Gaby’s Guide to Napa

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My guide to Napa is coming your way today and let me just tell you – I did some HARD hitting research to make this the best guide possible (and I gained a few lbs while doing so!) It’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it… so let’s get this party started!

Let’s get a few things out of the way up front…. Napa Valley is BIG. So, if you’re going to cover it all, allow for a few days. I think three nights is the perfect amount of time to be in wine country. You’ll be able to explore different areas, hit up a winery or two daily, and eat all the food. I brought along my Capital One Savor® card, obviously, because it earns unlimited 4% back on dining and entertainment, which is CLUTCH when I’m on the road and dining out for three meals a day! 

Napa has four main areas – Napa proper, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Each is perfect in its own way and I’ve got places to eat and drink for every area. Napa is the largest area and the hub. It’s the most inexpensive area to stay in and a great starting point for your daily adventures. Yountville is the OG of incredible restaurants. St. Helena is my personal favorite and has a ton of fresh culinary talent doing incredible things. And Calistoga is a little bit more sleepy but has great spas if you’re looking for something more relaxing.

Now that we’ve got a lay of the land… let’s discuss the best places to eat / drink / stay!

Napa Proper

  • Oxbow Public Market has a little something for everyone plus a ton of cute shops if you need a few new things in your life!!
  • Balloons Above the Valley is hot air ballooning at its finest. If you’re not afraid of heights then I’d HIGHLY recommend waking up at the crack of dawn and heading over for a hot air balloon ride. It’s a gorgeous way to start the morning as you glide down the valley and get a bird’s eye view of all the wineries and gorgeous properties.
  • Oenotri is the place if you’re looking for pasta in Napa proper. Oenotri has some of the most spectacular pastas in my opinion and I can confidently say that I tried each and every one on the menu when we went.

Yountville

  • Stag’s Leap is another one of my favorite places to visit up in Napa. I’ve been a handful of times and each time I never want to leave. It’s on a gorgeous estate and be sure to make an appointment as you’ll need one to do a tasting and a tour.
  • Ad Hoc is all about that Fried Chicken Brunch. Do we need to say any more?!
  • Bouchon Bakery is 100% worth a visit. Pop in early before the line gets outrageous and grab a few pastries to take with you while wine tasting!
  • Redd Wood is easily some of the best pizza in town. I mean, we all know that I have an obsession with pizza. So, I’ve been itching to get over to Redd Wood since they opened. And it was every bit as wonderful as I wanted it to be. The pizza was fantastic and they also had one of the best gnocchi dishes I’ve ever had!
  • Ciccio is probably the best Italian food in all of the valley. No reservations taken, so be prepared for a bit of a wait.
  • Mustards is one of the classic Napa restaurants, it’s truly a farm to table gem!

St. Helena

  • Gott’s Roadside is a staple. It’s not a proper trip to wine country without a stop here. I mean, who can say no to a juicy cheeseburger in between wine tastings? (Also has a location in Napa proper at Oxbow Market!)
  • Round Pound one of my favorite wine stops. It’s on here for several reasons… the wine is delicious, you can also do an olive oil tasting, and if you plan ahead you can do some kind of meal at the estate. The food is beyond delicious and the terrace is stunning!
  • Alpha Omega Winery has great views, incredible red wines and the best service!
  • Auberge de Soleil is another one of my favorite places to brunch. Call ahead of time because chances are you won’t be able to just pop in for brunch since it’s insanely popular. The restaurant overlooks the Napa Valley and it’s one of the most gorgeous views you’ll ever see while sipping on a mimosa!
  • Velo Vino is owned by the Clif Family. It’s this super cute little wine/bike shop right in St. Helena. There’s a full wine bar in the front, a bruschetta bar in the back and you can rent bikes from them and roam around Napa tasting different wines wherever you choose to stop. Thomas and I ended up going on a 20-mile bike ride and then ended back at Velo Vino for the most delicious bruschetta tasting plus tons of wine. I can’t recommend this place enough. GO!
  • Archetype is without a doubt one of the most memorable meals of all of my trips to Napa combined. Located just north of Napa proper in St. Helena, Archetype is one of the most beautiful restaurants you’ll ever set foot in. And the doughnuts are quite possibly going to blow your mind. We went for brunch, but word on the street is that each and every meal is equally as spectacular!
  • Las Alcobas is a fairly new hotel property that’s right smack in the middle of St. Helena and GORGEOUS. Their brunch at Acacia House is incredible and their spa is really, really special.
  • Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch has an incredible outdoor patio with great cocktails and burgers
  • Model Bakery is probably home to my fav pastries ever. I know people make the trek for Bouchon Bakery, but Model is hands down the best. The Chocolate Chip Croissant Bread Pudding is life. And their breakfast sandwiches are top notch.
  • Charter Oak is hands down, one of my favorite places to have dinner. Everything here is done over a wood fire grill. Either grab a res or sit at the bar and enjoy the best burger in the valley. 

