Napa Trip this Christmas

I haven’t visited Napa for years despite being in the Bay Area.  Napa not only has experienced serious flooding but also roaring fire in recent years – it has not been easy. But Napa is still Napa; it attracts all sorts of tourists to visit. Just this year, it has been named by USA Today amongst the most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S.

A search for the various vineyards tasting fee showed that many require a tasting fee of at least $30 (without tours, not counted towards purchase) while it is not uncommon to see a $70 tasting fee with a tour.  Certainly, the place is even more commercialized than what I remember.

Therefore I decided to look for ways to enjoy Napa on a 2-day trip that did not set us back too much.

Here are our itineraries:

Day 1:

  • Drive from the Bay Area to Napa for an early lunch at Heritage Eats which offers really fresh locally-sourced ethnic (Asian, Middle Eastern, Mexican) wrap or bowl.  So delicious and convenient.
  • Head to Calistoga’s famous Castello di Amorosa (Tuscany-style castle) for the sceneries and wine tasting, paired with chocolates. Their La Fantasia (Rose style) is their most popular wine and is very pleasant. A private tour is recommended because the history of the place is very interesting and 2/3 of the estate is underground. Tour is around 2 hours.  In fact, Calistoga and its hot springs and mud bath, as well as the Sterling Vineyards, are worthwhile places to visit if one has more time.
  • On the way back to Napa, stop by Yao Family Wines to learn about this celebrity’s wines, which have received critical acclaims ever since their first release in 2011. The lady there was friendly and could allow you to sip their wines (e.g. Cab) for a little bit for free!
  • Then, head to The Hess Collection Winery especially for their modern art museum which is open to the public.  Tips: do go during the daytime as you will be driving through narrow mountainous roads. Their garden, visitor center, and art museum are very nice. Worth a visit.
  • Dine at Kitchen Door at the Oxbow Public Market – a unique experience dining in the middle of a public market – good food and reasonable prices!
  • Buy some groceries at the nearby Safeway for next morning’s breakfast.
  • Stay at the beautiful one bedroom suite at Vino Bello Resort via my timeshare. This resort is part of the Meritage Group and rests at the southern end of Napa in a very peaceful area, about 10 minutes from Napa downtown. The good thing is that The Meritage has built a new resort called Vista Collina opposite to Vino Bello. The new resort contains The Village which has 9 wine tasting rooms, and you can easily get 2 for 1 tasting coupons.

Day 2:

  • After cooking own breakfast, take a morning stroll to the Fivetown Grocery at The Village and zip tea or coffee and pick up any favourite eateries.
  • Then head to the Howell Mountain at the Carneros Region to taste red wines and champagne. The 2 stops can be Cade Winery, which has one of the best Napa wines and great views and right opposite to Cade, the magnificent Domaine Carneros, which has recently opened its restaurant. Brunching at the restaurant is a great way to taste its wines and delicious food and enjoy the fantastic views of the rolling vineyards.

So here are the 1.5 days of itinerary without breaking the bank.  On the way back to San Francisco, we took Highway 101 and stopped by Sausalito for a cup of hot tea and tea cake and take in the beautiful San Francisco skyline.  Then head to San Francisco’s Cafe Bastille at the Belden Place for a lovely French dinner. A pleasant way to complete a short but wonderful get-away.

Castello di Amorosa at Calistoga
The dining hall at Castello di Amorosa
Rolling vineyards at Cade Winery
Beautiful Domaine Carneros
Yao Family Wines tasting room
Modern art at The Hess Collection
Barrels at Hess Collection
Sausalito pier
Golden Gate Bridge

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