It’s the perfect time of year to hop on a plane and touch down in wine country. From Walla Walla’s wine country to Napa Valley. Our insider on where to eat, drink, and stay, this year it’s time to explore more esteemed wine regions. Salut!
Deemed as a wine lover's paradise, Napa Valley, just 30 miles long and five miles wide, is made up of the perfect topography, climate and soil to harvest renowned Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. With great wine also comes fine dining, deluxe lodging, popular events and modern culture. It's no wonder tourists flock to Napa Valley, last year welcoming a total of 3.85 million visitors. Not bad for a wine community that has barely been on the radar for 40 years! How did the Valley’s popularity rise so quickly? Knowing a little slice of history before you go will spark intrigue and work wonders for conversation upon arrival.
In the wine world, there is “before the Paris tasting” and “after the Paris tasting.” At the “Judgment of Paris” in the spring of 1976, nine top wine judges gathered in Paris to blindly taste 10 white and 10 red wines. Knowing that some wines were from France and some from California, the French judges were confident that the French wines would win. To their surprise, California’s wines triumphed. And 40 years later, that tasting still matters. Prior to the judgment, French wines ruled the world, and there were about 67 wineries in Napa Valley. Post-judgment, the tasting results shot Napa Valley into the limelight, where today there are nearly 500 wineries. Indeed, the “Judgment of Paris” was the turning point for not only California’s wine country but for the wine industry as a whole.
Napa Valley truly deserves multiple trips to experience the variety it has to offer. If it’s your first time visiting, don’t be afraid of visiting hotspots that may be a bit more touristy; remember that there’s a reason for its popularity. Here are a few notable stops to help narrow down your search.
Tip: It's always a good idea to schedule winery appointments well in advance of your visit.
Del Dotto Vineyards: Three different locations offer more than 100 different cabs. Be sure to book a cave tour.
Darioush: The gorgeous architecture and grounds of Darioush match the elite quality of their wine. Their artisan cheese and wine pairing experience is fantastic.
Domaine Chandon: If bubbles are your thing, you can’t do much better than bubbles on the patio at Domaine Chandon.
Robert Mondavi: It holds rich family history, award-winning wine and beautiful grounds. Don’t miss the Fumé Blanc, which remains signature and one of Robert Mondavi Winery’s most popular wines.
Shafer Vineyards: It is located in the notable Stags Leap District with picturesque rolling hill views. This James Beard award-winning, family-owned winery is worth a visit.
Scribe: Just outside of Napa, located in Sonoma, this charming winery is worth a visit on your way in or out of town. They produce vibrant, terroir-driven wine and serve it amidst a true California-vibe setting.
Tip: Book up to months in advance for top restaurants.
Bouchon Bakery: Chef Thomas Keller created this classic French bakery-style shop featuring a wide selection of artisanal bread and classic desserts.
FARM: Located at Carneros Resort, FARM is an elegant, fine-dining experience and a destination unto itself with simple, fresh, organic and sustainably raised ingredients.
Kenzo: It's an incredibly special and elegant Japanese dining experience paired perfectly with wines from the Kenzo Estate.
Oxbow Public Market: Located in downtown Napa, Oxbow is the local gathering place for great food and wine. The 40,000-square-foot marketplace includes a scenic outdoor deck and features a diverse tenant mixture of local food vendors, artisan cafes and an organic produce outlet for local farms.
RH Yountville: It's a Restoration Hardware, first-of-its-kind food, wine, art and design experience. Enjoy a delicious meal and explore a boutique design gallery showcasing artistic installations of RH Interiors and RH Modern Collections.
Tip: Book your hotel around the wineries you plan on visiting.
Archer Hotel: Located in the heart of downtown Napa, this boutique hotel has elegant rooms, a rooftop bar, spa and ledge pool. It features a destination restaurant by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer.
Carneros Resort: A quintessential wine country experience, Carneros Resort offers luxe accommodations and amenities surrounded by picturesque views of rolling vineyards. Choose to lodge in a gorgeous cottage or gated luxury homes. There are three full-service restaurants, a luxury spa, two pools and a fitness center. Plan for a day to skip the wine tasting activities and just relax at this spectacular resort.
Walla Walla Wine Country
Washington continues to be a growing hot spot on the map for wine connoisseurs, and Walla Walla is at the heart of it. This small town is making a big name for itself with more than 100 wineries, and the area is only continuing to grow, attracting some of the best in the wine and food industry. What was originally a wheat farming community is now a world-class wine destination. What makes the Walla Walla region unique is the variety of wines produced; thanks to a rich range of soils and micro-climates that give way to varietals that truly suit every taste—from malbec and to merlot to cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo; and of course the crowning varietal of the region, syrah.
With good wine often follows good food, and of course a lodging experience to match. Enter Eritage Resort. Years in the making and much anticipated by wine and food lovers alike, Eritage opened its doors this summer, giving us all another reason to visit Walla Walla. Beautifully nestled on more than 300 acres, surrounded by 360 degrees of amber waves of grain, picturesque rolling hills, distant mountains, and of course grapevines, Eritage is an intimate oasis bringing a deeper wine country connection and experience to all who visit.
