Hey Folks! We had some friends visit us from Miami for a birthday celebration this past weekend, and we went to no other than the great Napa Valley. To be honest, we had several people tell us to avoid the area as a whole because it's overrated, crowded and overpriced. My take on it is, if you do your research and avoid splurging on $175.00 bottles of wine (like my friend did), then it's really a worthwhile experience.
We decided to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco to do a bit of sight-seeing before making our way to Napa. We left a bit before dawn and arrived in San Francisco at 10:00 AM. It was raining (go figure), and we did not have much time to really indulge in the city, but the superficial things we were able to see were beyond amazing. We will definitely be returning to explore more in depth. We made it to Napa Valley around 7:00 PM (it is only about one hour from San Fran) to our quaint little home for the weekend in the Silverado Resort and Spa. Believe it or not, this resort has both hotel/ resort accommodations and individually owned units that you can book directly with the owners. This is a much better bet as the prices are relatively lower for the same stay. We were about to book though Airbnb, but we found a better price for a unit of the same layout on HomeAway last minute and decided to book through there. Our stay was beyond amazing. The unit was completely furnished and stocked with towels, culinary supplies and more. The Silverado Resort and Spa is so beautiful, you have a clear view of the mountains, the open space of the Napa Valley country and the cleanliness of a luxury resort. It includes accommodations. Highly recommended.
Once we were all checked in, we decided to go out to downtown Napa for a bite and, you guessed it, some wine. We went to Cadet Wine and Beer Bar. It is located in a hidden alley way which i thought was very cool. I guess it was my fault for not double checking the meal options, but this place is definitely more of a drinking spot than an eating spot. They offer appetizer options including cheese and meat platters (which are very delicious). We had a few glasses of wine here and walked down the street for a meal.
The next day, we tackled Napa Valley. The first tip that i have, and probably the best tip i can give you is to download the Napa Valley Winery Finder and Deal Searcher App. It is literally the best thing that happened to us all trip. It gives you winery deals, top 25 wineries, top 10 activities, nearby food, event listings, and more. This is how we found our first stop - Black Stallion Winery. This is a smaller winery but definitely worth the stop - especially for the prices. They were offering a 2 for 1 deal with Facebook check in. Talk about a deal! The best thing about this is that they also offered military discount, as a 2 for 1, so we ended up getting all 4 wine tastings complimentary since two of is were military. You can't compete with that. The winery has a cute outdoor area with seating and an indoor space. The view from the winery was not too spectacular, and there was not a lot of space to walk around apart from the seating area.
After that winery we headed to Castello Di Amorosa. It is a castle that was inspired by 13th century tuscan architecture and built by Sattui, a famous winemaker. This is the most picturesque winery that we went to, because the experience of getting there is adorable within itself. The landscaping is immaculate, and it is on top of a hill, overlooking Napa Valley so the views are incomparable. Is it worth visiting? My opinion is no. It was way too crowded, the line to purchase tickets was way too long, the inside passages were small (due to the nature of the building design), tickets just for the wine tasting were $25 per person (no discounts), and the sommeliers rush you through the tasting in order to accommodate the large crowd.
The last winery we went to, and my favorite, was V. Sattui. This winery was everything i loved in one. It had an overall rustic, family feel. The sommeliers were attentive, entertaining and knowledgeable and they provided huge insight on the different activities to do around the area. This winery is grandfathered into a law that allows them to have a deli on the grounds as well. This is an amazing option because as you can imagine, we were pretty hungry by 4:00 PM when we arrived. This winery also closes one hour later than most, at 6:00 PM. This gave us enough time to do a wine tasting (they do offer military discount), get a bottle of wine, and enjoy it with some treats from the deli in their adorable, outdoor seating areas. I highly recommend this winery, although i understand that at peak times, this winery tends to get very crowded - schedule accordingly.
The following day, we went out for breakfast and decided we wanted to visit two more wineries. We headed over to Del Dotto Winery at the Atlas Peak Road location, just because we saw it from the outside and it looked like they had a very quaint outdoor seating area with beautiful lighting (this was actually the winery next door). Turns out that this location has only a small tasting room, and you cannot access the historic cave area or the rest of the winery unless you purchase the cave tour. We arrived too late for the tour, so we decided to just do the wine tasting. It was $45 per person, no discounts. It was definitely the most expensive tasting we did, but the wine was absolutely delicious. This is where my friend purchased that very expensive bottle of wine. They offered us a salami platter included in the tasting, and since we made a purchase, our sommelier walked us to the caves and gave us a brief overview of the space. It was a good one-time visit, only because the wine was so delicious. I would not return to another Del Dotto Winery unless the tasting area is more accommodating.
Obsessing over how beautiful the outdoor seating area that we had seen earlier was, we walked over, about 30 feet to the next door winery Whetstone Wine Cellars. We were so glad that we did. This tasting room was designed to look like a 19th century french chateau, it's literally the most beautiful and welcoming home that i have been to in a while. The restrooms are in the upstairs are a of the home and you can see bedrooms and living rooms carefully decorated on your way. The sommelier was completely accommodating and welcoming. The wine tasting is priced at $20 per person (less than half from the winery next door), and it is way more worth the overall experience. Seriously, look at this outdoor seating space.
Overall, Napa Valley is an amazing destination that i suggest you visit at least once. Although i have been told that there are cheaper wine countries in California, i know that if done correctly, Napa on a budget is something attainable.