The Pacific Highway road trip is growing in popularity as a great way to discover the West Coast of America. From San Francisco to Los Angeles, you can take in the finest of great city living, national parks, and of course some of the best wine regions in the world. One of our highly recommended road trip stops would have to be Napa Valley, a must visit destination for luxury travellers looking for the finest in gastronomy and only an hour and a half’s drive from San Francisco. Boasting more than 450 wineries, the 30 mile valley is home to excellent cuisine, local artists, historic architecture and of course stunning landscapes which will appeal to our more refined luxury travellers. Here are four ways for luxury travellers to enjoy the Napa Valley:
1. The wine
Well let’s start with the most obvious – the wine! Our advice is to leave the wine tours to the experts rather than trying to piece together your own tour. Napa Private Tours is one of our top recommended partners and certainly worth the investment to savour the finest in Californian wine in complete effortless luxury. From just $500 everyone in your group or couple can enjoy the experience without having to nominate a designated driver or suffer the trials of GPS and the small unmarked backroads.
A completely tailored experience, your wine coach will tailor the tour based on your preferences taking into account your personality, tastes and objectives. Guests are picked up from the hotel by luxury vehicle to ensure maximum comfort and driven to the finest vineyards in the area but ensuring all appointments are booked so the vineyards are all ready for your arrival and the leisurely drive includes some of the best scenery in Napa. For the luxury traveller, exclusivity is key and tours include caves, or private vineyard experiences with limited edition wines for that something special.
2. The food
As well as delicious wine the food in Napa is certainly the place to revel into the area’s gastronomy. There is of course Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry – one for every food lover’s bucket list. This three star Michelin restaurant is certainly top of its game but dress code aside (don’t forget your jacket gentlemen) this is very much a relaxed affair in which you can enjoy the creative talents of the team within a more intimate atmosphere. The knowledgeable and passionate team are happy to provide advice and recommendations and it’s not surprising their wine list is notably focussed on quality – including half bottles which is ideal for two – but also very balanced in terms of price. If reservations at the high in demand French Laundry aren’t possible, Thomas Keller’s second more low-key restaurant, Ad Hoc offers a much more relaxed, casual family atmosphere with one menu per day.
Finally for those who prefer a good wholesome food experience, a visit to Long Meadow Ranch at St Helena is a must for their delicious farm to menu table. The outside dining on the beautiful terrace offers spectacular views of Napa, and the restaurant has its own smokers and BBQ for phenomenal cuisine. The team are equally passionate about the food and wine, and are extremely helpful in providing guidance on the menu. One tip – try the delicious wines from local fun family company Dirty and Rowdy!
3. Local towns
Visiting the local towns can offer a welcome respite from visiting vineyards. Yountville whilst small means that it’s easily walkable and unlike most American towns where driving is a necessity, you can easily walk from the hotel to the chilled bars or restaurants. Redd Wood bar serves great pizza for a lighter snack option and offers a more adventurous menu of toppings – don’t knock Brussel sprouts on pizza until you’ve tried it. Unusual, yes, delicious, definitely! Meander through Downtown Napa and visit Oxbox Public Market where you can find the artisanal ingredients used in the best Napa Valley restaurants from freshly baked goods, charcuterie and cheese or visit a local Taqueria for a taste of Mexico. Art lovers will enjoy Santa Lane for its art galleries featuring local artists as well as shops.
4. Luxury accommodation
Our recommendation is to make the most of your visit to Napa by allowing yourself more time and treating yourself to a comfortable short break. There is a great selection of luxury accommodation in the region which would suit our most discerning clientele. Bardessono Hotel and Spa provides a fully luxurious guest experience whilst remaining eco-conscious where sustainability is at the heart of its design and service. Every room can be transformed into a personal spa space for massages and along with the main spa therapy centre offers a combination of both east and western therapies. The Carneros Inn is set on 27 acres of scenic countryside with its Californian farm inspired cottages silos and barns offering lush vineyard or garden views, as well as excellent concierge service. The exclusive, intimate Auberge du Soleil has all the facilities of a luxury resort including 7,000 square foot luxury spa and Michelin star restaurant. Finally Calistoga Ranch offers supreme comfort, nestled in a private canyon in the Upper Napa Valley amidst 157 acres of mountainside hiking trails and its own private lake and offering the ultimate indoor/outdoor living experience.
The great thing about Napa is that it’s a year round destination, and pretty consistent weather wise. There is plenty to see and do but the rates will drop slightly in mid-September after domestic peak travel from July-September, which ties in during the autumn harvest season and certainly our top recommendation of when to visit.
Diana Cherry is Director of Operations at Oxford Private Travel.