The resort has 10 guest rooms in the main building and 10 lakeside villas coming in 2019. Each room has a private deck or patio with expansive views, king bed with luxurious linens, soaking tub and separate shower, cozy fireplace and seating area—the perfect setting for a romantic getaway. Deluxe additions include L’Occitane personal products, in-room Nespresso coffee maker and nightly turndown service. The property is designed to provide guests with an exceptional wine country experience with 200 acres of vineyards; the manmade Lake Sienna, a 6-million-gallon lake fed by an 819-foot basalt well which provides irrigation to the vineyards; and expansive scenic views of rolling hills.
“Our strong connection with area farmers and the bounty of seasonal offerings inspired the Eritage menu,” Jason says.
Walla Walla is a tribute to the history, beauty and warmth of Washington’s farms. It’s vineyards, eating establishments and lodging are a place to experience and taste a variety of unique offerings.
Foundry Vinyards: Wine + Art Gallery. At this organic winery you can sip on Bordeaux-style wines as well as Rhône varietals and sparkling wines.
Woodward Canyon Winery: As the second winery in Walla Walla country and countless award winning wines, it’s obvious this family run farm takes pride in their practice. Enjoy age-worthy cabernet sauvignons, Bordeaux-style blends and merlots as well as chardonnay.
Saffron: Creating Mediterranean dishes since 2007 and a hot spot for visitors. Make sure to get a reservation.
Passatempo Taverna: Handmade pasta, extensive wine list and craft cocktails. Enough said.
Andrae's Kitchen: One of a kind sandwiches, burgers and breakfast items served out out a gas station believe it or not!
The Inn at Abeja:
Spraliding countryside fairy tail Inn. A picturesque and romantic spot to rest.
Eritage Resort: Luxury accommodation and excellent attention to detail.
1319 Bergevin Springs Road, Walla Walla, Washington, 833.374.8243, EritageResort.com
The Santa Ynez Valley
Heaven in the Hills
Tucked in the windy hills of Santa Barbara lies a community with exceptional food, rich grapes and bountiful culture. Forty-five minutes away from the Santa Barbara city beach, the Santa Ynez Valley is the ideal escape from a fast-paced lifestyle. It's an oasis for foodies and winos. The area is home to six distinct communities—Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Solvang—all of which hold wineries, restaurants and deep California heritage. With its rolling hills, timeless venues and warm nights, Santa Ynez is a unique and memorable destination.
The Ballard Inn
A home-away-from-home feel, The Ballard Inn is a quiet and cute bed and breakfast with exceptional staff. With nightly turndown service as well as fresh cookies in your room, The Ballard Inn allows for a cozy and intimate stay. Breakfast and dinner are served downstairs at The Gathering Table, where guests can expect award-winning cuisine.
2436 Baseline Ave., Ballard, California, 805.688.7770, BallardInn.com
Sunstone Vineyards & Winery
The picturesque grounds and French courtyards of Sunstone Vineyards & Winery is a 50-acre estate that holds history, education and family values. Known for its 2016 estate merlot, the winery also offers a plethora of wines to suit any guest’s palate.
125 N. Refugio Road, Santa Ynez, California, 805.688.9463, SunstoneWinery.com
Brick Barn Wine Estate
Brick Barn is a 1,100-acre ranch built in the 1970s, originally as an Arabian horse barn. This newly opened wine estate is rich in history and flavor. Pouring award-winning wine is just one of its specialties as the estate also has an up-and-coming patio scene.
795 W. Highway 246, Buellton, California, 805.686.1208, BrickBarnWineEstate.com
Melville Vineyards & Winery
Come and stay awhile at Melville Vineyards & Winery nestled in the Santa Rita Hills appellation. The outside ambiance is calm and pretty, perfect for sipping and enjoying the vast selection of pinot noirs and chardonnays.
5185 State Highway 246, Lompoc, California, 805.735.7030, MelvilleWinery.com
Demetria Winery & Vineyard
Demetria’s views captivating and relaxing with cute winery cats around to keep you company. Accompanied by the live soundtrack of birds playing, gather family style to taste and learn about their biodynamic farm practices.
6701 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos, California, 805.686.2345, DemetriaEstate.com
This state-of-the-art winery sits high as you overlook the Santa Maria Valley. Sit outside at the on-site amphitheater and listen to local artists while taking in the elegant and balanced wine list. Don’t forget to join the wine club for the private patio privileges.
5391 Presquile Drive, Santa Maria, California, 805.937.8110, PresquileWine.com
Treat yourself to modern and fresh Italian dishes made with locally sourced ingredients at S.Y Kitchen. One of the few restaurants with a full bar, experience S.Y. Kitchen under the twinkling patio lights.
1110 Faraday St., Santa Ynez, California, 805.691.9794, SYKitchen.com
The Bear and Star
Proud of the refined ranch cuisine combined with the California bounty, The Bear and Star is founded on Texas and California tastes. The meat, fruits and vegetables come from Fess Parker Home Ranch just down the road. You can’t go wrong with the grilled Wagyu burger, the oysters or the chicken liver mousse.
2860 Grand Ave., Los Olivos, California, 805.686.1359, TheBearAndStar.com
Pico at the Los Alamos General Store
Another highly recommended dining experience is Pico located in Los Alamos. Nestled within an old general store, Pico is a hip and trendy farm-to-table restaurant perfect for a group gathering or romantic discussion. Pico’s decor and setting make for an unforgettable experience.
458 Bell St., Los Alamos, California, 805.344.1122, LosAlamosGeneralStore.com