during this year. We made sure to take full advantage of his limited free time while he had it. Our Napa Valley vacation has probably been our favorite trip since our honeymoon. If you’re look for a perfect romantic getaway, Napa is the answer. After Jake and I got engaged we both turned into winos, so visiting Napa was on our must-visit list. Every time we travel, I do a ton of research to find the best local food and attractions. I always come up with an itinerary so we can make the most of the trip. I especially had fun mapping this trip out. I did an Instagram poll to see if y’all would rather see a full guide to Napa or a Napa weekend itinerary. The results were split down the middle, so I decided to combine the two into one post.
How long to stay
We stayed for 3 nights and 2 full days. I believe that was the perfect length. As much as I love to eat local food and sip wine, my body cannot handle it for more than a few days in a row. When I am on vacation, I want to experience the best local places, so this is the perfect length of time for us.
We flew into San Francisco and then drove a rental car to Napa. When we arrived to Napa, we mostly Ubered everywhere. Jake and I will not drink and drive even after one glass of wine, so Uber is our go-to. The Ubers were everywhere, so the wait times were short. They were also very reasonably priced. After our Napa trip we drove back to San Francisco and spent a full day there, which I will share about soon.
Where to Stay
We stayed in an Airbnb in Downtown Napa and loved it. It was a charming “Cape Cod” cottage as the owner referred to it in her listing. Although Downtown isn’t really where we hung out, it was not a bad drive to get to wineries, but I did have to work extra hard on our logistics. Downtown Napa is especially close to The Napa Valley Wine Train. Most of the wineries we visited were in Napa, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Oakville. These are all parts of the Napa Valley. Next time I would prefer to stay in the middle of the Napa Valley, perhaps somewhere like Yountville. The Archer Hotel in Downtown Napa is also somewhere I’d recommend looking into. We went to their rooftop bar after the wine train and were very impressed with this hotel. There are many beautiful resorts and Airbnbs in the Napa Valley, so you really cannot go wrong.
- Most wineries open around 10 a.m. and close at about 5 p.m., so take that into account when planning your day. Each day we would start by going to breakfast/brunch and then have our first winery visit around noon.
- I recommend visiting only 2-3 wineries a day max. Any more than that and you will likely over do it.
- We only did 2 tours of wineries and I think that was enough. When I was planning I felt like we needed to tour them all, but there are hundreds of wineries, so it’s not possible. I did my research/asked around on Instagram to find ones that I wanted to visit and then strategically mapped the wineries out and decided the most logical order for planning out our day.
- Many wineries serve snacks for purchase, so take advantage of that. We mostly did a big breakfast and would snack at wineries for numerous small lunches until dinner time.
- I highly recommend booking dinner reservations and winery reservations. Some wineries require reservations for tastings. As soon as you plan to go to Napa I would start booking, since reservations go fast.
Our Favorite Wineries:
- Mumm Napa– I am not a huge sparkling wine drinker, but after someone highly recommended visiting Mumm I fell in love with their products. I especially love their brut rose’. I was happy to see that our local grocery stores in Birmingham carry their wines.
- Paraduxx– This was also recommended to us. We love the wine brand Decoy. After discovering that Paraduxx’s parent company, Duckhorn, owns Paraduxx and Decoy I knew it was a must-visit for us. The wine was delicious, but probably a little over our budget to purchase other than a tasting.
- Robert Mondavi– This famous family-owned winery was also on our must-visit list. I have always enjoyed a glass of Robert Mondavi wine and wanted to visit. I heard a lot of the big name wineries were not worth visiting, but did hear good things about this one. First off, the property is beautiful. I felt like I was in Europe. The view was out of this world. We did not tour this winery, but we enjoyed a glass of wine on their lovely patio.
- Castello di Amorosa– This was where the Napa Valley Wine Train took us. It is a beautiful castle and had amazing wines that could only be purchased at the winery itself. It was such a lovely treat to visit. I also felt like I was in Europe when visiting this winery.
- Frogs Leap– This also came highly recommended to us. We did a tasting and really enjoyed each wine. We were surprised to find that our favorite was one of the white wines (we are usually exclusively red wine drinkers). The rose’ was also lovely. The grounds are beautiful, so I had to take advantage of getting pictures. This is where I took these pictures.
- Alpha Omega– This was also a highly recommended spot. We did a full tour of this winery and it was cool to get to see the wine making process. The tour guide was excellent and we enjoyed getting to taste the wines after
Our Favorite Restaurants:
- Gotts-very casual, but good quality salads, burgers, etc.
- Oxbow Market-This is a market in downtown Napa featuring many great restaurants, like Gotts and Model Bakery
- Ad Hoc– This is one of famous chef Thomas Keller’s restaurants. Each day they come up with a menu that is only served on that day. The food is served family style and was excellent. Nothing in Napa is “cheap,” but I found this to be one of the more reasonably priced dinner restaurants.
- Redd– This was absolutely excellent. It is quaint and romantic. Jake and I shared steak and scallops and loved it.
- Bouchon Bistro– This is also one of Thomas Keller’s restaurants. We ate there for brunch and loved it. It is a darling French bistro.
- Bouchon Bakery– The bakery is right next to the bistro and let me tell you, be prepared to wait in line. Luckily the line moved fairly quickly, but it was long. The pastries are amazing. I snagged some to keep in my purse for in-between tastings at wineries.
- Bottega– This cute little Italian place is in Yountville. We enjoyed it, but it didn’t compare to Redd or Ad Hoc.
Must-Do Things In Napa:
- Wine train- see post here
- Eat delicious food
- Noon– We arrived in San Francisco and grabbed our rental car to drive to Napa. The drive was about an hour and a half.
- 2 p.m.– Check into our AirBnB and grab a quick snack and coffee (our flight was early). The time difference is two hours from ours, so it was physiologically our dinner time.
- 3 p.m.– Wine tasting appointment at Paraduxx Winery
- 4 p.m.- Grab a glass of wine and snack at Robert Mondavi
- 5 p.m.- Split a sparkling wine flight at Mumm
- 6:45 p.m.- Dinner at Redd
- After dinner we enjoyed some time at our Airbnb. She had a beautiful backyard, so we stayed out there and enjoyed the Napa Valley evening.
- Grab a quick breakfast at Starbucks
- 10:30 a.m.– Check in for the Napa Valley Wine Train
- 11:00 a.m.- 4p.m. Lunch and tour of Castello di Amorosa
- 4:30 p.m.– Check out the roof top bar at The Archer Hotel in Downtown Napa
- 5:45 p.m. -Dinner reservations at Ad Hoc
- 10:00 a.m. -Bouchon Bistro brunch
- 11:00 a.m. -Explore Yountville and stop by Bouchon Bakery (next to the bistro)
- 12:00 p.m. -Tasting appointment at Frogs Leap and explore their gorgeous grounds
- 2:00 p.m.– We stopped by Elizabeth Spencer Winery. This is the only winery I don’t recommend. They say that walk-ins are welcome, so we didn’t make a reservation here as we didn’t want our schedule to be too strict. We stopped in whenever we had time and they seated us on the patio for a tasting. However, after 30 minutes of none of the servers acknowledging us, we decided to go spend our time and money elsewhere.
- 2:30 p.m.– Snacks at Rutherford Grill
- 4:00 p.m. -Tour/tasting at Alpha Omega
- 6:00 p.m.– Dinner reservations at Bottega
Thank you so much for reading! Napa is an incredible place and I cannot wait to go back. Jake and I are finally getting settled in Birmingham. I am not quite ready to share a post on our decor, but will do that soon.