I love everything about Napa, California! It is a perfect travel destination for food and wine lovers. There is a strong appreciation for the land, which translates into the entire experience of being there. Every restaurant is unique, and every winemaker has their own style. It is impossible to see everything in one trip, which makes it a great place to revisit. Not only will you have a different trip every time you go, BUT the food will be different depending on the time of year, because all of the restaurants serve food that is in season.
Fall is the busiest time of year in Napa, because it's called "the crush." It is the time of year when the winemakers are harvesting the grapes to turn into wine. This is also their busiest time of year, so prices tend to be higher, and it tends to be a bit more crowded.
I recommend doing some research before going to Napa, like any trip, and don't try to see everything, otherwise you will be running around like a crazy person instead taking everything in. There are over 400 wineries in Napa, you aren't going to get to all of them. Choose a few!
Take some time to enjoy the food there as well! Reservations are always a good idea, but keep a couple mornings, and/or afternoons open to go to a fun market, or stumble upon a place recommended by a winemaker. Napa is half planning, and half winging it.
Here are some of the highlights from our last trip! I hope this helps you with your planning, or inspires you to start planning a trip. It is one of my favorite places in the world.
When I was on this trip, I took so many snapchats (follow me at fromscratchMP), and apparently didn't save all of them. I also used my phone for many of the pictures, because it was the easiest thing to grab. Sorry if not all of the pictures are high quality, I was consumed with eating and drinking!
This little market is a must! It is an indoor market that has a great variety of food. There are places to sit and eat, and there are places to pick up food to take with you. A few places I highly recommend: buy some spices at the spice store, breakfast at Five Dot Ranch (incredible meat), tacos at C Casa!
Another great store to go to is Dean and Deluca. They have great pastries, fresh sandwiches, and a million speciality items you won't want to pass up. I loved all of their Halloween themed items when we were there.
William Hill Estate Winery was recommended to us by some friends for the beautiful view, and great wine. They were right! We brought some food with us from Oxbow Market, and sat outside. They have chairs set up that face the beautiful rolling hills of Napa. I recommend making a reservation here.
My parents LOVE Cakebread wine, so it was a must on our trip. My mom is more of a white wine fan, and they have an all white wine tasting available. We actually set up a private tasting for the four of us. This was a lot of fun, because we learned about the history of Cakebread, and how they make their wine. It is beautiful there, because the tasting room is in the middle of the vineyard. On the hot days in Napa, this one is great, because they do the tastings inside.
Chappellet is a fun winery to visit, because you get a tour as well. It is definitely off the beaten path, but when you get there, the views are gorgeous. The winery is very family oriented, and it is fun to hear the history. Reservations are a must!
Even though there are fancy wineries in Napa, with beautiful architecture, and great views, sometimes it's fun to step away and have a different experience. Matthiasson wine is known by major wine geeks as one of the best. We did our tasting with the winemaker in the rustic backyard that is surrounded by vines. It was hands-down my favorite wine in Napa. You have to reserve a time to taste there, but I would definitely do this one again.
Redd Wood was our first dinner on this trip to Napa. They are known for their pizzas and pastas, so that's what we got! This is definitely a place I would go back to. The energy is upbeat, they have an open kitchen, and some outdoor seating. Make a reservation for good measure.
...and this olive oil cake was the best thing ever!
Bouchon Bakery is hands-down one of my favorite places. I love going for breakfast or lunch. They have the best breakfast pastries, and coffee. When you get there, don't be intimidated by the long line out the door, it moves fast, and is totally worth the wait. They have outdoor seating, or you can take your food with you. Since it isn't a sit-down restaurant, you can't make reservations. I recommend getting the coffee cake, and the little bouchons (aka mini brownies shaped like a cork). It is located in Yountville.
As if Bouchon Bakery wasn't enough for breakfast, we had to go to the Thomas Keller Bouchon Bistro for lunch. This is right next to the bakery, and is open for lunch and dinner, but I believe they do weekend brunches as well. It is a beautiful French style bistro, with some of the best food I have ever had in my life. This time I got the croque madame, and it was worth every calorie! When you are there it really feels as though you are sitting in Paris having traditional French bistro food.
Oenotri came highly recommended by a number of people. They are known for their Southern Italian food, homemade pizzas, and homemade pastas. The food is seasonal and fresh. It is located in downtown Napa, and has a fun, upbeat, city-vibe. The open kitchen allows you to watch all the cooking action, and they even have a pizza oven you can see the pizzas going in and out. I recommend a reservation here as well.
My dream came true! I actually got to have dinner at The French Laundry in Yountville. World renowned chef, Thomas Keller, creates an unforgettable experience. Not only is the food perfection, but so is the service. The location is not pretentious at all! You feel like you are in someone's house. Their garden is right across the street, and since Thomas Keller believes in the freshest ingredients, we would see the chefs walking out to the garden to pick fresh produce throughout the night. The food is perfection! Each bite has been planned, each course presented like art, and the entire experience is like a production. Dress up, get ready to spend a pretty penny, and have the most perfect meal of your life. We even got to make our way back to the kitchen to see the action. I could go on and on and on and on....about this place, and my respect for Thomas Keller, but you should know that it is worth going to. Reservations are tough to get, and I believe they only start taking reservations a couple months in advance, so plan accordingly.