Calistoga

  • Solage is a beautiful sprawling hotel in Calistoga with incredible hot springs / cold plunges and cute bungalow rooms

Alright!! That’s it! After 12+ years of visiting Napa at least once a year, I think I’ve covered just about every inch of land possible!

A few things to note about wineries – do your research. Above are a couple that we love – but you really can’t go wrong with any of them. I’d recommend doing no more than two a day and making sure to eat plenty in-between so you don’t blow out your wine tasting palate. Okay!! Be safe out there and go eat ALL THE THINGS! And if you don’t already have a Capital One Savor card, now is the time to apply for one! The Savor card makes it easier to earn rewards for the memorable meals and the unique experiences you’re already having with friends and family. Being able to earn rewards while I am doing things I love with people I love is a no brainer!

New cardholders get a $300 bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening and the $95 annual fee is waived in year one!! Plus, who can argue with unlimited 4% back on dining and entertainment purchases, 2% at grocery stores and 1% back on all other purchases!! Now that I’ve toured through Napa and earned some cash back while doing it, where should I head to next?!

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28 comments

  1. Ashley

    Love your recap! I’m so sad though because we were supposed to stay at the Andaz Napa in a week but won’t be now because of the earthquake 🙁 It looks like a wonderful place to stay! I can’t wait to check out some of the other places on your list!

  2. Greg

    Thank you for the guide. My wife wants to visit the Napa Valley, and the guide will help. Is there a best/better season to visit Napa Valley? Or is there a season when it is not recommended to visit? Thanks!

    • Gaby

      it’s always amazing!! October is harvest so that’s a really fun time – but you can’t go wrong in spring or summer either!

  3. Monika

    I hope Napa recovers quickly from the earthquake – we love it there, and will definitely follow up on ALL of your recommendations!!
    Nice recap, and I am finding them very helpful!

  4. Averie @ Averie Cooks

    The first time I went to Napa was maybe 10-12 years ago and I seriously was hooked. Like I LOVE IT up there! If San Diego’s weather didn’t have me hooked, I would so live up there. Gorgeous place and love your guide! Nothing better than vineyard hopping 🙂

  5. Beth @ Tasty Yummies

    LOVE THIS! We went a couple of years ago, before we moved out here and it was amazing, though we didn’t have a clue what to do or where to go, so we just winged it. I can’t wait to go back again and use this guide! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Lucy

    Love this! We are planning a trip to Napa hopefully next year, so I’m bookmarking this page. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Andi

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have been to many of these spots, but I had not heard of Archetype, I have got to check out that donut situation!

  8. Liny1958

    Thanks for the guide. I will be there soon, and my friends will accompany me. I needed a guide on eating and riding. Thanks!

  9. Cristin

    Great post (from a local). I agree with all recommendations and yes it’s very sad that Andaz is still closed from the quake. They really got rocked but reopening in November.
    You will have to visit Sonoma on your next trip to make your wine country tour complete.

  10. Kara

    I completely agree about Archetype (California chic design and the food is amazing!), Clif (they have the casual dining thing in St. Helena nailed – and there are not a lot of casual dining options in St. Helena!). I also recommend Robert Sinskey (although undergoing construction at the moment when that is done it will be spectacular) on the Silverado Trail and in St. Helena Crocker & Starr and Salvestrin for more intimate experiences as they are by appointment only and have lovely outdoor tasting areas for small number of guests at a time. Larkmead in Calistoga is a treat for single vineyard Cabernets and a gorgeous setting! And at Oxbow Market Ca’Momi has amazing pizza. The Pizza Marinara is the best I have had since a trip to Italy and they have about 50 different kinds on the menu. So so delicious. Hopefully you can visit Napa again soon! Oh and Andaz is open again too!

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  12. Tristan

    While Bouchon is to die for and you can easily eat your weight in macarons, if you’re ever in Yountville on a Monday, get a reservation at Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller’s “casual” restaurant down the street. Monday is fried chicken night and it is simply to die for.

  13. Linda Harris

    Great guide Gaby! Next time you are in Napa Valley , make a tasting appointment at Tres Sabores in St Helena. You will sit in the yard with a gorgeous view while you sip away! Beautuful setting and friendly, wonderful owners. Our absolute favorite winery.

  14. Monika

    I haven’t been to Napa in more than a few years. You really make me want to go again very soon!

  15. Emily North

    Thanks for all the great tips!! Never been to Napa, definitely a bucket list trip! Where do you recommend staying?