There are few places in the world we’ve been that are as decadent as Napa Valley (or nearby Sonoma for that matter). While some groan about its commercialization (which is partly true), Napa Valley is home to some of the world’s most exclusive and luxurious experiences. And let’s face it, every so often you just want to be pampered!
Napa certainly doesn’t come cheap. However, if you’re already shelling out the big bucks, we think you should do it right. We’ve visited Napa and Sonoma more times than I can remember (and not due to all the wine!). Below are some of our favorite experiences to enjoy a memorable and romantic weekend.
Meal of a Lifetime: French Laundry
The French Laundry has been at the top of my list of restaurants to try once in my lifetime. Sure, it’s got that coveted Michelin star and celebrity Chef Thomas Keller. But think of it more than just a dinner out — it’s a full evening experience.
So what makes French Laundry the creme of the crop? Chef Thomas Keller takes his flavors very seriously, sourcing most of the herbs and vegetables as possible from the restaurant’s own garden across the street. He also uses ingredients that are the highest in quality (such as Andante Dairy, one of my favorite cheese makers who provided the butter for the bread). No detail is left unnoticed. And to top it off, Kevin got me a reservation for my birthday, which included a custom menu in my honor.
While landing a reservation may seem impossible (booking months in advance), we recommend staying at one of the nearby hotels like Bardessono, who’s concierge hooked us up. Rumor has it, they have a direct phone line into the restaurant. Who knows, but we pretty much got the exact date and time we wanted for dinner.
A dinner will begin somewhere around $270 per person. Add in some wine, and soon you’ll see it tallies up quickly. While that’s a pretty hefty night out, keep in mind that it’s the experience. And if you’re a foodie at heart (like us), the money is well worth it.
Snack Attack: Bouchon Bakery
Clearly, Chef Thomas Keller has a stronghold in Napa. And we’re big fans. Located just steps away from The French Laundry is his casual Bouchon Bakery. The spot was first conceived in 2003 as a way to provide nearby restaurants with one-of-a-kind breads. In the style of classic French boulangeries, the bakery features a wide selection of artisanal breads and classic desserts inspired by Keller’s memories of life in France, as well as his own childhood in the United States. It’s always on our Napa pilgrimage (and of course, much easier on the wallet than The French Laundry!).
Sleep: Bardessono (Napa)
Bardessono is the kind of place you’ll look back on and compare every other hotel experience. Located right in the heart of Yountville, the location doesn’t get much better. In fact, we literally walked to our dinner reservation at The French Laundry.
The place was designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible with a wide range of ‘green’ elements including heating and cooling via geothermal energy, material reuse, low water use and LED and fluorescent lighting. On top of that, the place gets about half of its electricity from a solar system discreetly mounted and concealed atop the hotel’s flat-topped roofs. But comfort isn’t sacrificed. Rooms top out around $1,500 a night.
Sleep: Kenwood Inn & Spa (Sonoma)
If you’re still in the mood for some pampering (and perhaps don’t want to spend $1,500 a night), we loved our recent stay at the Kenwood Inn and Spa located about a 20 minute drive from Yountville in Sonoma County. It isn’t walkable like Yountville in Napa, but you’ll likely not want to leave the resort anyway with all the plush amenities and your room with its own fireplace.
We made the most of our stay, enjoying the complimentary evening wine and cheese; port tasting; and taking a dip in the pool and hot tubs at night with no curfew (or at least nobody stopped us!). The service went above and beyond, even after we somehow lost our car keys and sent the staff into a frenzy. Be sure to book an appointment at their newly-renovated spa while you’re there. Rates vary, but run anywhere from $250-$500 a night.
Drink: Sterling Winery
We’ve gone to many wineries. But one of the most fun of them all was on our last visit. As soon as I saw that Sterling Vineyards offered a cable car ride, I knew we had to visit. A winery and amusement park ride? Sign us up!
The ride up only takes about 5 minutes, but the views are spectacular. As a side note, aim to arrive 30 minutes prior to your tasting reservation. It will take you awhile to get up to the winery.
Once up at the top, you begin the adventure. We loved the experience as you literally walk from tasting room to tasting room, each with a different wine to try. The first stop is right as you get outside the tram, overlooking the incredible wine country.
In total, the full experience was about 2 hours. But it flew by since you’re constantly moving from one room to the next. We’ve never done any type of tasting like it. Based off the experience alone, we would highly recommend it. And the wines were delicious, too.
Tasting cost varies, but we did the Diamond Mountain tasting at $45 per person. They also offer pricier tastings that include seated tastings as well as snacks. But if you’re like us, you’ve been eating so much on the trip. We were fine just doing the wine tasting.
Shopping Splurge: V Marketplace
A shopping complex filled with chocolate, wine, art and gadgets for the kitchen (that always seem so practical at the time of purchase, and never get used)? Sounds like my kind of place! V Marketplace, located in downtown Yountville, is another great splurge spot. Besides the Instagram worthy shops inside, there are some great places to eat (if you aren’t fully stuffed at this point). You’ll likely find gifts you had no idea even existed – chocolate sushi anyone?
V Marketplace is open everyday from 10 AM – 5:30 PM. So pick up your last minute gifts before heading out — and your weekend of pampering is through.